Meet Harriet Nakasujja, the face behind Wakaliwood costume

By Andrew Kaggwa

In the capital Kampala, slums such as Wakaliga are footnotes. Even some of the residents disassociate themselves from the place.

And yet for creatives especially those making films, Wakaliga has become a reality they cannot escape – it is a humble home of the now world renowned Wakaliwood craze that has given Uganda and the world the internet sensation,Who Killed Captain Alex.

And just like that, the founder Isaac Nabwana Godfrey has managed to turn his home into a cinema, location, studio and editing suite. On this day, the home looks like a village under construction.

Filming in Wakaliwood
Grass thatched mud houses, banana plantations some fresh and others dry easily catch the eye – about a month back, this same space had been a karate rehearsal space for actors that appear in many of the films produced by Wakaliwood and yet on another, Spice Diana and crew were there shooting scenes for her Anti Kale video.

“At the moment we are working on a film, Eaten Alive, it is about cannibals and zombies,” says Harriet Nakasujja.
She is Nabwana’s wife but also doubles as a cinematographer at Wakaliwood. How-ever, it is her work on costuming and makeup that Wakaliwood lovers could be fa-miliar with.

A mother of two, she says she met the Wakaliwood founder when he was running a students’ library in Wakaliga. However, besides the books, he also owned a Pentium II computer on which he used to type and later print exam papers for various schools around.

In the shortest time, he had taught her how to get around the machine. “He later delegated that to me as he went on to do other things,” she recalls.

Nakasujja says that growing up in a home without a TV, she was baffled when Nabwana talked passionately about making films. “Of course I had watched films in shack halls in the village and they seemed expensive,” she notes adding that worse still, those who went to watch them were easily associated with drugs.

But it was in 2005 that Nabwana got serious about making films, then, he and Nakasujja were living together and she was expecting their first child. “I found the deci-sion crazy and I guess he chose that time because we had started staying together and was sure I could not leave.”

Learning on the job
Since Nabwana was not a trained film maker, he enrolled in Uganda Film Training Institute to get basics of cinematography, editing and other filming aspects; “Every time he came back, he would then share what he had learnt with me and by 2006, I had also started working in some departments of film,” Nakasujja narrates.

She soon started working on music videos as an editor, a process she says was really slow at the beginning.

Fast forward to today, many things around Nakasujja have evolved, for instance, one of their films Who Killed Captain Alex today boasts of more than a million views on YouTube, the simple studio that was known as Ramon Productions has too since re branded to Wakaliwood.

On Nakasujja’s part too, a lot has changed, today, she edits films and also contributes to other departments such as continuity, cinematography and costume and makeup

This has seen her work on films such as Ejini mu Kyalo, Ekisa Butwa and Byabuka among others.

Involved in camerawork
In 2012, she became actively involved with the camera work. In her view, cinematography and film can be demanding. Though she was partly involved with editing, she always wanted to have her children grow before being engrossed in the movie world.

“It is not easy, especially being a young lady and working with older men, at times it just gets lonely,” she says.
Nakasujja says that many women are yet to take behind the scenes roles seriously because there is little belief from both sides. “A big number of women believe they cannot do it while others are convinced their place in film is in front of the camera.”

Of course there have been many cases of male film makers disrespecting the female crew but she notes she has been lucky to work with a humble team that respects everyone.

Today, film is part of her DNA, she knows, her children know and Wakaliga knows it too.
For instance, when she is relaxing at the verandah, almost every drunk, child and woman passing by will try to engage her, one Kibedi, a village drunk insists on sit-ting to narrate his expedition in Russia.

Yet when the same drunk passes by minutes later and sees cameras and signs of seriousness, he goes by without saying a word.

“In 2012, when Nakasujja became actively involved in film, she was not the only person turning a page, her husband Nabwana had earlier on requested to have a younger generation recruited.

Mentoring the young ones
Soon, Nakasujja’s children were training and in a very short time, they made their début in Bad Black; “Of course when other children saw the films, they wanted to join the training and acting.”
What started as a group of three has since grown into the internet viral group
of seven known to many as the Waka Stars, and besides acting in Wakaliwood films, they dance and sing.

Waka Stars has recorded its own music though their main claim to prominence has largely been their video version of Spice Diana’s hit single Anti Kale.

Shot in front one of the houses, the video stars Rachel Monica, Nakasujja’s first daughter as Spice Diana forging a musical dream despite obstacles, but that is not all, the group that performs as a band uses instruments such as drums and guitars curved out of trash like basins, tins and other pieces of wood.

“Rachel had not covered a song before but being a musician too, she covered this song because she has faced some of the things Spice Diana sang about,” she says.

But Rachel and company have other songs some talking about childhood and others simply advocating for humanity. Being a mother, she says that she has given her children the liberty to enjoy as much art as they can but to pursue whatever they want when the time is right.

before but being a musician too, she covered this song because she’s faced some of the things Spice Daina sang about,” she says.
But Rachel and company have other songs some talking about childhood and others simply advocating for humanity, being a mother, she says that she has given her children liberty to enjoy as much art as they can but can pursue whatever they want when the time is right.

A popular brand
The simple studio once known as Ramon Productions has since re branded to Wakaliwood, literally the most recognisable brand in Ugandan film. Under the direction of Isaac Nabwana, Nakasujja’s partner, Wakaliwood has produced an array of films including the Internet sensation, Who Killed Captain Alex?

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