The East African - - THE MAGAZINE -


OSpe­cial ne of this year’s Prince Claus Award win­ners, Ugan­dan play­wright and film­maker Ju­dith Adong, says she was in­spired by the 1991 Zim­bab­wean film

di­rected by John Riber. “At the age of 13 af­ter watch­ing

I ba­came ob­sessed with be­com­ing a film­maker be­cause see­ing Africans on the big screen was mag­i­cal. For a long tim, I had imag­ined be­ing in a film was a mzungu thing. let me know even I could make films, which at the time I didn’t even know was called film­mak­ing,” says Adong. Adong was awarded along­side seven cul­tural prac­ti­tion­ers, a jour­nal and an in­sti­tu­tion. The awards are or­gan­ised by the Prince Claus Fund based in the Nether­lands, and hon­our vi­sion­ary in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions for ground­break­ing work in fields of cul­ture and development. Adong’s work raises pub­lic de­bate on con­tentious is­sues to pro­voke pos­i­tive change. Her first play, re­veals the ter­rors of Uganda’s 20-year con­flict with the Lord’s Re­sis­tance Army and chal­lenges of the peace-build­ing process, ask­ing dif­fi­cult ques­tions about amnesty and for­give­ness and con­fronting the pub­lic’s pas­siv­ity and com­plic­ity. She brings the sto­ries of vul­ner­a­ble

Adong says she spent a good part of her life chas­ing the film­mak­ing dream, so much so that even when she was do­ing so well in the theatre pro­gramme that she ended up be­ing ad­mit­ted to Mak­erere Univer­sity, she still dreamt of be­ing in films. This dream came true when won a Ful­bright Fel­low­ship to study at Tem­ple Univer­sity’s MFA Film­mak­ing and Me­dia Arts in the US.

“Af­ter that I was able to make some films, and I must ad­mit that I find the raw­ness of theatre un­matched. Of course one can­not ig­nore the fact that film has more legs to travel, mak­ing it more far-reach­ing than theatre, es­pe­cially for the kind of sto­ries I tell.

“How­ever, one thing that makes both film and theatre ex­cit­ing for me, is sim­ply the power of sto­ry­telling to hu­man­ise view­ers. This is the heart of it for me,” she adds.

Adong is not a stranger to the Prince Claus Awards. She says: “When an award comes to you from an or­gan­i­sa­tion you had ap­plied to three times for pro­duc­tion grants and only re­ceived re­jec­tions, words can­not even be­gin to ex­plain how much it means. Now, they are recog­nis­ing the power of the work I have done. My work has fi­nally spo­ken to them and it is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing feel­ing.

“This is a huge boost to my en­ergy which was al­ready get­ting de­flated and I was won­der­ing if any­body re­ally cares. But some­one def­i­nitely cares, no mat­ter how far away from home they are. This award is re­as­sur­ing,” she fur­ther added.

“In a coun­try where art and artists are not taken se­ri­ously, it is good to re­ceive such a pow­er­ful val­i­da­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of my artis­tic work. There is a mis­con­cep­tion that artists are not smart enough to rep­re­sent cit­i­zens in places like par­lia­ment,” she said.

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