Changing the Community Perspective / Joseph Tebandeke

Episode Summary

Changing the Community Perspective / Joseph Tebandeke

Episode Notes

In this episode of DanceCast, Silva interviews Tebandeke Joseph, an African contemporary dance artist based in Uganda. He shares how athletics led him to contemporary dance, and how he sees dance as an engine for change. Tebandeke aims to change the community perspective on disability through street performances and through the schools. He dreams of eventually opening an accessible dance center with an adjoining library about dance and sports so people with disabilities can have more support and exposure. Tebandeke describes how the village mindset in his country believes dance isn’t valid, and the effects of the pandemic have hurt the existing dance scene even further. He believes a center for dance in Uganda would go a long way to rectifying many of the problems he perceives. Finally, Tebandeke discusses the need for role models because the experience of disability in Africa is much different than in Europe, and more role models would normalize and empower people with disabilities in Uganda.

Text written by Emmaly Wiederholt. 

Tebandeke Joseph practices disability inclusion in Uganda and has set up platforms and projects that make people with and without disabilities in Africa believe in themselves. He believes dance is a language that all can access in an era of post colonialism and decolonization. He has worked in different locations such as the Freiburg contact improvisation festival (Germany 2019), East Africa Nights of Tolerance (Rwanda 2017), Tuzinne Festival Where Human Rights Dance (Uganda 2017 - 2018), Ubumuntu Arts Festival (Rwanda 2018) and Segou’ Art (Mali 2019). As an active choreographer, Tebandeke has created several productions with Candoco Dance Company (United Kingdom), Splash Dance Company (Uganda), Mambya Dance Company and Pamoja Dance Company (Kenya). Tebandeke also runs free workshops in his local communities once a week to promote inclusion in dance. He hopes to share contemporary dance to youth with and without disabilities. It is a passion that fuels him to this day.

Joseph has been invited the teach in a festival in Helsingborg Sweden and is currently fundraising money for travel, visa and insurance costs. Any amount and each share helps him reach his goal. Thank you!


Check out DanceCasts awesome collaborator Emmaly Wiederholt's work at Stance on Dance

And more about Silva does at Art Spark Texas check out the dance programs website,

Link to Joseph Tebandeke's YouTube, is here

Episode Transcription

Silva Laukkanen  0:27  

Welcome to DanceCast, the podcast in which I interview people who create inclusive dance all around the world. My name is Silva Laukkanen and I am your host


Welcome to Dance cast to Episode 59. In this episode I got to speak with Joseph, who I met last summer when producing X Dance Festival. Joseph was a part of a panel discussing about inclusive dance pedagogies. Joseph Depandeke is an emerging African contemporary dance artists from Uganda, with an interest in physical intervention for the common spaces. His energy and capacity builds up on what he explores with different bodies, daily objects and space specifically questioning the state of the disability world. He practices in disability inclusion in an African continent. He role models to endless possibilities in movement beyond what may first be perceived. Tebandeke has set up a platform and projects that will make people with and without disabilities in Africa believe in themselves. He works intuitively and with integrity to inner creating art that is authentic. He believes that dance is a language that all can access. He also works in an era of post colonialism and decolonization of dance. He has worked in different locations such as Freiburg contact improvisation festival in Germany, East Africa nights of tolerance in Rwanda to Tuzinne festival where human rights dance, Uganda, Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda and Segou’ Art in Mali. As an active choreographer, Joseph has created several productions with Candoco Dance Company, Splash Dance Company, Mumbai, a dance company and Pamoja Dance Company, and also runs free workshops in his local communities once a week to promote inclusion in dance. He's hoping in learning more about contemporary dance so that he can pass it on to youths with and without disabilities, and is a passion that has fueled him to this day. I hope you enjoy this episode with Joseph.


Alright, Joseph. So I've got to work with you for Yes, since like, may or April this year and get to know you more. And your work, which has been really, really great. But tell me more. How did you get involved in dance?


