Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Women of Akampene

Judged without a trial.
Condemned to capital punishment.
Died of starvation or drowned.
Saved as free merchandise.
Mothers of babies never born or never lived.
Isolated and stigmatized.

Never helped.
Never listened to.
Never searched for.

Mrs M singing

Monday, 24 September 2012

Punishment Island, by Comfort Abemigisha

This is an example of the drawings that will be used in the documentary to illustrate the tragic events that took place in Akampene. Comfort Abemigisha, Ugandan young emerging artist, living in Kampala and author of this drawing, will take care of the art work.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Little clips revealing some of the experiences of the disowned women

Grace abandoned by her brother

The lake: trap or asset?

Today around twenty communities overlook the lake with a total population of around 100.000 inhabitants. Life seems to have a quiet and peaceful pace, which twice a week is accelerated by the market of Rutinda, a tiny village, yet principal centre of the lake. Rutinda can be reached from Kabale, the main town of the district, by private car, boda-boda - a moto-taxi driving crazily - or a couple of hours walk along a winding and scenographic country road. Rutinda, a small fishing village with some local bars, is not particularly attractive nor interesting, but becomes lively on market days - Mondays and Fridays - with a multitude of colourful canoes arriving since early morning from all the different sides of the lakes for buying and selling fruits, vegetables and second hand clothes.

The lake is essential to life and survival of its inhabitants, despite the fact that there is not much fish. Data on the lake depth are uncertain and vary depending on the sources. For some, it is the second deepest lake in Africa. According to Paul Ngologoza, an eminent historian and politician of the region of Kigezi, before 1919 in Lake Bunyonyi only the encere, a type of edible frog, lived in the lake. Although this is unlikely, the lake has never been inhabited by large quantities of fish, being oligotrophic. Probably, the immediate depth doesn’t create the ideal habitat for the survival of species that live in shallow waters, such as the Tilapia or the Nile perch, which lived in the river before it became a lake. During the colonial era great efforts were made to supply the lake with fish. According to Ngologoza, the biggest dates back to 1927, when the district commissioner sent the order to manually carry a certain amount of fish from Lake Edward to Lake Bunyonyi. Initially, the experiment was a success that made commercial fishing proliferate. But then, in the early '50s, for reasons that remain unknown, the fish died in mass, to the point that "the lake was covered by floating bodies of dead fish."

Today only small amounts of African catfish and of the small but delicious crayfish live in the lake. But the other hand, the lake is the main supply of water. It supplies the whole town of Kabale for both domestic and industrial use, while many of the local communities take water directly from the lake. Its water is used for drinking, cooking, washing, irrigating the fields. But if the lake is essential to life in this corner of the world, it is often fatal. Canoe is the usual means of transport and locals are expert navigators since early childhood. Despite that, very few are able to swim. As a result, the annual rate of drowning is very high. After AIDS and malaria, it is the third cause of death for local communities. Today, local association Edirisa has built a swimming pool on the bank of the lake, where international volunteers give swimming lessons to children, hoping to partially solve the problem in the medium term.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The ethnic group

Third article introducing you to culture and geography of the Lake Bunyonyi.

The ethnic group
Locals speak Rukiga, a Bantu language, and the ethnic group is that of Bakiga, a tribe that came here from today's Rwanda centuries ago. They were farmers mainly devoted to the cultivation of sorghum, peas, beans and millet. They distilled local beers from sorghum. The women took care of the work in the fields, while men cleaned the bush for agriculture and built the typical grass thatched huts. They were wearing skins of goat or cow. The Bakiga were described by other Ugandan tribes as "tough hard-working people." A marriage was a real contract between two families and the groom's family had to pay a dowry to the bride. In their culture, virginity before marriage was essential. Unmarried women who became pregnant were left in the forest at the mercy of wild animals, thrown in the lake from a cliff or abandoned on the tiny island of Akampene, also called Punishment Island.

Polygamy was the norm. Men who could afford the bride price could take as many wives as they wanted. On the other hand, it seems that both men and women were free to divorce. The Bakiga were organized in clans, which represented the highest authority. The leaders of the different lineages discussed the most important issues and when they could not solve disputes through dialogue, they passed to fighting, in which they showed to be fierce warriors (Edirisa, 2007).

