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Senyonga on mission to mainstream dance

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Senyonga on mission to mainstream dance

“Most of the people I grew up with in Kasubi are either in jail, dead or mad. I am therefore grateful to my mother who encouraged me to dance because this kept me productively engaged,” said Ssenyonga.

Oscar Ssenyonga dancing at 2018 Tuzinne festival

Dance in Uganda is considered mostly as a complementary or secondary form of art. You often hear of the term Back-up Dancers accompanying musicians than the other way round.

But for Oscar Ssenyonga, this mindset ought to change both among the dancers but also across the entertainment industry such as event organisers and the general public.

For that matter, Ssenyonga is on a mission to champion dance and position the art as an independent form of entertainment.

For founded a dance-focused entity titled Mambya Dance Company as well as an annual event dubbed Tuzinne Dance Festival to offer dancers a platform to express their talent without being overshadowed by musicians.

The Sunrise’s Fahad Kasibante spoke with Ssenyonga about his background, the source of his inspiration for dance as well as his plan to take dance to another level.

Born to the lates Gerald Mugabire Katalika and Sarah Namuteme, Ssenyonga 25, grew up in Kasubi, a Kampala suburb. At the tender age of six, Ssenyonga started participating in cultural dances as a hobby.

In fact had it not been for dance, Ssenyonga says the hostile neighbourhood of Kasubi would have exposed him to crime.

“Most of the people I grew up with in Kasubi are either in jail, dead or mad. I am therefore grateful to my mother who encouraged me to dance because this kept me productively engaged,” said Ssenyonga.

Ssenyonga reveals that he founded Mambya Performing Arts Foundation in 2013 as a non-profit organization where he trains younger entrepreneurs in areas of performing and visual arts.

The Academy of Mambya has produced more than 200 professionals and self-employed artist today. In addition, the company organises Tuzine Dance Company, an organisation that promotes dance, but also advocates for the rights of marginalised people such as the disabled, albino and sexual minorities.

Besides limited pay, Ssenyonga notes that dance still faces the stigma of not being regarded as a stand-alone profession.

He has therefore urged dancers and event organisers to accord respect to dancers and give them their rightful place.

“I also with to urge dancers to wake up and demand credit for their art in the music videos.” He advised.

He has also urged Ugandan and other African dancers to rise from slumber and start to demand for good pay for their services, but also advised the public to appreciate dancers more than they currently do.

Dance has opened the doors of opportunity for Ssenyonga in a number of ways.

In 2017, he was the Art-director and Props Master at The Mercy of The Jungle a Neon production film from France, which was directed by renowned Rwanda film director Joel Karekezi. In 2017 Ssenyonga was invited as a Guest artist at Dance Able Netherlands, a platform of Holland Dance Festival where he collaborated with five other artists from Kenya, India, Cambodia and the United Kingdom.

He also went on to receive the British Council NaNa grant in the same year, which allowed him and his partners at the Pamoja dance company and StopGap to create a new initiative titled “The road” which was premiered in London.

In 2018 Ssenyonga served as one of the main choreographers of the MTN 20 years anniversary celebrations were he worked with his first mentor and legendary playwright Alex Mukulu.

Ssenyonga holds a Bachelors Degree in Fashion and Design – reportedly from YMCA University of Uganda. He has also attended different short courses in art and cultural management. Currently, he is undertaking a three year diploma course in contemporary and African dances at Ecole Des Sablas in Senegal.

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