The first edition of the Cere festival didn’t live to the billing in all fairness, organizers, partners and every stakeholder agrees to this assertion.
The Cere word has a loose translation to mean ululations mainly associated with men during times of celebrations and sorrow with each man having a signature Cere to communicate a message.
For all its value in culture, the event at the popular Miri-Adua falls in Maracha district in June last year was intended to attract hundreds from far and wide, the ultimate platform to showcase the region's traditional and cultural diversity.
“We used Cere as the name of the festivity because of its importance in the Lugbara culture but unfortunately that tradition has been dying out, so we would like to bring back that identity through the festival”, Mr Gerrad Iga, the project head of festival explained during the first ever press conference on the event last year.
Mr Joseph Wambuzi Kyobe at the same press conference called the festival a big opportunity for the West Nile to sell itself to the rest of the world.
But for all the good intentions the organizers had, not all were convinced, not all was in place, and not all would go according to plan.
“Since this was the first edition of the event in the West Nile region, some leaders had mixed feelings and they didn’t understand what Cere fest was all about”, Wambuzi confessed during an event to evaluate the festival and forge ways forward.
“However along the way, they came to appreciate and embrace it and that is the reason we are having it again, even those that were opposing the event, after understanding the true meaning and the intentions, they are advocating for more”, Wamuzi says.
But for the first edition, this misunderstanding on the part of local leaders caused major setbacks, the event had to be delayed for at least a day as negotiations continued.
Another setback was the distance from the main target audience, Arua town would contribute the biggest audience but no arrangements were done to transport revelers with a public means.
“Most people who went there used their own cars, but the feedback I got was that many people wished they were buses or taxis that people would board from town where they can pay UGX 2000 or 3000 but overall I think it was not so bad”, says Ms Vivian Adania of Uganda breweries limited, one of the major partners of the event.
What others said about the 2019 event
Milton McPeter Maopini aka Gbaraspoken MC- Artist
Being a West Nile enthusiast, I felt something good was happening at Miri-adua. When our team arrived at the scene, everything was cultural and musical which for me was beautiful.
We danced with people who traveled from far, played in the water and ate traditional food, games and we made our Cere and I think the basic objective was achieved.
But not every good thing is meant for everyone and I think the few who came for the first edition had a lot of fun.
But this time around let’s not make it for the few, let everyone come and celebrate their culture and enjoy.
Robert Kisa, manager vendor capital
We had our own reasons for joining the festival as partners, we had our logo, we got customers, we made sales despite the small attendance but we expected so many people coming for the function.
But going forward, we appeal to the organizers to advertise a lot because all your partners want to get a reward at the end.
This time we are going to support it but let the organization start early enough.
Organizers say the Cere festival has helped to awaken the spirit of celebrating cultures.
“The contemporary music has taken over the tradition and we are here to reawaken and reverse the trend; you could see the excitement of the people when the different cultural groups were performing and that’s what we want to continue”, says Wambuzi.
He says as a result of the festival, Maracha district has never remained the same because of the increased traffic flow to the Miri-adua falls although this has not been independently verified by West Nile Web.
He says the local people were also exposed to a different new world; “It was amazing, they got opportunities to merchandise their crafts, fruits etc. and when you go there, the testimonies are amazing” he says.
The 2020 promise: Bigger and better?
The evaluation of the 2019 event on Thursday 09th January was as well to set a basis for early planning for the 2020 event slated for August 27th-28th.
“The concept of the Cere fest we had in mind we were not able to fully execute it given the challenges we had, because we were on a very steep learning curve”, Mr Iga says.
“But we already know the gaps which gives us an opportunity to give people the experience of what we originally had in mind in the first place”, Iga further sates.
However, Wambuzi says the original broader aspect of celebrating music, culture and tourism will not change. He says the venue would shift from Miri-adua to Arua’s Eripark beach resort.
“You are aware the concept of Cere festival is to celebrate music, culture and tourism, so it will be moving from place to place as a way of exposing and promoting the different tour sites and places in the West Nile region and that’s why we are moving to Eri park”, Wambuzi explains.
We are keenly watching the space!