Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine interview

The American-Ugandan ‘auteur’ to talk about Treme, priests and superheroes

Interview, Hot seat, The Knowledge

Thanks for chatting to us during your lunch break [from teaching a photography workshop]. How’s it going?
It’s been a lot of fun meeting enthusiastic photographers and swapping ideas.

Which came first: photography or acting?
I used to shoot images on my family vacations, and there came a time when I was no longer in the images, I was always behind the camera. That was when I was 14 or so.

And your first play?
That was Peter Pan in second grade, so I was about seven. I played a pirate. I auditioned for Peter, but I lost out. I’d like to see what Peter is doing now!

What if you had to choose between the two art forms?
I don’t have to choose yet. If I’m not doing one, I’m doing the other. I was working yesterday in the desert shooting footage for a short film that I’m directing, acting in and shooting. It has no title as yet. Maybe we can come up with a name now – it’s about a priest. I went to a costume shop because I didn’t want to just make a film about me standing around. There was a Santa outfit and a priest outfit. I went for the priest because it didn’t have a beard and hat. I’ve compiled a series of clips in the priest outfit in every country I’ve been in.

How about Priest On The Run?

Maybe not! Is there an image you hold close to your heart?
I get the sense that you’re trying to narrow things down – one this, one that – and I don’t do that. We’re brought up in a monotheistic world: one god, one aim. But creativity comes from blending all these things.

Nice dodge! Acting-wise, what are you working on?
I have a film premiering at Dubai Film Festival, entitled 40. It was shot in Istanbul and I play one of the three leads. I’m also acting in TV show Treme. I play a chef.

Can you really cook?
I never realised culinary skills are an art form: there are European and Asian styles of chopping, for example. I went into a lot of kitchens.

Was it easier to play an artist in Heroes?
Definitely. I guess, in Heroes, I was one of the first African superheroes on television. I often get recognised for that.

What do you make of Dubai?
I thought you could get cheap electronics here. The Canon 5D camera I wanted was US$300 more than in the US!

Any big plans for 2011?
I’ll be filming Treme through May. And I’d love to come back to Dubai for longer if possible.

40 screens at Mall of the Emirates on December 18 at 7pm. See Mwine’s photos at Africa Uploaded: Experiences Through the Lens, which continues at Mojo Gallery until December 31.

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