Joseph Tebandeke  3:16  

Well, before dance, I was doing athletics. And yes, I was doing athletics. And really, it was so challenging in athletics, to motivate, like, people weren't motivated enough, because why am I saying this? Every time I go to meet people that they were inspired by, by why what I'm doing, they used to tell me that Joseph our different conditions of disability are not like yours. We can't be sports arms or non strong we you know, so. But in this sports, sports venture, we used to go in different seminars. So this is what they said they I went to a seminar and there was a teacher who was doing dance. Then I've he saw me moving and so you the way you move in a unique way. I would love you to try out dance and it's very interesting. Then this teacher gave me more about she was called Monica. She was from Sweden. Then she gave me some manuals, give me some dance links. She gave me some books to start with. And I found dance very, very interesting. Then, it was contemporary. Of course, I got introduced to contemporary dance in this workshop that I was invited to. Then I started doing my YouTube research. Really. I found it very interesting. The way you have to have to use your inner thoughts. It's when you're in studio, you're communicating, you're crying, you get time to yourself, you're speaking out. So this is when I found it interesting. And after doing reading some of the notes and the books, it was showing that everyone can balance you know, it doesn't matter how big movements you make, how your body is, everyone can communicate. This is how I get to know I go to know about dance.


Silva Laukkanen  5:34  

And you're doing basketball sports, right?


Joseph Tebandeke  5:38  

Yes, yes. Sports? Yeah, I was in sports. Yes, I was. I was in basketball, then. i The challenges in sports in Uganda is very, very, very challenging to do it. You need, you need to be very rich, because the wheelchairs we use, they're very expensive. I don't know why wheelchairs for disabilities are very expensive. Yeah, it could cost $5000 $3000. Yes, and one wheelchair and to join that sport, you need to have your own chair, which was so challenging, you know? So. But then,yeah.

Silva Laukkanen 6:23  

But now you, you found dance and you you've been working in the dance field in Uganda for a while. Tell me where are you currently? Like, what? What are your dreams and hopes for your community? And Uganda for yourself artistically? And? And otherwise, I know that you have a lot of them. So just tell all of them?


Joseph Tebandeke  6:50  

Well, this is a very, it says this question you're asking? Sounds very easy. But it's complicated to according to the country where I am. But well, I'll try to, to bring out some. Well, when I joined dance, when I got interested in dance, first of all, it was for myself for my peace of mind. To find a better way to communicate, you know, I'm someone who has always loved to question the state of the world. Like, sometimes I see the world, the way is going. And it's not the way I feel, it's not the way it should be going. So things have been always been complicated. And so when I get when I got into dance, I was like, dance is the right thing to change all these perspective to change this narrative. You know, I felt like it was giving me opportunity, actually, to bring out a lot of people on board to show to change so many people in these communities. And I'll start with some something I would love to start with, is changing the community perspective. And I'm glad to say that I've really been doing a lot about it. Because every time I do street performances, I try to focus on street performances, where people don't have to pay anyone who is passing on just stopped for some few minutes and is asking, what is this guy with crutches what is what is he doing? Who is this guy seated in a wheelchair? Why is everyone standing. And then, at the end of the performances, I love to collect. I love to collect some feedback, like review from people who are watching. And then, you know, I take some notes up top of time. And then you hear the feedback. They need to be surprising people be saying stuff like we didn't know that people with disabilities can do these. They know that you can also dance. It's very interesting. What's that you're doing? I have a child. I know someone with a disability. And you feel like it's doing a lot of job. And then after performances you will see on your page on your Instagram. People following people are getting your number. And yeah, ask more about it. It was interesting. It looks useful to someone. Yeah, I do have a class where we can come and just try to you know. So these are the feedback I get from the villagers. And I also have a goal of working a lot with schools because I've got all these things that I'm doing. It's according from my experience way back in the eyes. There is no I want to work in school. I feel like there are people who are not ready to change People have heard it in their mind, you have a disability, nothing you can do anymore, you know, so and they're not willing to change, even if you do too much, every time I do, I knew too much I feel like I'm proving to them, and I'm really putting much effort to prove and sometimes it depress it depresses me a little bit, and I don't want to get off track, you know? So,


