iKon Awards: Creating an Academy experience

Nominees: Joe Kigozi and Nabimanya Humphrey hand over a nomination for actress Mariam Ndagire to the Kafa Coh team. PHOTOS/COURTESY

What you need to know:

In June last year, organisers of the iKon Awards opened entries for the awards and at the beginning of this year, the nominees were announced. Now time to award film’s cream is here.

If there is one thing any person involved in the local film industry may be aware of, it is the amount of time that has been invested in the iKon awards that are set to take place this weekend at Kampala Serena Hotel.

Initially, the awards were launched in June last year, and at the time, Uganda’s premiere national festival, the Uganda Film Festival was in the offing. As it is norm with many local film events, people were quick to draw parallels between the events, if the famous festival had eventually met its match.

The team behind the awards though were quick to announce that theirs was strictly an award show and not a festival and they are only here to do their part in building the industry.

Thus, the awards came with some new tricks. For instance, being the first edition, the eligibility window accommodates films from a span of two years, which meant films such as Maurice Mugisha’s award winning Stain or Loukman Ali’s The Girl in the Yellow Jumper alongside his two short films Blind Date and Sixteen Rounds.

Getting the show around

According to Usama Mukwaya, the award show’s first producer, the eligibility period for the first edition is long enough to give a chance to as many entries, but with more subsequent editions, they will narrow it down.

The iKon Awards are a brainchild of Humphrey Nabimanya and his team at Reach a Hand Uganda and will be presented by Sauti Media, a partner of Reach a Hand. Over the past few years, Reach a Hand decided to venture into film as a perfect vehicle to drive their message to the youth.

This had seen them produce and create the famous show, Kyaddala.

“At first, we wanted to have MTV Shuga produce a Ugandan edition of the show, just like they did Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, but they were not interested in doing anything in Uganda. Apparently we were not the target or something like that,” Nabimanya says.

Together with his team, they reacted by creating their version, hence the birth of Kyaddala. Like MTV Shuga, Kyaddala tackled topics around safe sex, abstinence and abuse, among others.

“Over time I have learnt that film and TV are a powerful tool that can easily communicate to the youth,” he says. 

For international appeal, Kyaddala got the services of acclaimed filmmakers, actors and writers. For example, the first season brought to Uganda some Nigerian actors and crew, while the seasons that followed integrated celebrities, socialites and actors such as Anita Fabiola, Martha Kay, Mathew Nabwiso, Tracy Kababito, Salvador Idringi and Cleopatra Koheirwe, among others.

The glamour

The premieres of Kyaddala, lived up to the billing, from the red carpet, the parties and the screenings. According to Nabimanya and Mukwaya, the awards are taking things a notch higher.

“The awards are going to celebrate the industry, it is a night where our actors and filmmakers are going to be appreciated,” Mukwaya says.

In 2017, Nabimanya said they wanted to revamp an award show that they used to organise, The Young Achievers’ Awards, the awards were celebrating excellence among the youth.

“I thought about focusing on awards that could be inclusive that could open up the age bracket, not to be young. In 2019 we were co-creating the iKon Awards, having lots of categories cutting across fashion, agriculture, business, they were everywhere. But then Covid-19 happened,” Nabimanya says.

At that time they were working on Season Two of Kyaddala, their focus as Reach a Hand had changed and they were almost a production house, so in 2021, they launched the iKon Awards, in its original form but there was another lockdown and they did not pick up.

At that time, they were also working on the second season of Kyaddala, they were approaching different stakeholders to be part of the iKon Awards but most of those they approached wanted them to focus on just one item.

“They would ask you to focus on public health, agriculture. Doing Kyaddala, you face a lot of challenges, it is hard to shoot a film and get to the Parliament or a road. So, we consulted with many people, came up with an awards programme,” Nabimanya says.   

Beyond the awards

But of course, there was some work going on that was not about the main night but was connected to the project; a mentorship programme that would help emerging filmmakers shoot their debut short film. This brought together four boys and four girls to make eight short films that premiered at Zimbali Bistro and Lounge early this month.