Today 1.7 million of Bakiga in the region accounts for 7% of the total population of Uganda. They are Christians, divided between Catholics and Protestants. Muslims are a small percentage.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Lake Bunyonyi is a magical place which surprises for the rare beauty of its landscapes. The extremely ragged coasts feature intensely cultivated hills and a luxuriant tropical vegetation. The surface of the lake is dotted with 29 little islands with the peak of the Virunga volcanoes looming in the horizon. Bunyonyi, in the local language, means “place inhabited by many little birds” and in fact 200 different species live here. It is a young lake probably created by a volcanic eruption that around 8000 years ago blocked a river exit. The lake has a total area of around 50km2, but it is the centre of a wetland of around 180 km2. Lake Bunyonyi rises about 2000 meters above sea level, but some of the hills reach 2500 meters. The altitude assures a moderate climate, often cool after sunset, and a lower incidence of malaria. Free of bilharzias, crocodiles and hippos, it is one of the few African lake where it is safe to swim.

Lake Bunyonyi is situated a short distance away from the border with Rwanda, in the region of Kigezi and district of Kabale. The whole region, that occupies the South-Western corner of Uganda, is probably the most fertile and scenographic of the whole country. However, despite the landscape attractions, to most tourists the area is known almost exclusively for the closeness to the national parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga, where it is possible to see the endangered species of mountain gorillas. Therefore tourism is marginal, with the huge trans- african expeditions that stop here just overnight and a few independent tourists coming for a few hours walk from the nearby town of Kabale, the main centre of the Kigezi region, and last stop before Bwindi. Of all local attractions, the most popular is the guided tour of the Batwa Pygmies, a minority that has always been persecuted and discriminated. Today they have no land rights or legal access to the forest from were, being hunters, they were traditionally getting their sustenance. The Batwa Pygmies today perform for cash to tourists, which remains their only livelihood. Today there are organizations that protect them
from exploitation and discrimination.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Screenings for the craftswomen!

A screening an a laptop was arranged for women from Lake Bunyonyi to see the video documentary about crafts making, "Creative Women of Lake Bunyonyi" (DV, 28' 20120). This is the first time most of them were watching themselves. Not easy, as they come with canoes from different parts of the lake and there one can only rely on weak solar power for electricity. But Edirisa managed to organize that, somehow!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Uganda at a glance!

We are going to publish a series of brief articles introducing you to culture and geography of the Lake Bunyonyi area. But first, a little introduction to Uganda for those not familiar with it.

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa, divided into four reigns. British protectorate during colonialism, independence was led by Milton Obote in the mid of the fifties. Later, a coup d’├ętat by the Army leader Idi Amin established a bloody military dictatorship. During the so called Reign of Terror, atrocious murders were committed, the population was totally repressed and the economy quickly collapsed. In the mid of the eighties, after a civil war, NRA (National Resistance Army) deposed the dictatorship and demilitarized the country. Today it is a democratic republic with a non party political system and Museveni, once leader of NRA, has been its President since 1994. The political situation is still precarious, mainly because of the demands of the different tribes.

Uganda’s economy if mainly agricultural. The population is a melting pot of different tribes. The official languages are English and Swahili, but over 40 different languages are spoken throughout the country. Two thirds of the population is Christian, between Catholics and Anglicans, while the other third is divided into Muslims and Animists. Uganda is the youngest country in the world: half of its population is less than 15 years old. The estimated life is 53 years and the fertility rate is 7 children per woman.

Check the Italian translation on

Monday, 3 September 2012

Open to contributions!

Hello, this blog was created to support the making of "Punishment Island", but the purpose of any documentary is to know more about the world than we knew before. So why don't we start now? We would like to use this blog to share point of views, stories, personal opinions. Obviously in theme with the documentary subject and that is African women, which involves men too. And being an European trying to make a documentary in Africa, I am open to judgment... or, even better, advise by Africans about what NOT to do. Comments are already open to anyone, but we welcome you to write to us at  if you want to write something, open a new topic, share anything you know. We will be pleased to publish it. Also follow us also on where we try to translate (almost) everything in Italian too.