Gen Tumwine: Here is the truth about Nommo Gallery operations [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) AS a principle, I normally do not like to respond to newspaper headlines or articles and their fertile-mind imaginations, fictions, and speculations. I, however, feel that on important issues, especially where integrity is concerned, the truth should be put on record, and then those interested can do whatever they like, as the truth remains the truth.
I have waited for all the mud to be splashed out, and I think it has now dried and should or will fall off.• It is good and necessary that we all account. I welcome it. Let everyone account wherever we are, to show whether we have added value or caused loss• There is need to explain the history of the Nommo Gallery, the ownership and its management.• My role and purpose of being there.• The relationship of Nommo Gallery, National Theatre and UNCC Act.• Dispel the misinformation on non-existent rent arrears.• Analyse the Birigimana excitement and need for owning up to ones mistakes.• Emphasise the importance of purpose, process and form, as well as transparency, patriotism, and accountability.• Expose the abuse of media Platform - Journalistic incompetence and lack of professionalism .• Advise on methods for dealing with institutional weakness to correct wrongs.• Use this as an example to address the management of national assets.Facts• Far from what the newspapers and some people have been propagating around, Gen Elly Tumwine has not received any official letter from anybody requesting for rent.• There is no agreement for rent of even one shilling on record. There is no money in arrears to be paid. It is all baseless.• There is continued partnership for promoting art and culture and protection of the assets for artists.• Boards and government employees come and go and owners stay. There has been a number of boards of trustees of the Uganda National Cultural Centre that was established by an Act of Parliament in 1959. They are the ones mandated to manage the assets.• Where there are disagreements there are established methods of work.• Is it the duty of Parliament, PSs, or newspapers to collect rent?• Each person has a known record of proven performance on which to base for judgement in matters of integrity.• In judging cases what is important is motive.• In this case of Bigirimana versus Tumwine , the purpose, the process, and form are all misplaced, without transparency, patriotism, and proper accountability procedures.• If you do not have integrity, you cannot achieve it by buying newspapers or publicity. It is hard won over a long period. If you do not have the interest and concern to protect the artists' assets, you cannot pretend, that you love the child more than the mother. The Banyankole say, it is unless you want to eat the child.
IssuesThe collapse of Parastatals is due to the "I do not care, or the I do not mind" attitude of civil servants.The promotion of art versus appointments and changeable boards needs cooperation rather than conflict.Ownership or constants versus appointees and changeables, is the constant challenge in managing all properties.The lack of long-term vision and initiatives versus quick gains and short-term solutions, creates abuse and steady destruction of good foundations.
The greed and focus on money to steal rather than the purpose or long-term goals of institutions has destroyed many parastatals, including National Theatre. Talk and action, addition of value and source of income, versus lack of improvement, maintenance and income generation, characterise the background of this matter. Corruption survives on darkness or ignorance as well as misinformation.
The Art industry needs innovative and creative minds, not corroded and stained anti-people bureaucrats who want to reap where they have not sown and only abuse the authority lent to them by the people. History and my role at Nommo Gallery. It was established in 1964, and was first housed on Kampala Road in an old building which was later condemned and demolished around the City Square.
To promote art and culture, the then President gave the present house which houses the only national art gallery, Nommo Gallery, to Visual Artists and an art exhibition to open it, was presided over by the First Lady then, Miria Obote. It was originally an annex to the Nakasero State House. It was handed to the artists who had formed The Uganda Artists Association (UAA) to unite all the visual artists. Artists like the late Prof. Francis Musango Gwantamu, the late Buluma, the late Kyeyune, Prof. Nagenda, and others participated.
During Idi Amin's regime, when most artists ran into exile and the main patrons the rich Indians left, the gallery was almost deserted and the few artists who stayed quarrelled among themselves. The Ministry of Culture then appointed an Overseer to run the gallery but only paid a miserable salary to him, such that he was only able to survive from his art but there was no money enough to even maintain the compound.
In 1986, when NRM took power, I encouraged artists to come together. I invited many back from exile, and worked with the School of Fine Art at Makerere, to be involved in designing and painting to depict the new situation. In 1988, I was made the patron of the UAA. We organised many Art exhibitions, but we were always embarrassed by the unattended compound and the whole environment, with helpless complaints from the overseer, then Mr Buluma, who was soon to retire.
