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Monday, May 23, 2016

Ndere Cultural Center

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?


  1. Well Stephen was right about something the pride in Ugandan culture is surely fading away especially in the youthful society which is something that needs to be addressed and the Ndere troupe is doing a great job in helping out on that but I disagree with him on the fact that we don't need good roads or what he called"smooth roads" or perfect infrastructure to sustain development that I totally do not agree with him.

  2. What excited me was his attitude towards what mostbof us see as problems. He rather said instead of problems he has motivators. I think what is lagging us behind in terms of sustainability and development is our ATTITUDE towards all events around us. If we can try as see good in bad, then we are on a right path

  3. I do agree with Stephen on identifying problems in Uganda with development and sustainability being related to a lack of pride and confidence, because without pride and confidence people can't truly believe their efforts are making an impact. Also with more confidence, there is more support in how good of a job the citizens are doing in developing Uganda. With more pride, people will start being proud of Uganda as a Country, and in turn put more effort in making it a great Country. Lastly, in Uganda I don't believe that culture changes much as circumstances change. I feel this because these traditional dances performed to us were preserved from really old times, and even when circumstances changed, the cultural dances remained the same.

  4. I really agree with what you said about the Ndere cultural center being an amazing experience, and really representing Ugandan culture in a great way. Also I do agree with Stephan that a large problem with Africa in terms to sustainable development is a lack of pride. With more pride Africa will better be able to be able to embrace who they really are, and I believe this is not only important to sustainable development but to everyday life. Although I do not feel as if this is the sole reason Africa has yet to be able to sustainably develop. I feel that an equal balance of pride, and resources are critical to sustainable development in Uganda, and in Africa as a whole. Without resources it is very difficult to have an influx of money, which in return makes development very challenging. With that being said I feel as if culture is very important to maintain as a country develops. Culture plays a key role in a number of the SDG goals. This shows its importance in sustainable development.

  5. I would agree with Stephen that culture grows and responds as circumstances change. I think in order for a culture to live on it has to adapt in some ways otherwise it is at risk of dying out. I think in terms of development culture is often not placed at a very high level of importance. It is often neglected and mistreated so that a country can develop. I would agree with what Stephen said when he mentioned that in order for a country to develop fully and sustainably it should include culture.

  6. I think I may agree with Stephen that the root of Uganda's development dilemma is lack of pride. The effects of colonization here are still ridiculously clear 50 years later, and people of color everywhere have been ridiculed and oppressed to the point of internalized oppression. Lack of confidence in your role in your culture and lack of pride in said culture are the main sociological side effects of this mistreatment.
    That being said, I do agree that culture changes with time. Nothing is stagnant, and attempting to remain stagnant is the enemy of development. However, internalized hatred is definitely a negative change, and until people of color can break free of that influence, I don't believe that any non-Euro culture will be able to make development strides culturally, structurally, or ethically to its full ability.

  7. I would agree with Stephen on both accounts. Not only is culture important to sustainable development for the reasons of ensuring pride and identity in one's culture, but there is also another factor which culture brings. In my conversations with both Stephen and Dr. Livingstone, both of them brilliantly mentioned that the importance of culture and identity also allows for unique innovations, originality and the ability to be omen independent from other cultures. So, it is definitely an issue whenever most (if not all) development theories referenced for mainstream development forgo mentioning the critical importance of culture in sustainable development. Stephen also mentioned the example of how the local culture and people have learned how to live and maintain the African environment, and those methods and old wisdoms need to be included within a society's development.
    This also highlights the idea that development isn't a static concept, but rather a more fluid concept which differes and changes from culture to culture.

  8. I really enjoyed our trip to the Ndere Cultural Center and thought it was awesome how well each different Ugandan culture was represented in the dancing. It was interesting to hear the story about how the group came to be and the meaning of the word Ndere. I think that the reasons that Stephen states for Africa’s problems are accurate. Another challenge that I have come to notice during my time here is the culture of not being punctual. I have noticed this when we are transitioning between events and when there is a set schedule to follow, such as at MUBS graduation. Often times we end up not following the plan and end up way behind schedule. This is a problem for a country that wants to develop, they need to take pride in being punctual, this will allow them to reach their goals on time and not always be behind schedule on things. I definitely think that some parts of culture change and respond as a country develops, although I think that if the country commits to keeping its culture as a core value it will develop right alongside with the country and continue to be a part of its communities.

  9. The first question you asked, Stephen stated that there was a lack of confidence and pride within this country. From what I have observed, everyone has confidence and pride for their country here but on the contrary, that confidence and pride also reduces the ability to accept change when relating to sustainable development. It seems as though, once people find a way that works to the best of their knowledge, they stick with that and get comfortable with that way of doing specific things and that makes change hard. What Ndere is doing I believe is a great step forward in many ways. It is giving education opportunities to those who might otherwise not have it. It is giving those 92 dancers a way to express themselves through the arts, and it makes sure the arts is not overlooked.

  10. I agree with Steven. The lack of confidence is the root cause of the fading culture in our country. Most of the time we are comparing our culture to the western culture and ofcourse adapting the western culture and leaving ours behind yet that is what identifies us as Africans and ugandans.And yes culture is dynamic and responds to change although this is at a very slow rate thus people should embrace change and use change for the betterment of the future generations just as Steven has used culture to provide entertainment, education, infrastructure development and international relationships as he can now perform for people from different continents. this is sustainable development

  11. What we are lacking as ugandans is constructive discontentment. We tend to be relaxed and comfortable with what we already have.how i wish we could start reasoning critically looking beyond the stated facts.we tend to be reactive looking for solutions when the problem has occurred instead of being proactive. Thats lacking confidence and pride. If we dont wake up we shall lose the little that we have because We tend to appreciate other people's culture and forget our own and that's very dangerous. Things we consider to be old fashioned are the ones that are more sustainable. How i pray we get more people of his kind (Stephen) we who participated, let's start tge renewal