Silva Laukkanen  10:29  

yeah, no, you can, this is the place to get off track too like, speak, whatever you feel like, it's important. Because I can, you know, like, that's, that's part of the job, that is probably tiring for you is to, to always face the same patterns of thinking. And you actually talk a lot about how you want to change the society and the thinking in the communities around you. So I feel like it is a big part of your work, artistic work.


Joseph Tebandeke  11:03  

Yes, yes, it is. The only part that makes it a bit very challenging is that, you know, when you get too depressed, and you don't have enough role models around you, next to you to inspire you, you might find yourself in depression. Why am I saying this? I started it as a passion. I was doing it because I liked it. It was really giving me time for myself, and it was helping. But then I have too much people looking up to me, you understand? So sometimes I feel like, now, this is making me cry. But how will these people feel when they see that, It's really bringing me down. Because for them they're just starting to pick up? You get it?


Silva Laukkanen  11:58  



Joseph Tebandeke  12:01  

Yes, but Well, that's why I chose school because I feel like this youth, they're interested to new ideas. They've not seen too much. But they they're ready to welcome new stuff in this modern world that things are changing. Yes. So that's why I feel like in schools, you see that, when you ask to do a workshop, very many will be very interested. And under, when they go back home, they'll talk to their parents, they'll talk to their siblings, and they'll influence a lot of big numbers than in the communities because in the community, those people who are tight, or those that have seen someone with a disability, or they have a child with a disability or a relative, you know, those are the only ones that I'm ---, the others will just enjoy. And they'll keep it to themselves. You understand that we like school, the big opportunity for changing disparities because still, these schools, these kids live in the communities. So when they go back to their communities, the parents have seen it somewhere somehow on YouTube, somewhere Facebook, social media is doing a big job in within passing this data. So well, that's i That's why I feel like also school is a very big is, is creating a very big impact. I also have, I call it  fantasy dream. Well, I call it that way because I feel it's a big one. But I'll


Silva Laukkanen  13:44  

What a call it? Say it again.


Joseph Tebandeke  13:46  

Fantasy dream.


Silva Laukkanen  13:48  



Joseph Tebandeke  13:50  

is because i Yes, yes. I say that way because I dream of having a center. But I wanted to be an inclusive dance space where people with disabilities can come and rehearse. On the other side it has a library about dance and sports. Like they can come and get information from this place. You know, because it's not here, or that place can have teachers that have had experience with working with people with disabilities. You know. It's challenging for some, some people with disabilities since they're not working, they're just on, they're being put behind. So it's hard for them to access the internet or if they can, it's expensive. So I feel like if there is a place that is put in place, when there is this information they don't have to download it, they just have to get time for themselves? Come concentrate, they have someone to talk to, you know, that person is there who is experienced in dance, to guide them, let me say that person who is always been to be guiding them, because well, I'm doing all these with passion, but I'm also fighting the community, the community mindset about dance in Africa, I'll say has a light known as Uganda, or let me say, let me bring it down to East Africa. These are mindset that those who do dance are people who can do anything. So they only do dance because it Yes, yes, they only do dance because they don't have anything else to do. So even when you perform, you won't be much appreciated. Yes. So sometimes it sometimes it makes you feel, you know, appreciate appreciated enough, not knowing that, actually, some way you can even go to school, have a degree, have a PhD in dance, you know, yes, and we have people who have gone to school in dance, but still, the judge us who have known had, you know, so also has we are doing this, we need to put in profession, that's why I'm bringing a lot of studying in dance because we need to change this mindset, the village mindset, and people need to, to know that it can be also you can do it as a person but it can also learn a living. Because the group I'm working with right now, this plush dance company, it's will create this message gates. But if someone is interested in calling us to perform one festival, we ask that you will bring some contribution to the group so that at least they use it for transport so that you know, they don't have to put in a lot. And in the end of the day, that the person who was performing feels appreciated that oh, they give me actually my transport back home or they give me some per diem. You understand by what I'm saying? Right?