In 1992, I was appointed the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Uganda National Cultural Centre ( UNCC), to take care of the National Theatre, the Nommo Gallery, and another community house in Mengo ( which was later returned with the Lubiri). The (UNCC) Act only talks of the National Theatre. The ministry told our board that we had to raise our own funds to run these places. There was a small wage subvention to cover the salaries of a few members of staff. The National Theatre was leaking, and the chairs in the auditorium smelling and the bush was around all the premises.
The Nommo Gallery was the worst with many ant-hills on the compound. One day, a company came marketing Hydra-form technology, of making bricks from ant-hill soil without using cement. It was exciting, and I told them that we had plenty of ant-hills even next to State House, and they could demonstrate there.
From our ant-hills exhibition in the bushy compound, we got 5,000 bricks. As an artist and responsible person, I made use of the bricks after paying for the labour, by putting up an artistic temporary two-room structure using metallic supports, and the wall of the neighbouring building. At that time I had no official office elsewhere, and wanted to do whatever it took to improve the Art promotion centres, as many people were not bothered. After contraction, we invited the President to see the Hydra-form demonstration and many other dignitaries from the ministries, which led to the purchase of the machines.
At that time, very few people visited the gallery. We then started a campaign to promote the gallery to become a tourist centre and a lively place for art lovers and the public, so that they can patronise the artists' work on sell.
The board appointed a substantive director of the Nommo Gallery, the Late Fabian Mpagi, a well known artist. I worked with many artists to organise exhibitions at the gallery and even abroad. Then I realised that there was a gap on attracting people to the gallery, there was no eating place and no African food being served around the area. I then took months convincing restaurant owners to come to Nommo Gallery, until I convinced the ladies running Pearl Restaurant,who were at Pioneer Mall then.
To convince them, I offered them one of the rooms on my structure free of charge for six months, so that they test the market. When it picked up, we then, started discussing the idea of B.O.T.(Build Operate and Transfer). I was working with the director and briefing the board of trustees all the time.
Finally, they raised the funds to build the restaurant as a temporary structure, and they entered into a legal agreement with Nommo Gallery in 1997 to build and operate the restaurant for 10 years, after which, they would start paying rent. This included mentaining the premises in a good and attractive condition.
After 10 years, in 2007 , the ladies running Pearl Restaurant, started paying rent of Shs3,000,000 per month, until it was reduced for them to Shs2,300,000. This money has been paid to the board, although little has been done to improve the gallery in these years. I am told it is this period when there has been grave mismanagement that has led to the interdiction of the director of National Theatre.
When they left my room, in 1997, we turned it into a classroom for different lectures on art environment, grey-haired and bould-headed, nutrition, visiting students from all over the country, and an additional exhibition space for art. I worked jointly with the director, to offer internship art training to various students, with some coming from abroad. I made and commissioned many art pieces to display in the compound to give the gallery a deserving image of a National Gallery.
DifferenceThere should be a clear separation of the Nommo Gellery building which is the National Gallery where artists exhibit their art works, the Pearl Restaurant, another recent small eating place put there to serve the staff around the area, then my office and a classroom and a crafts place.
The gallery is run by a director and a few staff, not me. It had it's own account and independent control of all that goes on at the gallery, until the former theatre director closed the account to hijack the rent from the Pearl Restaurant, which added no value to the gallery until again I complained to the board to at least repair the parking, which was in a sorry state.
Nommo Gallery was not originally under the UNCC Act of 1959, which was specifically for the National Theatre. There had been attempts to amend the Act to include other cultural centres, but it never went beyond Cabinet. Since the only parastatal for Artists was UNCC, Nommo Gallerly was administratively brought under the UNCC. The land titles of UNCC were only for the National Theatre. Nommo Gallery remained under Uganda Land Commission, and later National Housing acquired its title, who started demanding for rent from the gallery.
In 2001, as artists, we were concerned about developing the premises, and there was danger that National Housing Corporation could sell the artists home. The director of Nommo Gallery worked hard, and we gathered all the facts and affidavits from those who were present in the 60s when it was officially given for artists, including Mr Odida, Hon Kyemba, the late Hon Tiberondwa, the late Prof. Musango , the late artist Elly Kyeyune , and others.
