Today we visited the Ndere center where we first heard a presentation from their director Stephen Rwangyezi. He shared with us that the word ndere means flute and this name was chosen for their organization because flutes are instruments that can connect to emotion and the flute is an instrument that is seen in all cultures. He went on to say that if all cultures can appreciate the flute then why can’t all people enjoy the other aspects of life together and live in harmony. He went on to have his performers show the sound each instrument makes and he explained the role of multiple rhythms in Ugandan music.
The Ndere center started in 1984 with three goals - to revitalize and rehabilitate Ugandan cultural arts, to provide the funding needed for the members of the troupe to get educated, and to promote literacy to encourage healthy practices and combat the transmission of HIV. The first goal deals with changing the view of African music as being backwards and a symbol of unholiness. The next two goals relate to the sustainable development goals of education, gender equality, and reduced inequalities. By funding schooling for the members of the troupe, this increases the education levels of the members and therefore reduces inequality. Men and women are members of the troupe and each gender plays an important role in the cultural dances and neither gender is favored.
There are many tribes in Uganda and historically there have been many factions between different the tribes. The Ndere center tries to promote Ugandan unity as it showcases the beautiful dances of many different tribes. Currently the Ndere troupe has 92 dancers from areas all over Uganda. The members can stay with Ndere as long as they want and there is a pretty diverse age range within the troupe.
The Ndere dance troupe has been successful in revitalizing Ugandan culture and promoting cultural pride in Ugandans. He discussed how this group is changing the view of Ugandan music, dancing, and other cultural expression from the past view that these things were being backwards and primitive. The troupe is able to show the beauty of Ugandan culture and promotes pride in the country through cultural expression.
At the Ndere center we got to learn how to play the Ugandan instruments or to learn to dance in the Ugandan way. It was a very informative experience for all of the students. After we tried to dance and play the instruments, we got to watch a four hour dance performance by the Ndere troupe which included dances from all over Uganda and neighboring countries. The dances left many Drake students speechless as we saw women dancing while balancing stacks of as many as seven vases on their heads, and men dancing while kicking drums that they balanced on their heads.
Overall the Ndere center was an extremely informative and fun place to visit and I highly recommend it to anyone who plans to visit Uganda.
Questions for Drake students and MUBS students:
Stephen Rwangyezi said that the problem with Africa in term of development and sustainability is not a lack of resources but it is a lack of confidence and pride. Do you believe this is true? What other challenges are present in Uganda specifically?
Another thing Stephen Rwangyezi said was that culture grows and responds as circumstances change. Do you agree? What do you think is the link between culture and development?