JRS Uganda: Making a living out of a passion – Aganze Mugomoka tells his story
04 May 2023|Rosette Komuhangi (JRS East Africa)
First published via JRS East Africa
Aganze Mugomoka, a Congolese refugee living in Uganda, makes the statement with so much enthusiasm and a sound of triumph.
Aganze and eight siblings fled Congo because of the war. They left Goma in Congo in 2016 and settled in Kampala where they have managed to make life somewhat bearable. The journey from Goma was tragic and treacherous and he would rather not get into the details of the horrific events. On the journey, he and his brother were separated from their siblings only to be reunited two years later in Uganda. Aganze speaks with a lot of emotion about his parents whom he says, he last saw the morning of the flight. He is not sure if they are alive but lives in constant hope of being reunited with them at some point.
The plight of fleeing home might have shaken the young Aganze, but it didn’t make him lose hope. Having arrived in Kampala, he tried to fit in and find ways of earning. Aganze was introduced to JRS by a friend. He enrolled in the Art and Crafts course because he always wanted to be an artist. He says while growing up, he drew pictures as a pass time and hoped that he would be an artist in the future. That the inspiration to pursue art and crafts was also from his father, a craftsman who made and repaired guitars, and from his mother, a tailor.
Upon finishing the course, JRS offered Aganze a grant as capital to start a business since he had an impressive business proposal. Mugomoka is a man of many talents. He makes jewelry, art pieces, shoes, book covers, carpets, and tie and dye pieces that he sells in his shop, markets, and online. He says that social media has proved to be good avenue to market his products.
In retrospect, Aganze says that even though he had a dream to become an artist, it is highly probable that he would not have become one back in Congo. Whereas being a refugee is not an ideal situation, it has offered him an opportunity to pursue a passion that seemed far from reach.
On average, Aganze earns about 600,000 UGX (160 USD) from selling his products and the training that he does. With this income, he contributes to paying the bills in his sister’s household where he lives. In his word(s), he says:
‘I am a lucky person. I can afford most of the basic needs. I thank JRS for believing in me and supporting me to get onto my feet. I hope that one day, I will be able to pay back by helping other refugees who want to get into art and crafts and training them till they can earn from it. My future is bright. My only wish is that I get reunited with my parents just like I did with my siblings from whom we had been separated on our way to Uganda.’
For Aganze, art and crafts is not only a passion but also a profession that he lives off. He is happy to be gainfully employed by something he enjoys doing.
He is a stand-in teacher for the Art and Crafts course at the JRS center in Kampala and oversees mobilization of fellow artists who have been supported by JRS to sell their products at a Friday market in a Kampala suburb.
Aganze hopes to expand his business by adding a training component to his shop so that he can expand his capital base. Now, he informally trains children and youth in jewelry making.