Africa’s Mickey Mouse: Ugandan Artists offer alternative visual worlds with local relevance

Graduates from Kampala (Uganda) have created Katoto, a whacky old man from a south-western Ugandan tribe who can be described „as your funny uncle who gets up to mischief“.

The interesting thing about Katoto is that it incorporates local relevancies (e.g. ethnicity, belonging) while at the same time tapping into more global phenomena (e.g. Katoto taking on the „Ice Bucket-Challenge“ or trying to take a „Selfie“). Notably, the format of the cartoon takes into account available local media settings; and mobile phones, like in other African countries, are among the probably most widely spread media forms. Considering that, the Katoto-cartoons are relatively short in duration (about 1 minute), so they can be easily shared via WhatsApp 1. There is also a Katoto YouTube-Channel, containing eight videos that have been watched about 133.000 times all-together at the time of writing this post.

Key to the creation of Katoto, according to its creators, are the culture and language of the Ugandan people. Katoto is a chance of a Ugandan self-portrait in an entertaining way. In order to make the strips accessible and convey meaning beyond the local language that Katoto speaks (and one that is also neither understood by all Ugandans nor by all of Katotos creators), the character and jokes are made as physical as possible, being „almost like pantomime“.

Source: „Ugandan dream to create a global cartoon character“ (BBC; Clip on YouTube)

Notes:

  1. From my own field research in Nairobi (Kenya), I have found that WhatsApp, in the last year or so, has become increasingly popular and started to be used more widely, i.e. not by upper class elites only.

Kenya & Uganda Arts Diaries 2014

Kenya Arts Diary 2014                    Uganda Arts Diary 2014

On the lookout for a new calendar for 2014? Then this might be just for you: the beautiful Kenyan and Ugandan Arts diaries. While the Kenya arts diary exists since 2011 and is in its 4th edition now, the Ugandan version makes its debut this year. The aim of both projects is, amongst others, to offer an alternative to tourist tailored ‚african cultural products‘. Support East African art and contemporary popular culture!

How to get ‚em?

Kenyan arts diary (160 pages, all-colour, more than 60 artists featured, 1.850 KES = about 15 €): „To order for your copy, please email info@kenyabuzz.com or call [+254] 0770 314554/ 0773 809556. Free delivery within Nairobi“ (Source and more information on Kenyabuzz.com, Businessdailyafrica.com). The calendar is also on sale on local major book shops, galleries and art centers. Overseas Kenyan art lovers may also contact kenyaartsdiary@gmail.com for details (Source). They do also have a Facebook Page for the 2013 edition – the 2014 edition’s page was not yet on Facebook by the time of the post.

Ugandan arts diary (more than 50 artists featured, about 10 €): „Available in town [Kampala] at Aristoc, Kampala Road; 1000 Cups, Buganda Road; Cafe Kawa, Colville Street; Aristoc, Garden City; and Maridadi, Nakumatt Oasis. In Kamwokya at Afriart, Umoja, Good Glass, and Endiro, Kisementi. In Muyenga at Cafe Kawa. In Bugalobi at 49 Cheese & Wine. In Lubowa at the bookshop and craft shop in Quality Mall“ (Source and more information on their Facebook page, DW.de or independent.co.ug.