Gross embarrassment are the best two words that express Madaraka Nyerere’s feelings every time a visitor to the country asked him if he had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

However, it was only when a Spanish friend, who kept on trying to entice him to take on the feat, had managed to climb the tallest mountain in Africa 13 times, and he still had not done it even once, that he started taking steps towards action.

He wanted to do the necessary so that he could give a positive reply when a foreigner posed this question to him. “As is so often the case, most things are easier said than done.

It took me five years to actually climb the mountain for the first time,” Madaraka, a local patriot and Chairperson of the Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA) NGO’s board, admitted to the ‘Daily News’ a few days before leaving Dar es Salaam for Kilimanjaro Region. “Every time I planned to go on the climb something would get in the way.

That was when I said I’ll look for something to do that will make me fulfil this self-made promise. Then I got the idea to connect my climb with collecting money for a particular cause, which I believed in,” he elaborated further.

The idea started to physically take shape after he had discussed it with a teacher at a school in his home area, Butiama in Mara Region. The teacher had suggested that the money collected be used to improve the service provided by the school where he taught.

It was while actually on the mission — his first climb — that Madaraka made another promise to himself. He vowed that provided he is able to reach the top; he would do this every year for various causes. To date, he has climbed the mountain eight times.

On Monday this week he set out on his ninth climb, this time accompanied with the local selfstyled musician Vitalis Maembe, who has made a mark as a social observer and commentator in his lyrics.

The duo have joined forces to kick-off a one-year fundraising campaign called “Fun For Funds” by the CDEA, towards supporting the establishment of co-created multimedia products together with a film lab in Dar es Salaam.

In his capacity as the Chairperson of the CDEA board, Madaraka had come up with the idea of bringing together climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with improving the environment of the local creative industry.

He also introduced a different way of actually collecting the funds. On his previous eight climbs, when he actually reached Uhuru Peak, that he called a number of close friends and acquaintances that he had previously informed of his intention, to say how much they were contributing to the particular cause for which he had taken on the task. For the ninth climb, there are some changes.

“We are six members on CDEA’s board, so we agreed that each one of us has to find ten people, who will contribute 100,000/- each. In this way, each member will be contributing one million shillings.

The six million will be the beginning to which we will accept any other contribution,” Madaraka explained. Maembe told the ‘Daily News’ that taking on the climb gives him an opportunity to make a positive step towards building the unity of Africans in a practical way.

That is why he intends leaving a number of flags he made himself on top of the mountain in commemoration of this vision. From the conversation it could be gathered that he holds strongly to the belief that Africans are not short of ideas but just ways of making sure that they get a chance to touch others.

For Maembe, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the landmark voices of the continent. Therefore, in a similar fashion as the Uhuru Torch, which was placed on the mountain in 1961 to mark independence, it is the same way he intends putting his flags in tribute to a united Africa.

“These items of mine placed on top of the mountain, representing my thoughts and ideas, will act like a spark for others, who will reach there to hook-on to these inspirations,” Maembe said with much confidence.

In case you are wondering, the answer is “Yes”, the musician will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his guitar. He intends playing a song or two at the top.

Before calling it a day the ‘Daily News’ sought a broader explanation of CDEA’s plans from its Executive Director, Ayeta Wangusa, who said the “Fun For Funds” project is directed towards providing a place in Dar es Salaam, where artistes can gather to hold talks on issues concerning them.

Once such a centre is established it would help local Arts federations to know what the issues affect artistes. There is also the advantage of artistes having their own platform to discuss issues affecting the sector.

This would strengthen the Arts federation by equipping them with facts concerning relevant issues. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is the first project in the “Fun For Funds” campaign.

The second is having a big festival around next April to give a chance to the vast majority of local artistes, who are not in the mainstream art scene. An example of this is local Jazz.

“This project falls in line with our mandate, as a think tank that provides services to artists, cultural leaders, creative entrepreneurs, cultural officers and urban planners.

We also assist development and corporate organisations, civil society organisations and academics in cultural development locally and the wider East African region,” Wangusa said.

Wangusa maintains that the “Fun For Funds” project will enhance their creative arts space at Mikocheni B suburbs. This is because more young people will meet there to imagine and co-create.

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