By Ofwono Opondo
A cross-section of Uganda’s elite, espousing hypocrisy, has in the past week fallen over each other castigating the proposed miss curvy pageant, a private initiative to promote Uganda and its endowments. In particular, those posturing as ethical, cultural and religious moralists have been making comments leaving many to wonder if indeed they understand ongoing paradigm shifts in world political economy.
Between 1986 and 1989, when Uganda was just emerging from economic collapse, it was considered shameful for Ugandans to go abroad for menial and non-formal employment (Kyeyo), but today we officially export labour and earn billions in remittances.
For a century, Christian pages killed by Kabaka Mwanga in Namugongo were considered traitors, but today they are religious martyrs promoting Uganda and bringing in tourism revenue, and churches dance smiling on their graves to the banks. Kampala Archbishop, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has just asked government to provide 9bn for a fourth Papal visit in July to host Catholic Bishops from Africa and beyond. Uganda has also turned the pages over Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, murdered by Idi Amin.
In Rwanda, thousands of skeletons from genocide victims are on display for remembrance and tourism. In retrospect, many believe it was lack of foresight to have buried thousands of skeletons from our civil wars in mass graves in Luwero Triangle, Barlonyo, Kichwamba, Mukura and Atiak because Uganda can no longer vividly tell its recent political history, although some could it’s sadistic.
Church of Uganda Archbishop, Stanley Ntangali, was quoted saying the church is opposing curvy pageant because it (church) stood for equality of women. Ntangali knows quite well, that the Church actually discriminates against women, the reason it doesn’t ordain female Bishops, and continue to teach that a woman came from a single rib of Adam, implying weakness and inferiority!
So, the controversy feminist activists have stirred against State Minister for tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda, over miss curvy, is cheap populism laced with hypocrisy. The misguided critics, passing for human rights defenders, are attempting, albeit in futility, to relate curvy pageant to illicit sex promotion, which it is not. In my view, it is a creative platform to showcase our beauty and in any case, it is voluntary. The critics could do better by adding more to the concept, instead of rejecting it with false and alarmist claims.
These same activists a while ago promoted the otherwise infamous V-Monologue saying women should be at liberty and proud to publicly display any part of their bodies as natural endowments without hindrance. Already, there is Miss Uganda, Miss Tourism, Miss Africa, Miss World pageants among others, involving young women and promoting ‘beautiful’ only as being small, slim, and skinny. Big or curvaceous are equally beautiful, intelligent and ought to tell their story.
That aside, there has been several fitness and figure competitions, of physique-exhibition events for both men and women based on bodybuilding and muscle definition, not size. During these events, men and women competitors only show up on stage in under-cloth because it’s the dressing the sport requires for audiences to see and appreciate. In Uganda we have had “Mr. Kampala,” where Ivan Byekwaso emerged winner, and yet nobody complained. Quite often the winners become celebrities paid to promote various noble causes, and corporate businesses including on billboards.
There was Gaetano Kaggwa, who, while a third year law student at Makerere University represented Uganda in the premier Big Brother Africa (BBA) series 2003, in South Africa finishing fourth. Gaetano intimately engaged in romantic scenes on TV, became and remains a sensational celebrity in Uganda to-date. Upon landing at Entebbe airport with his new ‘girlfriend,’ Abergail (Abby) Plaatjies, a South African in tow, Gaetano received a hero’s welcome from thousands of fans.
Gaetano enjoyed huge billboards, and fans waving placards on the 40-km Entebbe-Kampala journey in a convertible Mercedes Benz 500 series with personalized number plate reading “Gaetano”, as normal business came to a near standstill, and I guess many people made money on that day. On 7th August 2007, President Museveni provided a chopper to Gaetano, Abby, and Alexander Holi, all former housemates in the BBA to meet him in Soroti in what lasted half an hour.
Then as now, some misguided elites moralists tried to jump on an otherwise a non-issue to gain cheap popularity painting gloomy pictures in the media but these scarecrow tactics have always failed because Uganda is getting more investors, tourists, and domestic revenue is increasing. According to Uganda Tourism Board statistics, last year Uganda received 1.7 million tourists, the highest ever hosted and if we keep up with different innovations, Uganda’s tourism potential will go even higher with multiplier effects.
Beauty pageants have inherently been about bodies, shapes, appearance, and color, among others mostly by half-naked young women for audiences to judge the fairest, although quite recently intellectual discourse on current affairs, economy and human interest subjects have been added as areas of competition. Therefore, those making the hullabaloo about miss curvy especially the self-appointed feminists should cut the crap, and add more concepts to this contest instead of merely rejecting it.
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