The title was secured in 2004, put in the names of UNCC as trustees for artists. These are the facts that all need to know and understand, our tested and proven commitment, to protect artists interests, as well as national interests, and not for personal gain. I am proud to say that my vision that I expressed at the opening of my art exhibition in 1993 at Nommo Gallery, when I assured those present that we shall turn Nommo Gallery into one of the best sitting places in Kampala, has been fulfilled as we speak.
I was not occupying the gallery as a commercial tenant or an employee for pay. I was there as a patron of the Uganda Artists Association and a representative of the owners, not to work like "a paid labourer" which some people are. I have taught worked, helped and promoted young artists and many other people as a responsible patriot.
ConclusionLet us separate facts from assumptions or wild imaginations and unfound allegations. What is TRUE, what is RIGHT, what is LEGAL, and in my opinion, there is no ground for the heat that has been generated, mainly in the press and by irresponsible people.
Nommo Gallery is for Artists and established to promote art and culture. Gen Tumwine, does not own or run the gallery. As the Patron and a serious stakeholder, he has done a lot to protect and improve the place with the knowledge of all who cared and mattered, in accordance with objective XXVI of the Constitution of Uganda. The actual genuine issue and possibly what positive result that might come out of this whole noise, is that there is need to pay more attention to who is doing what and in whose interest. What is the motive?
It was all unnecessary to run to the papers, to the Parliamentary committee, for the PS or any body, to demand for rent. There are established and known methods of work. Unless if there is another problem somewhere on some people's minds, which need to be found out, and I hope it will with time, this matter, is easy to solve. If the board wants to ask for rent, we shall negotiate and come to an agreement, sign a tenancy agreement, then talk about rent. As of now, there is no such rent to talk about.
Let us work together; Parliament, Ministry, UNCC board, and all concerned citizens to promote what is good for all. I suggest that the Minister of Gender calls a meeting for all involved and harmonise them so that we move forward on a common ground and focus.
who is doing what?
Gen Tumwine's roleAs a reputable artist and freedom fighter, a patriot, and a liberator, Iam always willing to give what it takes to achieve the main purpose. Promotion of Art is not about money, it is about the vision and passion you have about it. Money is just a minor tool. Great innovative and creative create more long lasting benefits than book accountabilities. Tangible results and existence accountabilities are more credible than just figures and book accountability. I repeat what I told the press before.
I found the Nommo Gallery in a very sore state. It was an abandoned place covered in the bush. The ministry or the UNCC couldn't find money to slash it. I used my own money to clear the anti hills and opened up the restaurant to attract the people to the area. "Whoever is at the Nommo Gallery and National Theatre is benefitting from my initiatives to generate money, otherwise they would have closed. I created the crafts village, which was previously a bushy place. I started the parking lot, which had been stolen by some unscrupulous people in KCC."
Ps Bigirmana's roleDoes Birigimana know the idea behind the Nommo Gallery? It is not for collecting money but promoting art, which I have done. If Birigimana put a shilling to the office I occupy, then he should demand for it. But if some people are guilty and looking for escape routes, we will find out. If the ministry wants to claim the right to collect rent, it should first show what evidence it has done to generate resources from which rent is to be corrected, as well as evidence to show that where rent has been corrected, it has improved the assets.
On the contrary, what is on record from the long past and recent past is proof of continuous mismanagement, deterioration of the assets, without maintenance, negligence and destruction of the purpose of the assets, because of, corruption and lack of concerned citizens to resist or improve the situation.
To imagine that Bigirimana, whose best record is causing financial loss to the country in billions that has led to the suffering of very many people and donors blocking their support, is the new messiah to save Nommo Gallery, is just absurd. The mafias are good at buying the media using some unprofessional journalists, and there are reports of even buying MPs to defend them in committees. Apart from guilt and trying to cover up, why does someone before he or she listens to both sides, make sweeping statements?
It is, however, true that, even in countries where they have been operating for a long time they have caused a lot of suffering, yes, but they have been resisted by the society. They try to capture the lime light, in the hope that they will deprive it from the others who are opposed to them, forgetting that the others, who stand on the truth, have the greatest power to annihilate them with time.
Birigimana is looking for relevance and trying to splash dirt on others to resemble him, and look for billions to mismanage where they are not, which shows that he is suffering from the shock of leaving the big table to the stool, with the whole world focusing on him. The youth and all anti-corruption crusaders should watch this space, to see whether he is there to serve the purpose.
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