Artists petition Parliament on redevelopment of National Theatre

Performing artists, through the Uganda Centre for International Theatre Institute, are opposed to the redevelopment of the National Theatre and the Nommo Gallery by private developers.

Presenting a petition to the Rt.Hon. Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, Monday, 27th March 2017, the Secretary General of the Institute, Charles Batambuze said that the arts and culture fraternity are in disagreement with the redevelopment format that has been presented by the Ministry of Gender and Social Development.
“There must be a hidden agenda behind the redevelopment plans. Our suspicions have not been helped by the move by the Ministry of Gender and Social Development to amend the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) Act of 1959, so as to extinguish the Trust and grant the Minister sole control of these properties,” he said.

Batambuze added that since these are prime properties, they should be left for the development of the theatre, art galleries and crafts markets.
“We are not interested in the development of apartments and shopping malls; development should be in the best interests of developing arts and culture instead of the proposed plans,” he prayed.

He also added that the decline in the arts industry is a result of years of neglect and marginalisation by the government.  He said that the artists are therefore, opposed to the proposed developments of a five star hotel, office towers, apartments and shopping malls.
“Art spaces like theatres, galleries and dance studios constitute only 10 percent of the proposed space allocation; the best use of the UNCC land is to establish facilities that make development of arts and culture viable,” he added.

The artists also prayed that the Ministry renovates the National Theatre building to host the East African Arts and Culture Festival 2017, and present a public development plan for all theatres, art galleries and craft centres across the country.
They also asked that the Minister disbands the current Board of Trustees and reconstitutes a new one that is representative of the different arts and culture genres.

The Speaker assured the artists that Parliament will take great interest in the status of the National Theatre adding that cultural centres must be protected.
“In this country, we do not value culture; there is a time people wanted to sell the Uganda Museum but we raised it in Parliament and the idea was abandoned,” Kadaga said.

The Speaker added that she will interest herself in the UNCC Act with the view to supporting the existence of the arts and culture, and the protection of the areas where these should be presented.
“Every town had a facility; if we do nothing, all these areas will be gone. I will come up with the best way to cause action on this,” she assured the artists.

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