The dancing granny
You are never too old to follow your dream or to even explore new ones. No one better exemplifies this than Margaret Nyongesa, Uganda’s dancing granny. To survive the hardships brought about by the pandemic, she turned to TikTok to earn a living. She is now able to cater to her own needs, and even help her family out when need be.
Margaret Nyongesa, famously known as ‘the dancing granny,’ is a TikTok guru and small-scale farmer from Uganda. Despite her advanced age, she is a talented dancer who earns from dancing at weddings, and birthday parties; and making TikTok videos— some of which have gone viral. She has also made several television appearances. Born in Busia on the Uganda-Kenya border— and now hailing from Kigatto, Mukugwe Sub County in Masaka— she discloses that her talent has fixed some of her financial problems. After embracing dancing as a profession she met Katana Jona, a member of Sakala Boyz, who in turn introduced her to TikTok.
During the pandemic when times were hard, her neighbors encouraged her to take a stab at dancing to earn a living, with one inviting her to a wedding ceremony to showcase her prowess. Her presentation was cheered by the multitude that was there, including Katanza Jona, who couldn’t keep calm and requested to have a dance with her. It is the recorded video of that performance that went viral.
Margaret is a mother to eleven children, though unfortunately some of them have died, leaving her with seven. Due to the current economic hardships we are facing her children are not in a position to assist her financially, so she depends on donations from her fans, both in cash and supplies. Most of the money she earns she uses to pay for her grandchildren’s education. “I’m illiterate, a victim of child torture, discrimination, and early marriage. I won’t let my grandchildren suffer the same fate,” she says.
Grass to grace
Nyongesa doesn’t know her age or the year she got married. All she can recall from her childhood is growing up with her aunt and her abusive husband who never accepted her. She lost her dad when she was only two days old, and her mom a few months after that. Her mother died due to the psychological torture she underwent at her aunt’s (Margaret’s) home due to her husband’s nagging. He always complained about how much he was investing in their livelihood, pestering his wife to kick them out. As soon as she hit puberty and it started showing, she left her aunt’s home and got married. As a teenage mother, she endured a lot of agonies.
For her, dancing is a fortune that changes time. Being encouraged by her neighbors to practice it professionally helped her to overcome the stigma and criticism that was being channeled her way on social media, and she concentrated solely on what was putting food on her table. Her age was the biggest talking point and largest target, but her strong spirit and strength made her endure it. She sarcastically says, “As much as they put their negative comments in writing, am illiterate so I can’t read them. On TikTok, I just upload videos with the help of Jona and I sign out.”
She has made several TikTok videos and appeared in several artists’ videos, but her biggest breakthrough was with Eddie Kenzo’s song, a BET Award winner. Starring alongside Katana Jona, the song went viral on the social media platform where the moniker ‘Dancing Granny’ was first coined. From then, her life dramatically changed.
She has become a celebrity with the videos saving her from financial problems by helping her to pay the bills. She advises the youth not to waste their time and data doing nothing on social media, but instead squeeze the best out of it because that’s where business deals are signed and talents spotted.
“You should never let past stress, failures, torture, and betrayal tie you down. Focus on your betterment because it’s from the prototype of our sad stories that the masterpiece of our future is created. Be a phoenix, rise.”