by Teodora Minea

By her full name Sharom Bukirwa, in Sibiu known as Shama Leah, she`s a new appearance on our stage and in our little town. She comes directly from Uganda, Kampala, and she spreads her story out loud, giving everyone a priceless lesson to learn: motivation means strength. The world in which she was born and raised is completely different than our own, and not in a positive way, but she managed to succeed in life on a different continent. Her life stories are told mainly in BIS Garden, where I met her last year. I always had a peculiar interest in the stories over the seas, but this one is by far the most extraordinary one. Being part of a community project in her home town, Shama had the chance to meet several inspiring Europeans. That was the moment when her dream sparked. It was only the first step to make that dream a reality. Now she wants to give back to her community from Uganda what these people taught her: hope. She knows that she has the power to change the world at 27 years old, and she fights for human equality on BIS stage. African Stories and Born in 2000 are the shows she performs in and where she speaks in her native language, but also in Romanian and English. I always believed our multicultural city needs to have these kind of people and to be close to them. I desire open-minded citizens in my city, and I think Shama Leah contributes to this process of making Sibiu a better, progressive and friendlier city.

How did you get here? Why Romania?

Shama Leah: It was fate. It was destiny. I didn’t know Romania exists. But then I met this kind person. He told me such nice things about Romania. I guess I always had a dream to travel to different countries to see how people feel about black people. And to tell you the truth, young people have absolutely no chance in Uganda. They dream of reaching Europe, they seek asylum in Europe. Europe is like a magic place where you can work and actually earn money.

What are the major differences between your world there, Uganda, and Romania?

Shama Leah: There are so many BIG differences. First in terms of poverty. And when I say poverty I mean it, like starving. Here in Romania you can afford education, which is incredible, trust me. In Uganda you have to pay for everything, and poor people don’t stand a chance.

Another big difference is the weather. Like I say in Born in 2000, it’s always so cold in Sibiu. I like it when it snows, and everything gets white, but I hate it when it`s cold. When I was pregnant I used to eat fresh snow. It was my secret.

Another difference is the security. Here, in Sibiu, I feel much safer. And here you can have a health insurance. I gave birth in a state hospital, and it was excellent.

The culture is so different. It is hard for me to explain to the people in Romania that in my country men have more than one wife, and that we speak around 30 completely different languages. We don’t have a family name, we don’t have addresses. It was impossible to explain this when I did my papers here.

And about food, there is a big difference. Romanians eat a lot, here I discovered that one meal has 3 courses felu` 1, felu` 2, felu` 3. Haha! There are so many people in my country who eat once a day. People who afford 3 meals a day are just a few.

Are people used to seeing black persons, or did you face prejudices?

Shama Leah: I really felt a difference since the pandemic started. Two ugly moments happened to me now, when the virus came. The most horrible was with a guy who scared me with a very big dog. I was with my baby girl, Sonia, who is 1 year and a half, and she started crying. To tell you the truth, at that moment I was disappointed by the people that were watching from inside their cars and not doing anything. This is what pandemic does to people, it makes them afraid. I know, my country went through a terrible Ebola epidemic when I was a kid.

Can you tell me several words about the shows you perform in?

Shama Leah: I love African Stories (Povești africane), the show for kids. Our grand-grandparents told us stories. We gathered during the nights and listened to so many stories. I feel very proud to be playing on a stage because I never imagined I would have the opportunity to play for the kids in a country so far away from home. And I enjoy so much to tell the Romanian kids stories about my country. I like it when they laugh when I speak in my language. It is important they understand since they are kids that we have so different languages and cultures but we still can understand each other.

Born in 2000 (Născut în 2000) is such a special moment. I am glad I shared my personal experience with the people, so they get to know about my country. I love my country and I hope one day we will have real democracy. Born in 2000 makes me more confident, standing on the stage in front of people as myself, representing my sisters and my brothers.

Were you, in Uganda, involved in arts field?

Shama Leah: In crafts. I was making bracelets. I also love making clothes out of anything. I wanted so much to go to a school of art, but as I told you, you have to pay for any education, from kindergarten to university. My mum raised alone 5 girls in a slum in Kampala, so we never imagined of having money to go to school.

Shama Leah/ Născut in 2000/Foto: Alin Praf

I was involved in a community project called  ”One Love”. We took the kids from the streets giving them shelter and teaching them how to make bracelets, shoes, craft like this. I would love one day to help kids in Kawempe again, to give them food, shelter and clothes, to teach them how to have confidence. There are thousands of kids abandoned in my country, tens of thousands and I am not exaggerating. I pray to God things will change in my country soon enough.

How do you see the cultural sector in Sibiu and how do you think you can have a positive approach on it?

Shama Leah: This question is really complicated for me. I love arts and all the performances at BIS Theatre, in the BIS Garden. I enjoyed so much this summer, especially the Neighborhood Theatre project (Teatrul din Cartier). We played for kids that don`t have a chance to go to the state theatre, in Gușterița, in Gura Râului, in Sibiel… It is a wonderful idea to perform to people who don`t have a chance to go to the big theatres. And talking about neighborhood, we are neighbors at BIS Theatre with Klaus Iohannis, the president of Romania. I need to talk to him one day and ask him to open a Romanian embassy in Uganda and a Ugandan embassy in Romania. I had to go twice hundreds of kilometers to Kenya to get the visa for Romania, it was terrible. And these two countries are so much alike, I mean it, Romania is for Europe what Uganda is for Africa. Let’s make that embassy, Mister President, and work together for democracy and freedom of speech in both countries, Uganda and Romania!

cover foto: Alin Praf