Andrew Benon Kibuuka reflects on 4 decades of acting

Back in the 1980s, a time when film was viewed as a futuristic medium and the limited entertainment options included only a TV and radio. TV only started started broadcasting at 6 pm. As such, theatre was the premier form of amusement. Dominating Uganda’s entertainment scene were the Kampala Drama Actors, who would later evolve into the renowned Bakayimbira Drama Actors.

Andrew Benon Kibuuka

Among these stars is Andrew Benon Kibuuka. With a career spanning over 40 years, Kibuuka has appeared in more than 100 productions as an actor and directed over 150 creations. He shares his journey into the world of acting:

After completing senior six, I teamed up with two friends from high school, Charles James Senkubuge and Aloysius Matovu, and we joined the Kampala Drama Actors, which was founded by Katete. When he went into exile in Nairobi, being one of the senior members at the time, Kibuuka helped lead the transition of our group to what is now known as the Bakayimbira Drama Actors,” Kibuuka recalls.

In a sit down with Flavia Tumussime, Kibuuka reflects on the challenges they faced in making their theatrical work accessible to the public, hindered by the scarcity of venues.

Back then, the National Theatre was the only functioning venue and it was always heavily booked. It took us three years to secure a slot for our performance,” he explains.

Kibuuka also recounted a humorous yet telling anecdote about their first attempt to film a production.

When we attempted to film one of our productions for the first time, the videographer came with his camera and microphones and recorded everything. Unfortunately, when we reviewed the footage the next day, it only showed feet. We had to redo the entire thing, which was quite a hectic ordeal,” illustrating the technical struggles prevalent in the industry at the time.

The seasoned actor noted significant improvements over the years.

“When we first began filming Kigenyagenya, we would deliver the episode on the morning of the day it was set to air that evening. Now, with new systems and industry players like MultiChoice Uganda and mnet, they require 30 or more episodes in hand before the season can even start airing, which has significantly elevated our professionalism.

However, Kibuuka pointed out that these advancements have led to challenges for traditional theatre, which struggled to compete with films from Nollywood, Bollywood, and eventually Hollywood.

“Back in the day, theatre faced no competition and thrived in that landscape. But as films began to enter the market, theatre struggled to adapt. It had grown complacent due to high demand and was unprepared for the shift, ultimately being left behind as these new forms of entertainment took precedence.”

Despite the challenges, Kibuuka remains optimistic about the future of both film and theatre in Uganda.

The industry is advancing rapidly. In the future, film will grow even stronger. While some might believe that theatre is fading, it’s important to remember that many of today’s successful film actors started in theatre. As we move forward, we’ll likely see film talents bringing new life to theatre," he remarked.

Kibuuka’s continued passion for his craft and his insights into the evolving entertainment landscape offer a valuable perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing the Ugandan arts scene today.

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