AFRIMA Awards winner Sandra Nankoma does it for melanin

You have probably seen Sandra Nankoma’s name somewhere.

A vocalist, visual artiste and activist, she made news last year when she won in the AFRIMA awards in Nigeria. She had been nominated in two categories, alongside Bebe Cool and Irene Namatovu.

Much as Bebe Cool was expected to win, Nankoma stunned many when she bagged the Best Inspirational Song accolade for Kaddugala, off her self-titled debut album.

During her acceptance speech, she recounted times she had to put up with ridicule because of her skin colour; and somehow, her skin colour has become a life mission.

She became an activist against bleaching, encouraging young African girls to love themselves as they are and she has used her art to push for this cause. 


A research compiled by World Health Organisation in 2011 showed that in Africa, 40 per cent of women bleached their skin. This, because they don’t believe black is beautiful enough or feel they would be noticed more if they were lighter. In an interview, South African singer Mshoza noted that she had been black for such a long time and wanted to experience the other side.

“I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy.”

Such stories, Nankoma says, are the reason she looks out for dark-skinned people. She says many of these have been told since childhood that they are not beautiful enough and when they grow up, they aspire to become lighter.

“It is a thing you will usually see in different African communities, when someone gives birth to a light-skinned baby, people will call the child beautiful and if they are dark, the story is different,” she says.

Nankoma talks with passion about the black skin, she will sing about the benefits that come with the melanin.

“Our skin protects us; there is a reason we don’t easily get affected by sun rays,” she says.

Nankoma says: “Unfortunately, many of the products on the market will lighten your skin even when you’re not intending to.” 


Nankoma in 2017 embarked on a message-driven, multi-media art exhibition that mainly featured abstract photos of her and other dark-skinned people. Titled Melanin, the exhibition held in the basement of Oasis mall also featured spoken word and a dance piece around colour and identity.

Later that year, she traveled to France for a music residence, but before leaving, then going by the moniker Sandy Soul, she hosted fans at Tamarai restaurant in Kololo, where she released her EP with the single Kaddugala.

Much as the art has been showcased in galleries in France and Germany, it is the music and the spoken word that she has used to push the melanin message more. That year, she also dropped the Sandy Soul moniker for her real name.

“I noticed that if I had to preach to people to appreciate themselves, it had to start with me,” she says.


Last year, when only a few Ugandans knew who she was, Nankoma stunned everyone by winning at the AFRIMA awards. She dedicated the award to girls born darker than the rest. She would later launch her slogan T-Shirt line ‘Kaddugala Don’t Crack’ which has so far been appreciated.

But besides the activism, the music has been going on too; she has showcased at the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts and has also graced the Fezah unplugged shows.

Currently, she is getting ready for her October 4 concert, The Black Dame Experience at Protea hotel, Kampala, but before that, she was announced as one of the artistes to showcase at the ‘Music Visa’ in Morocco, one of the biggest music markets. All with a proud touch of melanin.

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