Women in Uganda

Every day the newspapers are full of stories about the astonishing impact of the refugee crisis as Uganda has welcomed 1.2 million refugees fleeing the violent conflict in South Sudan in just 11 months with 2,000 more arriving every day. There is great emphasis on the benefits of education, however the government has just announced the closure of 1,3000 schools due to appalling conditions. Corruption, torture, human trafficking and the destruction of the environment because of the drought, army worms, and poachers are still everyday events here. Of all the images that are swamping my soul, the images of women here in Kampala have the strongest resonance for me in telling the story of the perseverance and resilience of the people I see here.

Butterfly Girl.f.©.2

I met this beautiful, young Ugandan girl at a birthday party after she had just had her face painted. Her parents goal is to keep her in school, and healthy. Many girls are married off at very young ages (and soon after bear a child) either for profit, or to prevent the girls from being captured into sex slavery by urban militias.

Handless Mama.F.©.jpg

This haunting woman and her child were begging on a very busy street in downtown Kampala. She and many others, including very young children, were begging as they wove their way between cars, trucks, bodabodas (motorcycles used as taxis and mode of transporting goods), and matatus (converted vans that serve as taxi’s with up to 16 people in each one). Begging in traffic is against the law, but poverty drives necessity. I asked our driver how she might have lost her left hand, and he replied, “It is a form or torture to cut off someone’s hand(s) in the northern part of Uganda. She is of the Acholi tribe that has been the targeted by Al-Shebab. Aside from her plight, it is very likely that she, as well as the children, are being “pimped,” and receive almost nothing for their efforts. (iPhone capture through my car window.)
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This photograph was taken the day I arrived after a three-day transit, as I began to get excited about being in Uganda. The earth is truly like red clay here, and always catches my eye. This is a scene often sighted: men of all ages standing to the side of the street with a bodaboda nearby. The average age in Uganda is 14 years old, and unemployment is a constant issue, as is education. (iPhone capture through my car window.)
Banana Woman.2.F.©
People here seem to effortlessly carry all manner of produce and other objects on their heads.

Live to Dance!

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Ulyber Mangune and Laura Duncan in rehearsal for CORE Theatrics' 2014 production of All Shook Up “Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood.” ~Rumi This photo was taken at CORE Theatrics: The Art of Being Human, during rehearsal for their 2014 production of “All Shook Up.” Uylber Mangune plays the lead with passion, enthusiasm and grace. Laura Duncan’s total commitment to every dance step she takes makes her performance riveting. The phrase, “Live to Dance,” is taken from Laura’s t-shirt, and is so apt for these two dancers. I have been enthralled by dance ever since I spent hours of my pre-kindergarten years in a very special dance class. My mother, who was a ballroom dancer, had decided early on to introduce me to the joys of the world of dance. She took me to a house with a wooden floor, a large window with floating white curtains to the floor, and a piano. I was there just to BE with the music, the art materials available on the floor, and the piano. I vividly remember the feeling of elation and freedom in my bodyheartmind as I twisted and turned as the music beckoned.  Under the wing of this teacher in her magic studio, nothing I did was wrong, and I could fly. My aliveness was celebrated. What I now know, is that my mother had a deep appreciation for Isadora Duncan and her methods of teaching young girls. Throughout my childhood, I looked forward to the day we changed the sheets of all the beds in the house. She would pile the sheets in the middle of the living room, and I got to play at being a Queen with my cool, white train following behind me as I frolicked barefooted in the small circle of our hot, tiny home in Altadena, CA. When I tired of being Queen, I built tents and crawled in, or wrapped myself in the white cloth like a Vestal Virgin, and lounged on our brown leather sofa, a remnant of my mother’s marriage and home in the Los Feliz Hills of Hollywood. As I got a little older, my mother encouraged me to pretend I was Marilyn Monroe, an act I replicated at Blue Bird Camp, Singing Pines. Somehow, out of context, I did not get the warm reception I was expecting and felt embarrassed and confused. I think that is when I stopped “play acting,” and became an audience member, a witness. And, oh, the hours of deep joy this has brought me. Carl Jung said, “A dream wants a dream.” I believe that art wants art. By that I mean that the natural response to art in any form, is to continue the flow of creativity with art in response, not unlike a conversation. And now, I feel as if I am responding, and grateful for the dialogue.

Sarah Espinosa, Mike Klinge, Andrew Garrett and Connor Rice.

Sarah Espinosa, Mike Klinge, Andrew Garrett and Connor Rice.