FROM THE SLUMS OF KAMPALA TO DISNEY. Phionah has inspired a lot more people than most #Ugandans would know. In my community work in Moncton Canada, I met one of the best Chess Masters in the world. The rest is history. We watched this kid who started from nothing and now we are in many schools in Moncton and going provincial anytime. NEVER attack anyone on the internet. In 2013 when Ugandans were attacking me, none of them knew that I was working on a project to bring chess in all the schools in our community and province. The rest is history. Long live the spirit of a survivor (Phionah, you did it, thank you). FYI people, I am not a chess player but I am rather okay at Project Management.
By Ronald Mugabe
In 2006, while working on a project with Maisha film lab, East Africa’s most prized film star, Kenya-born Lupita Nyong’o planted a tree at the Maisha gardens in Buziga, an upscale Kampala suburb.
This, in some way turned out to be her symbol of excellence and something that would show her; nine years later how far her career has progressed since then.
The film beauty Saturday evening graced Maisha Alive, a fundraising event geared towards the continued development of the Maisha gardens.Uganda’s chess player Phoina Mutesi (RIGHT). Kenyan and Holywood Oscar winning actress, Lupita N’yong’O (CENTRE) and Phoina’s coach, Robert Katende (LEFT) speak to the press on March 28, 2015 in Kampala. The holiday actress is in Kampala to act in the movie “queen of Katwe” where she has been casted as Harriet, Phiona’s mother. AFP PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANIAt just around 6.00pm, the rather calm and simple 12 Years a Slave actress made a grand entrance into the gardens where numerous guests waited to set their eyes on her in inexplicable enchantment.
She was in the company of celebrated film director and founder of the Maisha foundation, Mira Nair, Phionah Mutesi (the young world chess champion on whose story Queen of Katwe is based) and Robert Katende, her chess master, among other persons.Movie director, Mira Nair (RIGHT). Kenyan and holywood Oscar winning actress, Lupita N’yong’O (CENTRE) and Phoina’s coach, Robert Katende (LEFT) speak to the press on March 28, 2015 in Kampala. The holiday actress is in Kampala to act in the movie “queen of Katwe” where she has been casted as Harriet, Phiona’s mother. AFP PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANIAlmost every guest wasted no minute in reaching for their phones to either take a photo or a few selfies with the Kenyan beauty.
Lupita, clad in a long black dress straight away headed towards the Maisha rock; somewhere on the side of the garden as everyone gathered around her; perhaps to have a distant feel of Hollywood.
After a few speeches, the gorgeous Lupita then had the opportunity to water the tree she planted at the garden way back in 2006. Mutesi too; later after planted a tree just a few strides from where Lupita’s stands.
The most exciting bit of the entire event came when the auction, led by Gaetano Kaggwa, started. It was a battle of the monies as the guests; gathered at the kund in the middle of the garden excitedly placed their bids just to beat their opponents to anything that was put on sale.
Some of the items included a chance to feature in Queen of Katwe as an extra (the opportunity was won by Sylvia Owori); a chessboard used in the same film, an autographed 12 Years a Slave DVD by Lupita, among others. All together, around US$18,000 was raised from the auction.
The auction was to raise money to continue the development on the gardens. Mira Nair revealed that once complete, the gardens will serve as a multidisciplinary art space in Kampala featuring an outdoor cinema, a multipurpose amphitheater, a nature walk and open air classrooms.
The guests were thereafter treated to a 12 minute film on Robert Katende’s life. He is Mutesi’s chess trainer and has mentored her to the world stage. It was rather an emotional one but still, his success story kept a glowing smile on many of the people’s faces.
The event ended just a few minutes past 9pm but the whole feel of the Lupita moments still filled the air; with many wishing they could stay with her quite longer.
Lupita will be on set for her role in Queen of Katwe during her stay in the country.