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Professor Mbowa hailed for commercialising Ugandan theater

Professor Rose Mbowa

Kampala, Uganda  | THE INDEPENDENT |  The late Professor Rose Mbowa, the former head of Music, Dance and Drama department at Makerere University has been hailed by scholars and artist for commercializing theater in Uganda.

This came up during the Professor Mbowa memorial lecture organized by Uganda National Cultural Center in partnership with Makerere University that was held at national theater on Wednesday. Renowned actress, Irene Kulabako and TV personality praised Professor Mbowa for involving Non-Governmental Organizations in theater.

“Most of our plays back then, had minimal audience involvement, but when she came in with theater for development, the plays became a more human centered production, and were NGO funded. At that time, there were challenges of HIV, family planning, water, sanitation and hygiene, the plays were performed in local languages and this is where she comes in as a pioneer, because that didn’t exist before,” Kulabako said   

Kulabako said because of the introduction of theater for development by Professor Mbowa, some of her students like Andrew Benon Kibuuka, started incorporating Prof. Mbowa’s formats in their productions.     “There are people who continued to do different types of theater for development. That spill off, caused an evolution, when people like Abbey Mukiibi and Kato Lubwama went on radio, they started using some of those formates.” Kulabako said.

She described professor Mbowa as creative, fearless and genius who was naturally good at networking.     

Professor Patrick Mangeni, praised the late Prof. Mbowa as a teacher who groomed artist and developed the art, arguing that Mbowa fostered positive change through Theater. “Professor Rose Mbowa was an artist, an artist in every practical way. Here is a teacher who groomed the artist and also developed the art .She took theater as a frame to foster positive change,” Mangeni said   

Mangeni said Mbowa negotiated with the university to accommodate diploma students pursuing drama because she believed drama an important role in society.      

Professor Rose Mbowa was born on Januray 18th, 1943 in Kabale district to Eva Nyinabantu Mbowa and Kasole Lwanda Mbowa, a Laboratory technician. She attended Gayaza High School for her high school from where she exceled and was admitted at Makerere university where she studied English in Literature.

Prof. Mbowa was later admitted at the university of Leeds were she graduated with a masters of Arts degree in theater arts and drama.  She became a lecturer in the department of music, dance and drama at Makerere University and took over the department when the previous head was forced to leave the country. 

She published a number of articles on theatre in Uganda and presented papers on Ugandan theatre at the annual conference on African literature at the University of Bayreuth between 1989 and 1994. She also performed with a number of theatre companies in Uganda. She was named best actress at the National Theatre and received the Presidential Meritorious Award for Acting in 1973. She died on February 11, 1999.

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