Uganda’s Growing Break Dancing Scene

As a photographer introduces Western audiences to the b-boys and -girls of Uganda, a local agency teaches kids how to pop and lock.

A dancer at the Batalo East Festival. Photo by Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar

A region of Uganda was once infamously declared “the worst place to be a child” by Keith McKenzie, head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Uganda.

At the time, 2008, it wasn’t hard to understand why McKenzie issued that statement. In the region, up to 100 children younger than five died each week, many of preventable illnesses, according to officials. And to the north, the Lord’s Resistance Army terrorized Ugandans, with UNICEF estimating in 2004 that the LRA had abducted at least 25,000 children since the beginning of the conflict.

In 2006, Abraham "Abramz" Tekya, a Ugandan hip-hop artist, created Breakdance Project Uganda with the intention of creating a free workshop that would educate youth about b-boy culture and also serve to empower and heal a community effected by health issues and violence, according to BPU’s website. BPU is based in Kampala, Uganda’s capitol, and holds classes in other parts of the country as well. In Kampala, Abramz conducts workshops on a variety of art forms—break dancing, beat boxing, and rapping to name a few—three times a week to more than 300 kids from all parts of the country. The children he teaches usually are homeless and/or victims of poverty. Most cannot afford to attend traditional schools, but they still attend Abramz’s workshops.

According to BPU’s website, Abramz believes, "This is where many people's pride is. It's a skill that no one can take away from us."

For a look at this vibrant scene, check out the work of Ugandan photographer Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar, who has documented his compatriots’ growing break-dancing scene for several years. You can see his photographs from the 4th annual Ugandan Break-Fast Jam Break, an event that invites top dancers from the region, and other break dancing events here.

via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

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