Kampala’s coming of age

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Last year in Uganda, I found Kampala to have changed much for the better since my previous visit, three years earlier. Now, a year later, positive change is visible yet again. Last year, I was amazed at how the quality and availability of restaurants had increased significantly in the three year time period. Now, a few more restaurants, as well as malls, have popped up, but the change I’m noticing now is primarily related to cultural activities, an indicator that, indeed, the Ugandan middle classes are thriving.

Last night, at the opening of @The HUB, a collaborative workspace, or incubator, in Ntinda, I was lucky and won a month’s access to its facilities, currently priced at 220 USD. A friend, Marlies Pilon is already based there and considers it her second home and, it has to be said, the venue feels very pleasant. Well maintained, sturdy desks and chairs, decent enough wifi and free tea and coffee for those working @The HUB, straight from the on-site Junction cafe.
Funnily, before winning the night’s grand prize, Marlies was saying how she liked the fact that, by working from @The HUB, as a freelance journalist, she is able to nicely separate work and private life, arriving in the morning, leaving at the end of the afternoon. I, on the other hand, said that I actually love working from home, where I can do what I like when I like it, dress how I like and not care about anything or anyone. Except, perhaps, that with the maid we have, I can’t sit behind my computer in my Adam costume. However, I did go through 10GB of 3G data in the space of two weeks. Working from @The HUB, if internet access is indeed decent enough, could save me 100 euros per month.

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But, back to cultural activities. Jantien Zuurbier (there are too many Dutchees in Kampala!) who runs @The HUB recently got involved with publishing a monthly magazine listing “what’s on” in Kampala, called Arts 256, a much needed resource, in line to replace, or at least compete with, The Eye.
Also, there’s now a decent website/blog on east African arts called StartJournal and another nice looking artsy website on Kampala, InKampala.com also opened its doors in April.

Furthermore, the monthly poetry nights hosted by Masaani Art have gotten significantly more professional (though many of the performing poets also try to assert themselves a bit too much with their Ugandan-ness, to the extent where their work sometimes feels juvenile) and the Alliance Francaise is now regularly organizing cultural events at the National Theatre.

All in all, Kampala as Nairobi’s little brother is slowly and properly coming of age.