ARUA. What became as Mr Sam Akuaku’s career began as the lame excuse that many parents give for buying unfitting bulky clothes for their children.
“Don’t worry, you will grow in your pair of trousers” he overheard his parents telling him during childhood much to his distaste. He would accept the excuse but silently get a needle and thread and reduce his cloth to the size he deems fit in disregard to the parental advise.
Fast forward to 2018, Mr Akuaku is arguably the unsung hero of the West Nile regions beauty and fashion design industry.
His craving for fashion drove him to pioneer the previously maligned Miss Tourism events in the region to towering heights in the last four years as a regional cluster head.
Mr Akuaku, 25, was born at Eleke, a village in Yumbe district. His late father Mr Edward Bia was a head teacher and his mother Mrs Rosemary Bia is a retired community development officer.
He spent most of his childhood and education in Arua. He attended primary education at Arua primary school and for secondary education he went to Mvara Secondary School.
Later joining Uganda Media institute for a course in mass communication, Mr Akuaku did not live to practice in the main stream media as is the case with most of the graduates. He instead joined a modeling audition and was subsequently absorbed by Crystal modeling agency
“Realizing my interest in fashion and design my auntie Ms Daisy Ayikoru asked if I could study fashion and design to which I answered in the affirmative,” Mr Akuaku says of his next career journey.
The next two years would see him graduate with another diploma from Shomi Africa fashion school and just like the crystal modeling, Mr Akuaku was employed by the label after his course thereby combining his newest work with modeling with creating and designing fashion.
Nevertheless Mr Akuaku had to overcome another hurdle, studying an art dominated by the female folk meant he had to prevail over the societal stereo types.
He began making jewelry to sell to students, a trade he had learnt under the watchful eyes of Ms Gladys Sakaru, the then economics teacher at Mvara Secondary School and a tailor in Arua town.
Once again luck smiled on the dark toned, middle sized Mr Akuaku when his manager Mr Ronny Nsubuga, the then cluster head of Buganda region under the miss tourism project introduced him to the former Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Maria Mutagamba (RIP).
This was after suggestions that the West Nile region needed to have a separate cluster (a sub region under the miss tourism project).
Mr Akuaku despite not been formally appointed as a cluster head was pushed to West Nile region to organize the 2015 Miss Tourism event. He was met by an overjoyed Mrs Mutagamba after the successful event who expeditiously appointed him the regions cluster head.
“As a cluster head your role is to organize events, manage the queens, direct and help to run projects, help in shaping public speech contents among others,” he narrates of his new role.
And true to his dedication, Ambassador Princess Obia (2015/16), Eldad Odongkara (2016/17), and Vibian Silvano, the reigning 2017/18 miss tourism West Nile, have been crowned beauty queens during Akuaku’s reign with Ambassador Odongkara moving a step higher to add the national crown.
Such successes are no easy feat to accomplish. Mr Akuaku is quick to assert that “the miss tourism pageant was totally misunderstood by conservative parents who thought we were going to sell their daughters and expose them in revealing clothing. It was the most difficult thing to change such an attitude.”
He added: “sometimes you could be an age mate or even younger than the queen and it becomes very difficult to manage them because you feel, they give you little respect as a head.”
With a sigh of relief, he says the society attitude changed drastically when Ambassador Odongkara won the national miss tourism accolade much to the pride of the region.
The different projects implemented by the queens further served to sensitize the public on the purpose of the beauty and fashion project.
He says some of the queens also got opportunities of studies and job placements as a result of their roles while helping to market their regions as their core mandate.
Project after project, Mr Akuaku’s relentlessness has taken him places as he gains more experience in the field.
The tree planting project in which 5,000 trees were planted in five schools in Arua district, the Tulambule (come and visit) project under the ministry of tourism, the cultural gala with Kipaji group and the inspirational talks are some of the successful projects. His latest a “Platform 503” project saw him train youth in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Kamwenge district.
Fashion meets beauty
In line with his dream of making West Nile region fashion designers shine across the world, Mr Akuaku’s latest innovation dubbed “fashion meets beauty” is set to be rolled out on June 30 in Arua’s prestigious heritage courts hotel.
The red carpet event will see participants from seven regions showcase their fashion design and cut walking skills.
A total of 20 models and the miss tourism beauty queens from Karamoja, Buganda, Ankole, Rwenzori, Busoga, Teso, Northern Uganda, Eastern and the host West Nile are set to grace the auspicious occasion. They will showcase their diverse cultures through traditional dances and the cultural regalia.
“Through this platform we are hoping to market the region to the country and across the world as well as promoting skills and talent among the young people,” Mr Akuaku says of the event.
He said there is no reason for the fashion industry not to grow in West Nile which boasts of some of the best designers like Ms Santa Anzo and Mr Solomon Cazibon.
His ultimate dream is to see a West Nile that shines not only in Uganda but also globally in fashion design, tourism, culture and tradition that would empower the young people to contribute to the social and economic prosperity of the region.