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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Uganda's dirty dancers reveal all
By Orla Ryan
BBC, Kampala

Teenage mother Selina is proud of the fact that she pays for her own school fees.
Amanda, a transvestite dancer in Uganda
There have been calls for the erotic dance ekimansulo to be banned

Most evenings when fellow students at her school in the Kampala suburb of Bwaise are falling asleep, the 19-year-old is just starting work.

She is one of Amanda's Angels, a group of erotic dancers led by Amanda, a transvestite.

They perform ekimansulo, a striptease performance which can last up to four hours.

Ekimansulo has simultaneously shocked and excited Kampala since it started in clubs around the city over the last year.

Uganda authorities have licensed ekimansulo, despite criticism the nude dancing previously attracted from the police and clergy.

Sexy and silly

A few days before I met Selina, I saw her on stage in a bar.

As I arrived early the ekimansulo was yet to start; two comedians danced and joked to a half-empty room.

At around midnight, a girl ambled on stage, wearing a matching red and silver pants and bandana bra.

The bar was suddenly full and the audience alert.

Soon, there were six girls, dancing and occasionally chatting and giggling to each other.

Amanda's Angels, a group of erotic dancers in Uganda
Dancers earn just over $1 per show
They sang karaoke, mouthing the words as they did not know the English of the songs they were miming.

Slowly, they removed their clothes.

The comedians turned into commentators as well as keeping a vigilant eye on offers of cash from the audience.

The girls ground against each other, got down on all fours on the floor as the nearly-all male audience craned to get a closer look.

About two hours into the show, Amanda came on stage.

In his short silver skirt, purple boots and muscled arms, he towered above the girls, who looked amateurishly small in comparison.

Furry toys

A few days later, I am in Amanda's flat, which he shares with Selina and three other "Angels".

Amanda at home, he is a member of a group of erotic dancers in Uganda
My show is only for adults, not young people, not teenagers, not for kids
Amanda
It is filled with furry toys, decorated in pink with Christmas lights.

I can hear the girls chatting in the kitchen and there is the smell of cooking food.

In daylight, with minimal make-up and wearing traditional African dress, Amanda still has very feminine features.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, he is not long out of bed, having finished work at four or five in the morning.

Other nights can be later, if he is "disturbed" by police action and he has to go to Luzira prison to get the girls out.

Amanda, whose real name is Shaban, realised early in life he would get more attention if he dressed as a woman.

This attention is not necessarily negative as it ensures that more people come to see his show in Kampala.

Religious beliefs

His line of work has the blessing of his family, he says, who have been glad of the money he earns since his mother died.

Fiansa, an erotic dancer in Uganda
I can't do anything else... I am a dancer and a singer
Fiansa
He does not sleep with men and does not, as is rumoured, have sex with the Angels.

I ask him what he makes of calls for the show to be banned.

"I am not an armed robber. My show is only for adults, not young people, not teenagers, not for kids," he replies.

The performer grew up in Kampala and has one 12-year-old daughter with his ex-wife.

I ask him how he squares his religious beliefs with what he does.

"How can I be a Muslim when I don't have money? I have to get money... only almighty God can stop my show, not a human being like me."

Outrage

He introduces me to two of the dancers, Fiansa and Selina.

In Fiansa's previous dancing jobs, pay was irregular and management was bad.

Selina an erotic dancer in Uganda
It is good money
Selina
She has been an "angel" for about 18 months, she now makes between 10,000 and 20,000 Ugandan shillings a week (up to $11), some of which she gives to her family.

"Why become an angel?" I ask Fiansa.

"I like what angels do... I can't do anything else, I am a dancer and a singer," she says.

Her boyfriend, who works in a supermarket, has been to see the show, I ask her what he thinks of her profession.

"Nothing, it is a job."

She adds the show is not for married people, it is for single people only and does not see why people are outraged.

'My family'

For Selina, who has been an angel for seven months, ekimansulo is a means to get school fees and to look after her two-year old daughter.

Amanda, lead member of Amanda's Angels, a group of erotic dancers
Amanda often has to bail his dancers out of prison
The other students and teachers know what she is doing - the headmaster has been to the flat to collect school fees.

"This is my family," she says of Amanda and the other dancers.

Selina giggles a lot and says that the 2,000 shillings (just over $1) she earns per show is enough.

"It is good money," she says.

When she has finished her studies, she says wants to get another job, but she will continue to dance.

Later, Amanda shows me out, offering me chapattis the girls have just cooked on the charcoal stove.

As I leave at about five the girls are thinking about getting ready for their night's performance.




SEE ALSO:
Uganda to license erotic dancers
05 May 04  |  Africa



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