Artistic Freedom in Uganda


Year: 2013

Date of Action: October 2013

Region: Africa

Location: Uganda

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Design, Music, Performance Art, Public Art, Photography

Confronting Bodies: Uganda artists

Description of Artwork: Artistic freedom comes at a large price in Uganda, a country that has had a long history of combatting official censorship. Artists have a large role in Ugandan society.

The Incident: Ugandan artists have expressed themselves a lot more recently through music and drama in the past few months, despite the military dictatorship of Idi Amin. In fact, many of these plays and songs and dramatic pieces that were written were to criticize the Amin regime. Several authors were killed or forced into exile, but that is a price they are willing to pay for the literary and cultural liberation of the country.

During the early years of President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) government, musicians, choreographers and playwrights promoted the new government through their works for bringing back stability after the overthrow of Obote and Lutwa regimes. The general public was full of praises for the new regime and artists tapped into that feeling. However, as the early optimism waned, many artists became more critical. These artists have been censored, paid off or even deported, delivering big blows to artistic freedom of expression in Uganda in the process.

Results of Incident: Now most artists have decided to play it safe by keeping away from controversial issues, mainly political, that affect society. The biggest threats to artistic freedom in Uganda are from the cultural, religious and political spheres, and it will continue to be this way due to threat of persecution. Hopefully, we will soon see a change in the way the government views censorship and art in the country.