November 9, 2009

Artist Ben Rothschild Prepares for Trip to Uganda

Ben Rothschild, a native of Racine, Wisconsin and a recent graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), is making final preparations for his upcoming trip to Uganda where he will facilitate arts workshops with children and youth at the AGYA Learning Center. Since graduating from MIAD, Rothschild has been studio-based in Racine, Wisconsin and has been exhibiting his work locally and nationally.

For Rothschild (pictured below), this trip represents his first visit to the continent of Africa and a unique opportunity to share his love for the arts.

* Photo Credit: A. Marie Phillips and Barbara J. Miner *

In Uganda, Rothschild will work with AGYA Youth Leader, Kenneth Mulinde who currently teaches AGYA's art classes. The collaborative teaching method between Rothschild and Mulinde represents AGYA's philosophy about international volunteers. "Although we welcome visitors to travel to Uganda and share their skills with the youth, all international volunteers are expected to work with AGYA's Youth Leaders to implement classes. Not only does this empower our youth but it also allows volunteers to contribute within the context of shared cultural understanding" said AGYA co-founders Abraham Matovu and Divinity Barkley.

Rothschild and Mulinde, who have been communicating via Skype and email for more than three (3) months, have developed an exciting curriculum which will include art classes and workshops four times per week for the duration of Rothschild's trip.

When asked to explain his thoughts on his upcoming trip, Rothschild said:
"It seems like it was yesterday that I first spoke with Kenny on the phone, as we discussed the possibility of me travelling to his home in Uganda. Kenny has been an inspiration to me since we first spoke. I cried tears of gratitude after our first conversation because he reminded me of what I had forgotten. Being an artist has little to do with how well one draws, paints, etches, or forges, it has everything to do with passion. The passion in Kenny's voice is so refreshing. Already a skilled craftsman at a young age, Kenny told me he would like to be a professional artist. I told him he already was.

During my stay with AGYA, it is not my goal to create artists. Rather it is my mission to give these passionate individuals the training that was so freely given to me, so that the can have the tools and resources to better express themselves and share their art with the world"

AGYA Goes to the Studio!

As one of the few community-based organizations in Uganda that has adopted hip-hop culture as a foundational element of our arts and education programs, AGYA is giving urban Ugandan youth the opportunity to express themselves through rapping, breakdancing, and graffiti art in an environment of shared values. AGYA has embraced the philosophy of conscious, positive hip-hop as a global youth culture by fully integrating the culture's messages, themes, style, and images into our After-School Program curriculum.

AGYA Youth have formed "BTH" which stands for Big Time Hustlers. Though inspired by American rap artists such as Jay-Z, T.I., and Lil Wayne, BTH are truly defining their own message and style that is uniquely African. Rapping in indigenous languages, BTH focuses on making music with positive messages that can inspire youth to reach their full potential, continue their education, and be who they are. BTH raised enough money for a studio session by selling chapati, tea, and groundnuts at AGYA's weekly Sunday community meetings. In recent weeks, BTH has performed at local schools, and recorded their first song. In 2010, BTH plans to record more songs, launch their first fashion brand of t-shirts, and create innovative music videos for their first single.

Hoping to record another song before the Christmas holiday, BTH is currently fundraising for their second studio session. To contribute to this effort, U.S. donors can mail your tax-deductible donation to:

African Millennium Foundation
c/o Amagezi Gemaanyi(AGYA)
468 North Camden Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

* write "AGYA-Uganda BTH project" in the memo line of your check or money order to ensure that your donation is properly allocated *

Ugandan donors should e-mail: to make donation arrangements.

BTH in Pictures

AGYA Youth Leaders and BTH founders, Brian "B-Stat" Sseguya and Nelson "Vimcage" Kazibwe perform for high-school students, teachers, and parents at a special event hosted by Kampala Secondary School in October 2009.

ABOVE & BELOW: Brian Sseguya during BTH's first recording session.

ABOVE: BTH members during a free-style practice session at the AGYA Learning Center in Kampala.

ABOVE: BTH celebrates AGYA's NGO Certification.

ABOVE: Rita Nansubuga, an AGYA Girls Member and BTH's only female MC, performs her verse during the studio session while fellow MC, Nelson Kazibwe documents the session.