A new Board of Trustees for the Uganda National Cultural Center was sworn in this week but will it has a plate full of challenges to sort out including an ongoing dispute between the artists community and the new management of the institution.
The new minister of Labour and Social Development Wilson Muruli Mukasa presided over the swearing-in of the new board of Trustees at the premises of the National Theater in Kampala.
Muluuli Mukasa appointed a roads engineer Eng. Dr Michael Odongo, also the Executive Director of the Uganda Road Fund as the new chairman of the board of UNCC, replacing Dr. Mercy Mirembe Ntangare, a prominent author and playwright Prominent educationist Fagil Mandy, who was the deputy chairperson, was replaced with Okello Sam from the Uganda Development Theatre.
The appointment of a new board for UNCC, considered the home of art in the country, comes at a critical time in the life of Uganda’s art especially that of performing arts, which have been battered by falling popularity compared with other art forms such as music.
Most urgently however, the board will have to address the dispute between the management of UNCC and artists who accuse it leading a campaign to drive away fans from the theater by imposing high parking fees.
Since the beginning of 2015, management of UNCC which also took over after a scandal-ridden old management, slapped high parking fees of Ushs 2000 per hour for every car including on performance days when the theater stages shows.
This angered artists who accused the management led by Francis Peter Ojede of trying to make money from parking instead of promoting the core objectives of the institution.
Now the minister has weighed in the dispute by saying he is opposed to charging of fees at times when the theater is staging performances.
Muluuli Mukasa said: “It is dangerous to charge parking fees from people who come to watch plays, music and all sorts of arts because that discourages them.”
But according to UNCC spokesperson Robert Musiitwa, following the parking fees dispute, the cultural institution has since relaxed its stance by cutting fees or abolishing them at certain times of the day.
Musiitwa told The Sunrise that UNCC allows revelers to park for free on Sunday and pay a flat rate of 2000 shillings on Saturday from mid-day till midnight. The art institution, also charges a flat fee of 2000/= everyday from 6:00PM till midnight.
Mukasa urged the management of UNCC to devise new and aggressive means of promoting the auditorium – which is the core business of the Theatre.
On the other hand, state minister for Gender Lukia Nakadama heaped praize on Ojede’s team for working hard to mainstream operations at the theater.
“You have no failure in your vocabulary. That’s what I have discovered,” Nakadaama said.