Silva Laukkanen  17:35  

Yes. Absolutely.


Joseph Tebandeke  17:37  

You get motivated? Not, you know, there are so many ways of motivating someone just by appreciating their work the way you you know, in your doing so all these things when they pile up, actually gives someone put to put in more efforts to become even more better person you understand?


Silva Laukkanen  17:59  



Joseph Tebandeke  17:59  

So, yes, yes. And I'm saying not everyone is going to be strong. Like I was, like, yes, this has come up but no, I still need to do it because it's my passion. So actually in 2020 This is when the lockdown started. People have left dance a lot people have been depressed people have gone have got some mental issues. Because they were seeing so many hopes, like things were moving and their dreams were coming through. They were there, seeing where they're going. But our studios closed down. I think we're working though as not festival. So they had no other anything else to do. So this depressed a lot of people and then people with different domains that I told you about that dance. So they can mean they were like you see what we were doing. So they were instead of helping them be strong to actually just pressing them down. So I feel like this center should help these people to say that yes, well your brain dies. But also you need to think of something else like because


in Africa, the economy is not as good as in other countries. You might be getting something in dance, but well need to think of your future. Well if you're dancing and you fall down and your knee get gets hurt, are you going to go back to the streets or we use our arms to dance if then they get more injured, you never know you know, you need to bring all these things closer to them non tell like not waiting for them to first go into that then they get depressed you understand? So I feel like this center should have all these variety of advisors, all these variety of things. To help them grow a lot, that's why I feel like I really need these centers. But I don't want to focus it on dance only because not everyone is going to be interested in dance, you understand, I would love it to have computer lessons, because it's not has, it's not highs enough got a chance to be in Europe, and everyone, it's a must you need to know computer. But here in Africa, it's also it's also something you need to put more much effort to access these lessons to know how to operate with it, you know, so I feel like the center should have all these, these these, these opportunities for them, they come, they do sign language for free. They do because they're not working, they do these computer lessons, those who are interested in dance, they can have studios to work out with professionals. And those interested in sports they have where they get information, where it might not be a big space for them to ask from there. But at least they get information, they watch videos people playing on YouTube, how do they do it, Yeah, they listen to different challenges. So that's my dream in dance, I feel like I have to work hard and make that come true. I also, I also feel like I, I, I want to really create more role models for East Africa. Because as a child, when I was growing up, it was it was really hard for me. Because I'll say like, as --- says that the charities as disabled as the people around them, you know, so if you don't have that person to push you, that person to tell, you know, you try these, it has failed today, but no -- today. So you always keep on giving up. That's why we have so many people with disabilities on the streets. That's why they're locked down, because every time they get access to internet, they see people in Europe, and this is this setting is different. Their system is different. Ours, you understand my point.


Silva Laukkanen  22:21  



Joseph Tebandeke  22:21  

So we need to be more realistic. Someone might come and say yes, we need to do these guys don't give up when they already have someone by them wheelchairs you understand. So so that person can't motivate someone who's starting from ground, they don't have where to stay, they don't have what to eat, and then you're telling them to save for a wheelchair that is 500,000. Like dollars, you get my point. So I feel like these people need these role models. And I also feel like they need to believe more in themselves and these are things you're not going to do in one day. Well, you might do workshops, you might visit schools, but this time is won't be enough.


And you need to be putting videos, you need to be putting workshops, you need to be people coming to listen to these stories, you open up a portal where people go and see all these stories, actually, this is also one system I use. When I when I make a workshop, these people before they do anything. They tell me their stories if they if they want to. They tell me their stories. And I use the stories to met them. I use their stories to make them strong, you know, I find or is someone who was who is even more worse than them and I say for you actually just being weak listen to this person. And then that really puts them up. And so if I have a portal, I have somewhere we had put these things. They just you don't have to come to center. You just have to go to this portal. You listen to this. You know you I feel like I can also feel actually I don't feel like I know it can pull a lot of people because I see it I see. Yes. Yeah.


