KoikoiNE was my first trip with Kafunda Kreatives. I have been aware of their work and their choice to take the bull by its horns to change the narrative of Ugandan stories but hadn’t gotten the opportunity to join them yet. The setup of how this is done is something they have proven for a while and have reached a point where they have mastered the art of what works.
We were a group of 22; bloggers, photographers, social media influencers and a few wanaichis like me. We set off at 7am for a 12-hour journey. You never really realise how long a 12- hour journey is until you are in the sixth hour and all the great songs on the playlist are done, the rowdy crew that decided to get lit early in the morning are asleep and you’re tired of reading that book you carried for such a time as this!
There is something about road trips that take a toll on both your body and mind; you start having short tempers, you get agitated because you’re in this one seat for a whole day. You give side eyes to the people who keep asking for bathroom breaks because in your mind it is 7pm and we should all sit until we get to our destination. Until you get to a turn with a signpost indicating Kidepo is 40km away and it is 7.30pm and you lose all hope!
We got to the Apoka campsite at around 8pm after a couple of wrong turns, irritable but still excited! We were definitely fatigued, there was no doubt about it! It had been a long 12- hour trip with strangers in an enclosed space! Our cottages were basic campsite cottages; two beds, bare room, green toilet paper, but clean and had light! Our night ended with a campfire which set our weary bones back on the wild track we had set off on in the morning!
The days were packed with activity; well-coordinated, very informative and true to the mission of changing our mindset about how we think about other cultures around us; and mostly the ones that are usually presented as primitive by mainstream media.
We visited the Kaabong – Manyatta community, we learnt about their history and cultural practices. Some practices didn’t sit really well with our feminist ideals but learning to not engage in situations where nothing will change, is an art I am getting better at. The thing I found amusing though was how it is easy for us to fall back into the ‘modern saving the world mentality” that we accuse our Caucasian coloured friends of! Personally, I don’t understand the point of taking pictures with the children or the local people in the local community! What is the point of that? I believe it is possible to tell that person’s story without you being in that picture. Let us capture them as people and not as an exhibit for how in touch you are with the local people, or how your presence in that picture is giving them a platform to be seen and heard. This could be a projection, but it is so easy for us to fall into the white savior mentality that we are actively fighting against. An example of this is deciding to give the kids money, instead of supporting their parents through buying their artwork. By doing this, we are conditioning these people to a cycle of handouts instead of earning their living.
The slave stories at Fort Patiko were heartbreaking. It is so sad how our history is so full of mistreatment and callous judgment at the hands of mere humans. I can’t imagine living in an era where my fate is dependent on whether the judge finds me attractive or not. The most heartbreaking part is neither paths was preferable; death or bondage? What would you choose? What I love though, is how we are embracing this dark part of our history and telling it as it was and maybe, just maybe we are learning from this. One can only hope.
I have very many highlights from this trip because everyday’s activities were curated to give you a different experience and perspective, that you just can’t choose one highlight from the whole trip. Dancing Larakaraka dance with the Kaabong – Manyatta community; seeing the Lion a few meters from me on the game drive; watching people have a Wakanda moment at the Aruu falls; dancing with the Acholi community; chasing the sunrise every morning and finally checking out the Gulu night life at a bar called BJs -but why this name? This guy had one job!
The photographers on this trip deserve their own paragraph, and not just because I am vain and love pictures and got amazing pictures from this trip and maybe my own personal photographer is Joel Jemba J. Not because of the above, not at all J. Eve has an art for capturing moments and feelings and inviting you in to be a part of the subject’s story. Her skill is something to marvel of and not just because she is a woman and I am passionate about supporting work made by women, but because she is beautifully skilled and her pictures are worth more than a thousand words. Ninno and Joel, on the other hand, are the kings of portraits; take one with them and you are sure you have a forever profile picture! Mugasha, I felt was mostly skilled with nature and his photos of the Kaabong – Manyatta community, the UWA campsite, the Acholi community, were pictures to die for, pictures that should have a place in National Geographic or something.
I am excited about what Kafunda Kreatives is doing in engaging local companies to get on board to sell our tourism industry. Our trip was sponsored by Vivo Energy Uganda and Airtel Uganda ; since we didn’t get stuck on the road, I guess I should thank Shell for fueling us through the four day trip and even if we didn’t have Airtel network in Kidepo (one network had reception), we were able to post on social media about the trip to and fro and make people regret their decision to stay in Kampala over the weekend. I hope we will be seeing more collaborations like these with the ministry of Tourism, UWA and other corporate companies.
UWA has done a great job maintaining the roads to these game parks and having affordable accommodation for people while there. The one thing that could be better is the amenities at these camping sites. We were sharing 2 toilets and 2 bathrooms amongst a great number of people and the showers didn’t have running water! I wonder if it is the assumption that since we are in the wild, the amenities shouldn’t be as great but when you visit the privately-owned campsites e.g. Leopard Rest Camp at Lake Mburo, Nyore Hillside retreat in Mbarara and Redchilli in Murchison falls you realize that is not the case at all! We should be doing more!
About the author.Judith is a lover of wine, popcorn, music, food, and intense conversations. She gets excited about Twitter polls and black Twitter clapbacks.