in ,

The Power of Performing Arts in Branding a Country: Redefining Africa’s Narrative.

7 years ago in Kigali, Senegalese singer and businessman, Akon, spoke to youth about branding and marketing through the arts. He said, “Directors, filmmakers, entertainers, and the press, it’s going to be your job to redefine how people think about Africa.” And now, after the NAM and G77 summit in Kampala, we must ask ourselves what brand of Uganda the international delegates consumed before arriving in the country and what they took home with them. What is our brand as Uganda and how are the performing arts contributing to it?

In the global landscape, a country’s brand is a powerful asset that shapes perceptions, attracts investment, and fosters international relations. Despite, the countless murders of black people on American streets, or the arduous uphill climb of *“Kyeyo”, somehow, we have bought into the American dream and believe the West or “outside countries” are the best place to be. We dress, we walk, talk, and even treat each other based on movies, songs, and entertainment we consume from the West as if it’s a key that will unlock the “dream” for us. The better life. Similarly, we allow ourselves to consume narratives of ourselves that place us beneath and lower than the ‘other’. For too long, Africa has been plagued by stereotypes and misconceptions that overshadow its rich history, diverse cultures, and vibrant communities. It’s almost as if we allow ourselves to be branded. Yet, to be an artist is to create new narratives. To tell our stories and create new neuro-pathways of understanding.

I use, the word “neuro” deliberately to liken the branding of a nation to the branding and operational system of the mind. In the advent of embracing mental health awareness in Uganda, we are encouraged to breathe and speak positive affirmations to avoid slipping into depression or anxiety. We are reminded the body listens to what it is told and acts accordingly. Just like our body and mind require a daily affirmation to rewire it’s thinking perhaps also our country and continent could do with the same. The performing arts are the perfect vehicle to execute this re-branding. Through dance, music, theater, and other artistic expressions, countries can celebrate their heritage, breaking down stereotypes and presenting a more nuanced and authentic image.

For example, did you know that, as I write this, the documentary, Bobi Wine: The People’s President, has been nominated for an Oscar? While this is great news for Uganda and the film industry, the topic may brand Uganda further into the negative spotlight. Previously, when you traveled and announced that you’re from Uganda, the two movies you could be asked about were, The Last King of Scotland and Who Killed Captain Alex. Now, we can add this new nomination to the list. We are not recognised by our superheroes and powerful gods. We are not known for our powerful courtship dances and attires. Instead, we are recognised for our failure to fit in a colonised shoe. A shoe, a brand, that was never ours to wear. Through storytelling, Africa can reshape the conversation, emphasising our strengths, our resilience, innovations, and progress.

To redefine how people think about Africa, it is crucial to focus on positive aspects, challenging the persistent negative narratives. The performing arts provide an avenue for this transformation by offering a stage where Africa can shine, displaying its beauty, talent, and potential. This positive portrayal can attract tourism, foreign investment, and partnerships, ultimately contributing to the socio-economic development of the continent.

In conclusion, leveraging the performing arts as a tool for country branding is essential for reshaping perceptions of Africa. Through cultural representation, storytelling, and global collaboration, African countries can reclaim their narrative and present a positive image to the world. By doing so, they not only break free from stereotypes but also pave the way for a future defined by understanding, appreciation, and shared success.

Link to AKON speech here,

Link to Oscar Nominated Documentary Film here.

Img: YTC STUDENT in acting class 2021

*: Kyeyo: Ugandan English. 1996– Work done by a Ugandan overseas, esp. that which is low-paid or unskilled.

This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!


Written by Yenze Theatre Conservatoire (1)

A performing arts enterprise enabling artists to thrive through Film/theatre productions, trainings and management.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Making a case for criminalising marital rape

Hopefully Bolder into 40….