Recently, there was a storm raging on social media about the presumed appalling behaviour of the Ugandan born celebrated playwright, Mr. Alex Mukulu. Apparently, when judging a performing arts contest, he offended some when he bluntly and on camera rebuked three young men, contestants. Right after their dance performance and speaking in Luganda, he told them “muwunya (direct translation: you smell).”
A shot claimed of Alex Mukulu’s flabaggusted expression watching the performance which offended him did rounds on social media.
Mr. Mukulu went further and educated the contestants, whose repugnant unkept body smells offended him, that he had not been able to properly watch their performance, because they smelt; and so he was not in the position to judge the performance on artistic merit – their smelling had tainted their performance for him.
From a cultural anthropological perspective, what fascinated me the most about the raging debate was the fact that many commentators, Ugandans mostly, equated being smelly, dirty, unkept, to being materially poor; which is mostly a false assumption. It is not always the case that the materially poor are smelly, dirty and unkept. Conversely, it is not always the case that the materially wealthy are not smelly, not dirty and not unkept.
I recall some years back, for instances, when members of parliament were up in arms because the men, especially, had been accused of emitting unfriendly smells from their bodies, whilst present in the august house. Members of parliament cannot certainly be categorized as materially poor, not the Ugandan ones at least. Interestingly, moreover, some of the members of parliament who may have been emitting those offensive smells were likely doing so because they are materially wealthy.
“Unchanged socks or even shoes which hold on to sweat create a good growth environment for bacteria and a fungus, worsening matters. This is why it is important to maintain proper foot hygiene and wearing dry clean shoes and socks. Some people’s feet over sweat because they are genetically inclined and stress and anxiety simply makes it worse. Since you say you remove your shoes when you reach office, you should wash and dry them well when the shoes are off. Some foods containing garlic may increase foot odour.”Daily Monitor
Yes, there is a tendency for Ugandan’s who are materially wealthy to sometimes dress inappropriately for weather conditions in Uganda. For example, wearing socks that are specifically made from fabrics that are intended to keep feet warm during winter in other parts of the world. Wearing socks and or closed shoes in warmer weather, such as Uganda has nearly all year round, may cause ones feet to sweat and inevitably cause them to smell.
Be that as it may, there are other reasons other than material poverty or material wealth that may cause one’s body to emit unpleasant smells One of the important ones is being unhygienic with one’s body – not bathing, not washing one’s clothes frequently enough, you get the drift – basically poverty of the mind.
“According to Dr Ronald Ssekitoleko of Kampala Family Clinic, while sometimes foot odour is a health issue, lack of hygiene plays a big role. He says that while Dominic seemed clean, it was possible that there was a part of his body he just didn’t pay attention to – the feet.” Source: Daily Monitor
And if poverty of the mind was the case, and it was most likely so, then, some would argue, Mr. Mukulu’s confrontation was warranted and seemingly it worked. There are now several images of the cleaned up boys doing the rounds.