The films tackled different issues such as domestic abuse, art, teenage pregnancies, relationships as well as common topics such as HIV. During the process of making the films, the young filmmakers were guided in writing, marketing and producing. In fact, Nabimanya says for their new project, When You Become Me, they hired many of the young filmmakers.

“After the awards we are looking at developing some of the short films into feature films,” he says.

When it comes to awards shows, most Ugandans believe an award show should always come with prize money.

Besides the money, there is mistrust. In music, organisers have been accused of selling accolades while in film, judges have been accused of not understanding films and thus favouring entertainment in film over art.

“I am lucky to have been part of many film awarding spaces as a filmmaker and as an organiser. I know what filmmakers are always expecting out of an initiative like this,” Mukwaya says.

He notes that the biggest problem artists have with awarding initiatives is transparency. He says people rarely trust the process and selection.

“Most of the time the focus of Ugandan award shows has been the awards but the group that gets celebrated has been so small. There is no focus on the celebration of the art. Most of our award shows have been for filmmakers, you do not have the fans, other artists attending, so we started with those to make iKon different,” he says.

Music has not been celebrated by many local film initiatives, yet music plays a big role in getting a film’s message, emotions and pace. Mukwaya says people making music for films need to be celebrated and that even when they are old, it is a plan they have for the future.

“But for the first edition, the music that will be performed at the main show will have something to do with film, most of the songs that are going to be performed at the show will be soundtracks of films,” he says.

He says the biggest thing they are trying to ensure is that going forward filmmakers start including music in films deliberately.

Inclusive awards

Mukwaya says the award show is going to be inclusive, bringing together filmmakers from all walks. For instance, unlike most local shows where awards are presented by corporate companies’ CEOs, these will be presented by filmmakers.

“We tried so much to have filmmakers involved, especially the day we had a luncheon for nominees, it was the first time nominees have met and it is not about competition. I believe this kind of organisation fosters more collaboration,” he says.

Unlike many award initiatives, Mukwaya says theirs is an academy based award show. This year’s nominees, for instance, will form a big part of the academy for the next edition.

“It is going to be that award show that has filmmakers choosing film winners,” he says.

Last week, a video of a Nigerian actor Ramsey Noah made rounds on the webs, talking about attending the award show, which says a lot about the future of the award show.

“At the moment, we have very many African filmmakers in our inboxes asking if they can be part of the awards. It shows you how much the African cinema space has missed something glamorous,” Mukwaya says.

Besides glamour, Nabimanya says the awards are pushing a bigger agenda, creating competition.

“This is the beginning of a bigger thing, from here we can push for policy and better laws. I know people may ask about the future of iKon Awards, but that is in the hands of content creators. As long as Ugandans are still creating content, iKon Awards will be here,” he says.

The awards taking place tomorrow will see some of the best local films and TV shows face off in various categories. Doreen Mirembe’s Kafa Coh and Loukman Ali’s The Girl in The Yellow Jumper dominated most of the acting and technical categories.


Best Film

Bedroom Chains

Kafa Coh

My Husband’s Wife


Best director

Gilbert Lukalia and Doreen Mirembe – Kafa Coh

Hassan Mageye - Bedroom Chains

Loukman Ali – The Girl in the Yellow Jumper

Morris Mugisha –Tembele

Best Actor in a leading role

John Mary Ssekimpi – My Husband’s Wife

Michael Wawuyo Jr –The Girl in the Yellow Jumper

Michael Wawuyo Sr – Kafa Coh

Patriq Nkakalukanyi – Tembele

Best Actress in a leading role

Nisha Kalema – Bedroom Chains

Rhona Ninsiima – Tembele

Tracy Kababito – Mukisa

Winnie Nafula – My Husband’s Wife 

Best Actor in supporting role

Cosmos Serubogo – Tembele

Daniel Papa Mushikana - Footwine

Michael Wawuyo Sr – The Girl in The Yellow Jumper

Kalu Ikeagwu – Kafa Coh

Best Actress in a supporting role

Mariam Ndagire – Kafa Coh

Rehema Nanfuka – Kafa Coh

Tania Shakira Kankindi – My Husband’s Wife

Sarafina Muhawenimana –Pieces of Me