Baba’s Birthday Celebration

A day long preparation for a birthday celebration for the founder of the Bavubuka Foundation, Babaluku.  We had been sending secret messages all week, now the day has come to plot together and do our best to keep him away from the house, unsuspecting, as we begin our marathon cooking session in preparation for the guests to come.

At nearly 29 years of age I still feel like a child. Me, Gilbert and Brian skate round the supermarket on the shopping trolley, stopping to laugh at the huge bag of chicken feet labelled ‘human food’, exclaiming my disgust at the pile of frozen cow feet and rapping our way down the aisle to the self-made Dynasty theme tune Mucherri Matoke. We park the heavy bags, including the box of red wine, on our back and move through the city and back home.

It is really astonishing for a western women to witness how long cooking can really take in Uganda. We even invite a local women round especially to cook the matoke in the traditional way, a five hour steaming session in the banana leaves.  We start cooking at 11am and are not ready to eat until after 9pm. It truly was a massive affair, even with multiple helping hands from the Builders. The cooking was a celebration in itself with the builders filling the house with their emceeing, singing and beat-boxing, it always reminds me what a special place I am in, surrounded by talent, love and creativity. It also reminds me of how important the work the Bavubuku Foundation is in archiving the movement in its glory and growth.  Hip Hop is everything to the members of the foundation, I often hear them say ‘I am Hip Hop’ and ‘Hip Hop saved my life’. These are not novelty statements but a true representation of how Hip Hop has given them purpose, dignity, a sense of self, and has been such a positive source of energy in the work they do in the communities.

There was around 40 people who attended the celebration; family and friends, both old and new, and generations of young people in which Babaluku has inspired and made an impact in their lives.  We gather in the living room to pray and give thanks for the amazing food we are about to eat.  These moments of gratitude and prayer are something that was once alien to me coming from a non-religious family. They always grip me in that moment as I am not quite able to contribute to these rituals because of their unfamiliarity, but at the same time make me realise how important it is to be thankful to be in such positions of security and plenty, and surrounded by such talented and loving people.

After the food, and whilst delicious chocolate cake was being served, each member of the group gave testament to Babaluku’s life, and how he has contributed to their development and what he means to them. Such powerful authenticity in their words demonstrated how one man could really make a difference.  There were many leaders in the room whose strength and impact were sourced from this foundation and the belief and support of one man, leaders who are now impacting hundreds of other young men and women.  Aside from being so proud to be able to work with such a person, it made me feel somehow guilty for not trying harder in the work that I do. I really have a lot to live up to, and knowing and working with such a person, I have seen and heard first hand what huge personal sacrifice, resilience and self-love it takes to make such an impact, and to continue through challenges and obstacles that would make an average person quit.

The night did not end until 5am. We danced, sang and drummed with the Nilotika Cultural Ensemble, led by the wonderful and talented Spyda.  I cannot describe how special this was, but somehow I felt connected with the land, it’s history, it’s culture and its power.  I realised the next morning that I had spent a whole day and night with a group of people who I loved and those who I did not know very well, in complete joy, it was one of the best nights of my life and was fuelled by happiness, not by any substances, which we in the west rely on so much. It was a feeling of knowing myself and feeling present and completely awake, aware, and able to make memories that I am able to remember and treasure into my future.