Dancers, heavily built men beating drums of all sizes and a drumline in signature green and white attire were some of the sights that welcomed the remains of comedian Kato Lubwama at the National Theater in Kampala yesterday.
It had been five days since the former Member of Parliament for Rubaga South succumbed to heart complications, with his body being brought back to the streets and theater, where he earned fame.
Yesterday, the drum rolls, ululations, a drumline that preferred singing to the songs of legends such as Elly Wamala as opposed to gospel hymns like Amazing Grace and Stomping, filled the National Theater.
As artists, they noted that they were not going to mourn but to celebrate a man that they said gave his all to the field of art and culture for close to three decades.
His colleagues were on location to see him off with poetry, spoken words, drama, comedy and music.
Mr Charles James Ssenkubuge, alias Siasa, said he had known Lubwama from the days when he was acting with Omugave Ndugwa, and that he came on stage with a signature voice that sounded like Samson Kisekka (former premier).
He said Kisekka used to speak in ways that made people believe he was arrogant.
“It is surprising that he later became like Kisekka,” he said.
The body of Kato Lubwama is wheeled to The National Theatre in Kampala for public viewing yesterday, where it spent a night before heading to the burial ground in Nkozi, Mpigi District.
In his eulogy, Mr Ssekubuge said he was happy that many people had come out to celebrate Lubwama’s legacy and that most of them were willing to stay around the entire night since the body would remain there overnight.
“Many people are coming through to celebrate Lubwama, including the minister of Gender and the President, the one we were given, Mama Robinah Nabbanja (Prime Minister),” he said.
In 2016, Lubwama dared politics, a move that separated him from many of the people that had walked the drama journey with him, for instance, Abby Mukiibi, who co-hosted with Lubwama on CBS’s breakfast show, disagreed with the idea.
And so did playwright and film director, Mr John Ssegawa.
“I did not agree with his decision, I thought he was only wasting away and wasting his creativity,” Mr Ssegawa said, adding that he did not attend Lubwama’s swearing-in ceremony and did not talk to him for at least four years.
Mr Ssegawa asked the current crop of artistes to promote unity.
“We made money and became famous and it got on our heads, we started fighting within our groups and when we separated, we divided the audience and soon lost it all, he said.
Mr Ebony Waiswa, who was a close associate with Lubwama and was starring on Pearl Magic channel programme dubbed Kanyola Bikya, dramatised some of the scenes that they played together.
The two had known each other for more than 30 years with Mr Waiswa saying they had both gone through thick and thin of life’s beatings including forging a visa to Russia.
This, he explained that the late Lubwama had written a letter inviting him and himself to Russia and also forged visas.
Actor Mukiibi corroborated the visa fiasco.
“One time I was at CBS and I was called that Kato and Waiswa had been arrested. They wanted me to help them,” Mukiibi said, adding: “I thought about the outcomes of helping them, what if I’m arrested as well and I left them there.”
Performing Mulongo Wange, a song that the late Lubwama wrote, singer Mariam Ndagire, who had ushered in Lubwama’s body into the auditorium, broke down midway but later revealed that he was her biggest cheerleader.
“It is important to have people such as Kato in your life, he wrote my first commercial song,” she recalled.
Prime Minister Nabbanja, who was the chief mourner, told the bereaved that President Museveni had chipped in to have Lubwama get specialised treatment in Turkey upon learning that he was sick.
“I last spoke to Kato Lubwama a month ago. He was such a direct person and he told me he wanted money. I told him I would give him but unfortunately, I didn’t manage, it’s unfortunate that I have to give it to the widow now,” Ms Nabbanja said.
The premier said she knew Lubwama as a person that spoke his mind and was always passionate about the things he loved.
“When he said he was going to perform at 3pm, he would indeed come at 3pm without switching off his phone,” Ms Nabbanja said.
Kampala Central MP Mohammad Nsereko before he could speak passionately about the deceased artist, first played out recordings of conversations he had with him.
In the conversations, Lubwama was heard blaming people he had once helped out but have not loved him back like Mr Nsereko had done.
Mr Nsereko agreed with Ms Nabbanja, saying President Museveni and Gen Salim Saleh supported Lubwama to receive treatment much as he was an Opposition politician.
Lubwama, 53, will be laid to rest tomorrow in Nkozi, Mawokota in Mpigi District.
On Kato’s faith
A lot has been talked about Lubwama’s faith and that the Catholic Church had denied him a chance to say his final mass.
Throughout the celebration at the National Theatre, this was an elephant in the room that many chose to brush aside while speaking.
Mr Ashraf Ssemwogerere, a film director and one of the founders of Diamond Essembles that he founded with the late Lubwam, confirmed that his colleague had a shrine at his home.
“He struggled with many things and he had gone to Church in vain and he ended up building the shrine and surprisingly, he became better,” Mr Ssemwogerere said, adding that Lubwama however, never stopped identifying as a Catholic.