Video Halls (or “bibanda”) are often no more than small huts where viewers pay a few cents to watch pirated DVDs on diesel-powered television screens. In the majority of villages and towns, they are the only form of popular visual entertainment, reaching millions of Ugandans every month and hundreds of thousands each day—more than television and newspapers put together. “VJs” (or “video jockeys”) translate Hollywood actions, Nollywood dramas, Bollywood musicals, cartoons, and porn into the primary local language of Luganda. Acting as translators, stand-up comedians, and carney barkers, VJs thus operate as nodes of distribution to the bibanda.
Initiated by artist Marisa Morán Jahn with media ethnographer Paul Falzone, Video Slink Uganda is an apex art and Creative Capital-supported project that involves translating and burning — “slinking”— experimental art by Ugandan and US diasporan artists onto bootleg DVDs, seen by millions of viewers as previews to the main film, and circulated throughout Uganda’s bootleg cinemas. Participants include VJ Junior, VJ Emmie, and VJ Jingo adapting/translating/re-interpreting the works of artists of the African diaspora: Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky, Rashaad Newsome with Kenya Robinson, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Kamau Patton, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Hank Willis Thomas/Terence Nance, and Saya Woolfalk.