When we were growing up, my generation were steered away from “creative” jobs by our parents, who encouraged us to pursue what they regarded as safe, respectable careers and “serious” jobs. However with the emergence of the internet the creative sector has grown both in size and appeal, and the ‘millennial’ generation has embraced it and is increasingly gravitating away from the career paths they were offered through education, in favour of pursuing their passions and dreams through unconventional paths.
In the project “Dreams and Realities” I profile three members of this increasingly loud and fearless generation of young adults who are choosing to leave behind career paths and safe jobs and venture into the unknown at any cost, hoping that someday they will live “the dream”. They are pioneers in their own way, but it’s a big risk- Uganda’s youth unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world and few people have the luxury of a steady paycheck, let alone deciding to forgo that in favour of trying to create their own roles and companies.
The inspiration for this ongoing project came after I quit a comfortable day job as a Communications Coordinator because my heart was, and has always been, in photography. Though I was armed with a good degree in Journalism and Communication, the world of heels and dresses, desks and computer screens, never appealed to me. What I really wanted was to wear jeans, t-shirts and sneakers and get lost in the field! I wanted adventure, challenge, thrills and experience, and that was never going to be found inside four walls and eight hour shifts. Meet three people who are taking the same journey as me, daring to dream.
Rukundo Ritah, 26, graduated with a first class degree in Arts and Social Sciences from Makerere University. The eldest girl in her family, she was born and raised in Kabale district, Western Uganda, where her mother runs a successful boutique.
Ritah lives and works in Kampala where she shares an apartment with Sherry, a friend from church. She currently works as a bank teller, but her dream is to be a successful businesswoman with a big, busy boutique. Despite studying to become a social worker, she now divides her time between working in the bank on weekdays and spending her evenings and weekends shopping for menswear for stock.
She sells off her merchandise once a week on Thursday nights from a stall at Phaneroo, a local church, and she also sometimes makes deliveries to her clients’ homes and hangouts on weekends. She says that business gives her satisfaction and pleasure, and she feels alive when shopping for and selling clothes to her clients.
Naxa Nabende, 24, is a scientist who holds a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from Makerere University. Biotechnology is not his passion though- he says, “I studied biotechnology because I was assigned the course at university”. His passion is instead for music and dance, and he performs gospel music, referring to himself as a “lyrical pastor”.
Naxa lives with his parents in Kitebi, a suburb of Kampala. Both parents love of music, and his mother is part of the choir at their home church. A gambling addiction led him into petty theft at a young age, but he found a church group which helped him to overcome the problem and his songs refer often to these experiences.
When Naxa is not busy writing music he can be found either in the studio recording new tracks, or dancing and performing on stage, or talking to youth at his home church, the Miracle Centre Cathedral in Rubaga, about music, dance and God.
Mukisa Shamim, 25, has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communication from Makerere University. She is an only child, and her mother is a pastor at Saint Gate church as well as working as the headmistress of Little Angels nursery and primary school in Mukono. Her father has lived abroad since Shamim was a baby, and she was brought up by her grandparents in Jinja before later moving in with her uncle in Gayaza, a suburb of Kampala.
She works as a communications officer at one of the big TV stations in Kampala, but she dreams of working as a makeup artist, and she takes advantage of every free moment she gets to learn more about makeup and cosmetics, shop for beauty products and watch makeup tutorials as she looks out for the next client that might need her services.
She laughs that during her time as a student she would spend all her money on shopping for cosmetics that she would later use to experiment on her peers. “I have always liked to look good (…) but as a child I was told off for it. I think this cosmetics thing comes from my father, he is always looking good in all his pictures and I am told that he has a thing for good perfumes.”