Convened by Antonio Bukhar Ssebuuma (Northern School of Contemporary Dance, UK), Lilian Maximillian Nabaggala (Pina Bausch Fellow), Mabingo Alfadaniels (Makerere University, Uganda) and Abdul Kinyenya (Batalo East Dance Festival)
Dance has been central to the social, cultural, and political life in local communities in Uganda. In the postcolonial environment and after the implementation of the Structural Adjustment Program in Uganda in the late 1980s, dance forms such as indigenous dances, hip-hop, contemporary, dancehall and afrofusion have become integral to the local economy in industries such as marketing and advertisement, entertainment, museology, cultural tourism and exportation among others. With the ever-increasing youth unemployment in Uganda, dance has offered opportunities for the youth to establish income-generating projects entrepreneurially. However, colonial legacies have impeded the success of dance as an engine and dancers as agents in the development processes. The colonial traces are vivid in the dancers' creative approaches, the models of disseminating dance knowledge and products, the values and philosophies that guide knowledge production in dances, and the spaces where the dance works are created, rehearsed and staged. In this panel presentation, we will discuss how the decolonial approach to policy, pedagogy, gender, and research in dance can elevate the value and relevance of dance practices as an engine in steering sociocultural, economic, and political development in Uganda. We will engage data from practice-as-research to discuss our autoethnographic reflections. The inquiry will be guided by the following question: How does decolonisation of policy, research, gender, and pedagogy in dance practices in Uganda produce dance knowledge and products that seek to advance sociocultural, economic, cultural, and political development in the local communities? The panel will cover topics revealing colonial tendencies in policy, pedagogy, gender relations, and research on local dance practices. Moreover, the discussion will also underscore how the decolonisation of the pillars, as mentioned above, can cause a paradigm shift that will make dance practices responsive to the challenges, conditions, and realities within the Ugandan communities. As the performing arts in Africa claim a central place in mapping the development agendas, visions, and pathways of Africa, a decolonial approach to practices such as dance can offer innovative tools to communities, unlock the creative potentials of people, and avail development possibilities that are responsive to Africa's current needs and conditions.
Antonio Bukhar Ssebuuma
Dr. Mabingo Alfadaniels