I am standing at the far corner of the room, trying to record each speaker’s speech with my phone. We are at K-Lab in Kigali, holding a brief introduction meeting with CMS Africa Summit speakers for the event slated to begin the following day. Jagero, the founder, introduces each speaker, and allows them about 5 minutes each to talk about themselves. He gets to Wabwire, and when Wa’ stands up, my interest is immediately piqued. It could be his brightly printed shirt. Or his sisal hat that tells you he is into the arts before he even speaks. Or the confidence in his gait and posture, and the way he captures the room with his presence. I listen to his introduction, and later walk up to him and ask the most basic question; tell me about yourself! And he tells me about having organized the biggest party in Kampala since the year began; the Black Panther party. I am sold.
Wabwire comes off as someone easy to hold a conversation with. In fact, he is willing to do most of the talking, if you keep asking the right questions. He is open, thoughtful, visionary and yet laid back at the same time.
‘I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. I chose Law because at that time it looked glamorous to me. We are in a society where particular professions hold more respect than others, so in choosing careers most of us are influenced to go with the more respectable ones. I wanted it, but looking back I think I didn’t choose it for passion, but because it was going to make me feel accomplished.’
How exactly does a lawyer-to-be shift from donning suits and speaking law jargon to wearing a sisal hat and representing budding creatives at an international event?
‘I have the type of personality that asks of me to always be around people, doing things together, creating. This naturally attracted me to people in the creative industry. They are constantly curious, very observant, and innovative. With this crowd I felt at home. And I started doing the things they do; attending their events. Before I knew it, I was thinking of ways- together with my network- we can make the creative industry bigger in Uganda.’
Wabwire says that coming up with ideas was the easy part. Now getting down to business required more stamina.
‘My friends and I came up with a couple of ideas, and one of them was KQ Hub Africa. This is a virtual space where creatives can come together to share their work and network.’
Then Black Panther the movie happened.
‘I watched the movie and immediately fell in love with the message. Black Panther spoke to so many of us, especially now we were trying to change narratives about the creative space in Africa. Black Panther showed us it is possible, not just to change the narrative in my space, but the bigger picture as an African.’
How was the process putting together a party to celebrate the movie?
‘My team and I were greatly inspired by that movie. So we decided to bring people together and celebrate our African fashion, music and culture. People really showed up for the party, whether you had watched the movie or not. This was more about us, as Africans, inspired by the movie.’
I ask Wabwire how the creative space in Uganda is, seeing as creatives in Kenya have come up in large numbers and are doing amazing work.
‘The creative space in Uganda is quite vibrant. If you attend the events you can feel the good energy in people. What we need is support, from the government and of course from friends and families. It starts by coming to the events, purchasing the tickets.’
Wabwire was born in Busia, right at the border of Uganda and Kenya. He describes his parents as very hardworking and resilient, which inspired similar traits in him.
‘My family has supported me throughout this roller-coaster. I do not take that for granted because I do not underestimate the importance of having supportive people around you. Millions of dreams have been crushed because of lack of support.’
What are you currently working on?
The Black Panther party gave birth to UBUNTU RAVE: A Celebration of African Culture. We have partnered with a number of institutions to continue celebrating the African spirit; our culture, our fashion, our film, music and dance. We are beautifully, diversely endowed as a continent and that is what we look forward to celebrating.’
Wabwire and team also conduct an event dubbed Creative Talks Africa every second Friday of the month, where they offer space for creatives to network over food, drinks, and good music. Creative Talks Africa is set to launch in Kenya soon.
‘We look forward to a day when these projects will be up and running across the continent. That is the dream.’
What have you learnt in your journey so far?
‘The company you keep influences a lot. I became a creative because of the people I associated with, and everything I have been part of is a result of a collective effort. You become a sum total of the people you spend a lot of time with. Choose wisely.’
What happens to the Law Degree Wabwire?
‘I am going through with it to the end. But of course I will not spend a great deal of time regurgitating a bunch of colonial law reports, and case studies. I am happy with what I am doing as a creative, and this is what I intend to do with my life.’