Justine Nantume takes her work so seriously that she sometimes instructs her students with visual aids. A courageous way to give ssenga lessons, if you ask Quick Talk.
One man who has witnessed her at work says she once camped at a video shack in Kabojja with a laptop complete with instructive videos. The video shack filled up to capacity. She’s a popular ssenga, Quick Talk is told, and is a favourite at bridal showers.
But this is not her only job she is a presenter at Dembe FM and hosts NBS TV’s Big Deal. She’s also part of the Akandolindoli crew and is a musician. Quick Talk talked to her in Luganda.
I hear you are some popular ssenga. Is there a particular target group for your clientele?
None. I target all of them the young and old.
Eh! Where did you acquire your delicate skill?
My mother. She was a traditional birth attendant and a counsellor. She did a lot of pre-marital counselling. [Quick Talk can imagine the kind of ‘pre-marital counselling’ Nantume’s mother gave. These ssenga counselling sessions sometimes involve getting down and dirty, Nantume says. Mbu some brides-to-be forgot to do “some things” and she has to do them herself. If you are a Muganda and the word elongation has more than one dimension to you, you get the drift.]
What services do you offer?
I give herbs and do other things. [They won’t be mentioned here. Quick Talk’s ears are already twitching wildly with this ssenga’s ‘huuuge’ words.]
Eh! Are you married?
[In a ‘tired’ voice:] Nakoowa obufumbo (I got tired of marriage.)
Yiyi, so how do you counsel others, asking them to stay married, when you are not married?
[Assuming the ssenga role, like Quick Talk has to hear this one:] Every man is different. Maybe my man had bad manners. Another man may not have bad manners. Quick Talk, do you know that I would prepare another woman for marriage to my ex-husband?
We are friends these days. Ate he is poor at the moment. He can call me and I send him [Shs] 20,000 or [Shs] 50,000. He called me when his wife went into labour and I sent him [Shs] 100,000. He hired a cab and took her to one of the KCCA health centres. His wife is my friend too she calls me [hmmmmm. Hopefully not for ssenga tips!]
Wow, such cordiality. Do you have a boyfriend?
Of course. [In a tough once-bitten-twice-shy way:] But we live separately.
Don’t those drunken men at Akandolindoli hit on you?
Quick Talk, I won’t tell lies about myself, men do not hit on me. Mbu a boss or workmate has hit on me? It has never happened. I think they fear me because I talk a lot. They must think I will tell everyone about it.
[Or, they possibly fear they will not match the ringmaster’s pace…]
But everyone loves my breasts. And if they rubknock against them, I don’t mind. I just undress and show them. [Nantume must be joking… . These aren’t the lessons ssengas, who are keepers of women’s morals, impart.]
Have you ever been ‘detoothed’ by a man?
One man wanted to, but I noticed and dumped him. He constantly came up with problems and I would give him money. When I realised he was ‘detoothing’ me, I told him he had too many problems so, our love was over.
I thought you loved men very much and would do anything for them. Anti you sang that [unfunny, by the way] song, Abasajja bazaaleko ebweru (Men should sire children outside their marriages).
Yeee (yes), men should. They can’t be monogamous.
Huh! What kind of aice is that?
Men should be men. But also single women can have their children with anyone. A married woman shouldn’t, however. [But this ssenga is being irresponsible! We were just reminded about Uganda’s grim HIV situation on World Aids day, the other day!]
Do you take alcohol?
A little. I take two bottles a month. I talk too much and if I drank, I would talk more. No one would get a chance to talk and they would be uncomfortable.
Considerate. What is your favourite food?
Pumpkin, bukupa [coco-yams. Seriously?] kyetutumula [more yams], matooke and katogo. [Oba when did Quick Talk last hear the word kyetutumula? Nantume has interesting taste in food.]
What is your educational background?
Ah, I didn’t study. I stopped in S1. But I am able to make money and I am grateful for that. I admire the educated though they speak such good English. If I tried to speak it, only four words would be right.
Well, some people say good English-speaking shouldn’t matter. They say skills matter most. What schools did you attend?
I went to one: Luweero Girls. It was a primary and secondary school that went up to S1 [Nantume was born and raised in Bamunanika, Luweero. She was part of a dancing troupe and was bussed to Kampala by a friend who thought she would find work as a dancer. She later joined kadongo kamu artiste Fred Ssebata’s group and turned to singing. Her other jobs came later.]
Source : The Observer