Who is Laura Byaruhanga?
Laura Byaruhanga is a bundle of contradictions, so is nearly impossible to define! Some people think of her as noisy, others think she is extremely quiet! Some think she is shy and others very confident. Others call her friendly and others think she is rather distant! But if I was to find a way of defining her, I would say she is sensitive, confident, a lover of the arts, a great enemy of boredom, and loves pizza to death! All that I know is I am very different, and a little weird, and I’m okay with it!
When you are not doing poetry, what are you doing in terms of career?
Well, I have a degree where I majored in Communication Skills and have a minor in literature, so it has sort of led me into mass communication. I work in production, mainly radio production though I have a few mild attempts at television production as well. I am a script writer, a part time radio presenter and a voice actress.
At what age did you figure out that you were a poet in the making?
Ha! I think that I had to first get exposed to the art of poetry to later take that up. I started reading poetry when I was in Grade Three. My favourite poets were writers for children such as Roald Dahl and Roger McGough. I didn’t even realize I loved poetry that much until I was in Grade Eight. In class one day, my English teacher told us to write some poetry as we were studying poetry! After handing one in, she called me after class and asked me where I had copied it from. After much interrogation, she found out that I had written it myself and was so impressed she encouraged me to write more. So I suppose that must have been when it was born.
How long have you been a part of Open Mic Uganda?
Well, right from the start! After it changed from Open Mic Night Kampala in 2011, I was one of the minds who sat down and drew up the vision, goals and objectives. But of course, I didn’t do this alone.
When you are on stage doing a performance, what do you want most at that time?
I want the audience to remember my poem. Oddly, I don’t perform my poetry as much as I used to a few years ago, but that’s because impact is something very dear to me. I won’t get on that stage unless I have prepared thoroughly for it. And when I do, I want to transfer my emotions and make it seep into the audience so that it could leave an impact that would be talked about for a while. Otherwise, what’s the point of performing when your poem has no impact? I was trained to perform by the time I was in Grade Two and my drama teacher always told me to leave the audience spellbound. So if I don’t, I get agitated about it.
As compared to the music industry in Uganda, what do you think the contrast is with poetry?
Well, poetry currently in Uganda is still a very young art. It’s encompassed in our culture and arts already, but for it to stand on its own is a challenge right now. Music has always been accepted and favours all audiences whether it’s in a village setting, church or a high end bar; but poetry is always regarded as academic thus somewhat boring to the young people and even confusing to most. I remember it was my favourite subject in my A levels, I could study poetry everyday if it was up to me and it’s what I passed the highest in, but very, very few people shared my enthusiasm. So compared to the music industry, poetry is still an infant, but we are getting there! Not long from now, we will be highly recognized.
Do you ever sell or lend your ‘expertise’? To whom?
I’m not sure about this question, but in all the skills I learn, I sort of enjoy teaching people how to do them. Be it production, acting, performing poetry or talking loudly (which I do all the time ), I think that sharing knowledge or skills on something is doing service to those around you. Open Mic Uganda is a good example!
Is poetry a talent or acquired skill?
Ha! Interesting question. Yes and no. (I did warn you that I am a bundle of contradictions!) I believe that it could be both! No doubt, we have seen good writers and performers in poetry who undeniably acquired the skill as a natural gift! But there are those people who are good at learning a skill once taught or exposed to it and thus acquire it over time. I think I’m one of those people. So yes, it’s both I suppose!
When it comes to individuals, what do you think one should do when they realize they are capable of something above the norm?
Society is cruel. I have had enough experience to know that. There are many times I thought I could do something and have been shot down by those close to me because the society deemed it useless. I remember when I was a child and when asked what I wanted to become, I kept saying a writer, I was told to stop being ridiculous! But look at me right now! I remember I didn’t like my voice very much, but if nine year old Laura could know that she would eventually get paid to talk, she wouldn’t have felt so bad at feeling different! The world we live in is harsh and if you want to stand out, you have to find a niche that separates you from everyone else, whether its business, the arts or anything in one’s career. So when that person discovers they are gifted, skilled or blessed with something that is different, they should run with it and nurture it. That’s how most if not all successful people have made it.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
5 years from now, I see myself blessed and successfully reaping from everything I am working towards right now. I would still love to be involved with Open Mic Uganda and part of the poetry movement which will be even stronger then, I would love to have grown in the field of production and will hopefully be a film director one day! And with Jesus pushing me all the way, I’m certain there will be even more in store!
Author: Open Mic
Open Mic Uganda is a company that presents people with a platform that promotes poetry, spoken word and related art forms. It encourages the enhancement of poetry as a recognized art form that can be used as a tool for education, communication and entertainment.