Silva Laukkanen  24:23  

That is amazing dream. What is the biggest challenges for you to make that dream come true? Make your fantasy come true? What is the biggest challenge?


Joseph Tebandeke  24:33  

The biggest challenge is our say of course, since the economy is down, I will say you really need to first find a better ways because even if you found someone to support you with the start, need to find a way that the center can sustain itself. You get my point. I need to know yes yes this is very, very important. Because I've seen centers coming up on the go, coming up with really good dreams, but they can't sustain it, because they really started very big and they couldn't own it. Because there was so small, you get my point. So you really need to come up with different ideas that you're going to which which alreadydone in my reserach. But yes, you need to find out this, there are challenges, to find teachers that are that are going to be motivating this students, the students that are going to be coming to these centers. But well, you can train these teachers, if you have enough experience, or I can make a work like month workshop, and I invite you, if they I teach them, you never know. But I'm saying, if you have access to different people, then you can educate these teachers, that wouldn't be a very big --, big thing, you know, you can educate them on having access to this information, well, knowing some of the people in different sectors they can give you of course, the way you can find this information you can each, you can easily have it and put it there. So that also that challenge can also be solved. The challenge to that is that you need to go back down on ground to motivate these people to come to be on these centers. Because that's also the challenge I've had of organized festivals I've organized event and people with disabilities have not turned up Yes, and it's for them and people without disabilities. And they then like --- without disability, but it's because they've always been alone. So they even fear to come out in public, you know. And yes, and the other challenge is that the organizations that are worries come up to say that they want to help, they're not doing it. So they've also got frustrated, they're like, every time they feel much, I'm not getting anything but every other taking my videos, you get my point. So they are also feel like let us just stay there so you also need to go to the ground and and motivate them like and give them energy to be coming to that. That will also be a challenge. But of course, there are many ways how to, to overcome it. It's it doesn't have to stop someone with that.


Silva Laukkanen  27:47  

It's like you said this work is not done in like one day. Like here, you you have started this path. When did you start your dance? Like, I feel like you have done so much. But you haven't been doing this for very long?


Joseph Tebandeke  28:03  

Actually, no, I've not done it for so long. Because I left I left school in 2015. Then twenty is in this type of 2016, this is when I joined sports. I love doing research. So I did research and I was like no, this is not taking me anywhere. Actually, I love to do it. But it keep up --- This is when I cannot I come up, Yeah, I was into that. Yeah. So it's not a lot.


Silva Laukkanen  28:44  

You have done so much. And you have so many thoughts. And you obviously are very passionate and you believe into the the ability for the art form to change whole societies and whole countries. And I love the way you talk about your community. What were you about to say?


Joseph Tebandeke  29:07  

And I was I was just going to say that. It's it's some The only thing that is pushing me is because I've loved what I'm doing. But I know what people are going through because I was in to the same depression I was in the same space with my family in the same space with my friend. So I know what's really going through so and I feel like I have nothing but I have so much people are looking up to me. So that's why I feel like if I had some leader support then there is a lot of number I can at least I can change and they're proud of themselves. Yes. You don't know how, how big smile I put on when someone calls me and say Joseph I've done this and thank you it was because of you. I always put on a big smile. And then I'm like, Ah


Silva Laukkanen  30:13  

but you also do artistic work, like you just shared with me that solo video that you made that I was really touched. And, and it was a thought provoking. So what does your own artistic work tells what are you....


Joseph Tebandeke  30:31  

I did at school like I did I art.


Silva Laukkanen  30:37  

Like visual art?


