Bitone Photo Essay Uganda

The Art of Healing

Bitone Center in Uganda uses traditional music and dance to heal trauma and inspire youth leadership

By Rucha Chitnis, Director of Storytelling & Line Stage Clemmensen, Social Media Intern

Photographs by Rucha Chitnis

Aisha Nabitosi says the purpose of her life is to make people feel they are not alone. “I lost my father when I was very young. When I first came to Bitone, I felt alone and didn’t have love my heart,” she said. When Aisha was 14, she connected with Bitone Center, a Kampala-based group that uses traditional dance and music to heal trauma and build the leadership of vulnerable children and youth.

The rhythms of traditional Ugandan music fill up the rooms of Bitone Center. Bitone was founded by Branco Sekalegga, who felt it was important to create holistic models for leadership development by allowing children to explore the rich cultural heritage of  traditional Ugandan performing arts. “I grew up in difficult circumstances, but I was able to go to school and received a scholarship to go to college. I felt it was important to give back to the community to other children, like me,” said Branco.  

Branco Sekalegga is the founder and Executive Director at Bitone. He believes that traditional arts are powerful tools for healing trauma and building youth leadership. 

Branco Sekalegga is the founder and Executive Director at Bitone. He believes that traditional arts are powerful tools for healing trauma and building youth leadership. 

The big vision of Bitone team is to create a performance troupe, where youth can showcase their talents and build their leadership and interpersonal skills.  “Music is powerful. It gives children, who have experienced trauma, an opportunity to express themselves and understand their self worth and potential”, said Branco. The Center is also home to nearly 18 children and youth, who receive education, room and boarding.

Desire Nakibirango, the Center Coordinator, sees Bitone as part of a larger vision to touch the lives of other vulnerable children through music and dance. “We have a passion to see children empowered and their talents recognized,” she said.  The Center also teaches children food gardening to strengthen their self sufficiency. They now want to lease land, where they can grow their own food, build a home and theater for youth performances.  “We are are nurturing a nursery bed of the next generation of leaders,” said Branco.