Joseph Tebandeke  30:39  

Yes, yes. But that's why like, it was so easy for me to understand contemporary dance. Yes, yes. And actually has a person as a person. Now, I'm working on. On You know, I now want to add in, in my work, like, I want to add in this, this visual work have been doing now I want to combine it. I want to like for it to be performing. Yes. So because I've been, I've been like doing my personal things melting plastic, plastic bags, then I make some shapes. Which I'll show it to you. Like making making shapes that use in plastics. So now I want to be creating conversations like a for it. Like for example. Let me give you an example. Like environ..., like deforestation. So I want to be making such art, like when it's communicating. And I put it in a place and then I'm, I'm performing in that place. So that if you don't get my message, at least when you look at the wall or my installation, but that's that's something I'm working on. I still need to do much, much, much more research. That was just a by the way, don't give me that face.


Silva Laukkanen  32:18  

Wow. So wait, you amounted plastics to make that figurine?


Joseph Tebandeke  32:24  

Yeah, yeah. So but I'm doing it locally on the side now. But I feel like these are, if these things get on exposure, these are things people with disabilities can do. Because when they sit on the concentrate, they can look anything you tell, you tell them because their movement is limited. So which makes them very perfect in doing something when they've concentrated. That's why I feel like these things need to come to exposure, you know, but people have different interest in everything. So shouldn't plan this work, how we just have to put in efforts to to see that at least I changed two or three pathways. You never know.


Silva Laukkanen  33:21  

Is there anything else you want to share with people?


Joseph Tebandeke  33:26  

Well, one thing I could say is, oh, what's thing I could says, Well, if you're going to pull me then stuff because I feel like I have these too much that I should be putting out there. And now I'm asking myself where to start with. But I will say I will say in every person in this world I come to realize there's something good in them. Like you just need to give them time and find out what they're good in. Basically people with disabilities because I was talked to people with disabilities, this is where I've experience. For example, I've created so many of choreographed for for different schools for people with disabilities. And I've worked with autism children and Down syndrome. But you will find these other intellectual disabilities, but you will find them movements are not so much appreciated. Because you will tell them to do something and they will immediately question you. They'll be like, Why don't I do this? You understand? So they won't give you exactly.. them...  A movement you want them to do but they also bring an idea that can can can inspire them even do your, your movement. So that's why I actually for me, I always asked, I tell them, why don't we do that to do yours,  and we do mine. But can you even still do it, it's very important to even their small movements are not appreciated. But actually, if you put it together, you find it very interesting because it might bring a whole new avenue, you understand? But just sometimes we're not too impatient with things we do not understand. So find us limiting. Good things come to us. Why am I saying this? Someone doesn't if someone doesn't understand my dance movement, it's because dance is a language. I feel to me I feel that is a language. When I'm dancing, I'm speaking a language you do not understand. And you will also done something I don't understand because it's your language, it's coming. It's coming inside you. So you get my point. I'll also need time first know your language. But what the world is doing, I don't want to be I'm not blaming it. But if they do something they don't understand, they immediately cut off you know, that's why dance in Africa has been a struggle from day one everyone you will meet they'll be telling you I'm the best person I want you know, not knowing that if they come together they can really solve these problems they can find a way to make a better new avenue for the new generations. You get my point? Yes, so I believe that people should be welcoming new ideas embrace new this different abilities. Yeah. Because our ask them be clos. But this is something they would learn. You don't learn when they they open up to these different new avenues? Yes.


Silva Laukkanen  37:13  

That's so true. We need to all be open for new things, new languages, new information.


Joseph Tebandeke  37:21  



Silva Laukkanen  37:22  

then we will find something together.


Joseph Tebandeke  37:25  



Silva Laukkanen  37:26  

or not. And then that will be good too.


Joseph Tebandeke  37:30  



Silva Laukkanen  37:31  

at least we have tried to learn and try to listen and try to understand.


Joseph Tebandeke  37:41  

Yes, and before trying something you will never know if it will work or it will give you a different. You just have to first try to know Yeah, and then you will be like this will be better.


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