Journalist Rosa lived life on her own terms

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Journalist Rosa lived life on her own terms
Journalist Rosa lived life on her own terms

Africa-Press – Uganda. Being born into a well-to-do family with thriving businesses and opting to pursue a distinctly different lifestyle, characterised by numerous hobbies and a penchant for hard partying, was one of the most challenging decisions that fallen journalist Rosario Achola Odido made in her 45 years of life on earth.

When Rosa, as she was affectionately known by many, passed away in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Wednesday morning, many questioned her choice to live in Kenya over Uganda, where her mother, Ms Maria Odido, a reserved and private individual, managed thriving personal and family enterprises.

Close associates revealed that Rosa chose to prioritise the life she desired over her family’s expectations, a decision allegedly met with disapproval from her mother, who initially wished for her to join the family business.

During her more than five years in Kenya, Rosa’s life underwent significant changes, marked by a mix of emotions and challenges. In a March 2020 Facebook post, Rosa hinted at suicidal thoughts, reflecting the struggles she faced at the time. However, with the support of friends like Patrick Oyulu, who provided emotional and financial assistance, she managed to overcome her difficulties. Oyulu, who had previously worked closely with Rosa at The Advertising Firm (TAF) owned by her mother and Miriam Odaka, recalled their time together in the mid-1990s.

Despite being just 16 at the time, Rosa eagerly assisted Oyulu and his team with various tasks, demonstrating a willingness to learn about the advertising industry. Her enthusiasm for the creative aspects of advertising led her to accompany Oyulu on trips to media houses, offering her support.

Rosa’s versatility extended beyond journalism to the creative fields of art and advertising. After relocating from Uganda to Nairobi seven years ago, she established her own production house, Abyssinian Ronin Productions, where she produced a travel show highlighting tourist destinations and entertainment venues across Africa, promoting domestic tourism. The show, titled FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), was broadcasted on YouTube and featured on ATC News, where Rosa served as a contributing editor.

Before, she held positions as the Head of newsroom and de-facto head of programming at the now-defunct Record Television Network Uganda, The Independent magazine, Radio One, and had a brief stint at Capital FM in the early 2000s.

Describing her passion for journalism, Rosa once stated, “I have an excellent broadcasting voice and strong presenting skills with the ability to perform at the microphone with flair.” She emphasised her ability to connect with people from all walks of life and her extensive network of sources for news and information in East Africa.

Kenneth Lukwago Anderson, who worked closely with Rosa at Radio One, praised her dedication and eagerness to learn. Fellow journalists also remember Rosa as someone who fearlessly pursued stories. Gabriel Buule, a Nation Media Group journalist, recalled Rosa’s courage during protests and her commitment to capturing pivotal moments, even in dangerous situations. He noted her role in questioning the actions of the Ugandan police and her advocacy for media freedom, citing her involvement in the 2013 siege protest.

Throughout her more than 20-year journalism career, Rosa conducted exclusive interviews with notable figures such as former US President Bill Clinton, former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, economist Joseph Stiglitz, Prof Mahmood Mamdani, Lord’s Resistance Army deputy Commander Gen Caesar Acellam, and jazz musicians Chuck Loeb, Gerald Albright, and Marion Meadows.

Love for art

Ms Odido told that her daughter had an innate talent in visual arts. Rosa’s journey as a self-taught painter, burgeoned with recognition early on, clinching the coveted Artist of the Year award at her high school graduation in England back in 1996. From there on, her artistic endeavours traversed continents. In 2000, for instance, she captivated audiences with her solo exhibition in Uganda titled Are you Experienced?

Rosa’s work has also graced galleries in The Netherlands, and she contributed to the esteemed 32 Degrees East project: History in Progress- Sidamu Nyuma, under the curation of Andrea Stultients. Also under her belt were showcases at prominent venues such as the Afriart Gallery in 2013, the Nommo Gallery in 2003, the Design Agenda Gallery in the same year, and the Okapi Gallery in 2000.

Beyond the canvas, Rosa leveraged her art, poetry, and unconventional lifestyle to catalyse discourse on poignant topics, including politics, love, sex, and societal disparities. Through her multifaceted expressions, she adeptly communicated nuanced messages, eschewing clamour for a subtler yet resonant impact.

Rosa’s artistic vision delved into the intricacies of human psychology and the multifaceted nature of identity. Her surrealist portraits, rendered with oils, pastels, and acrylics, embodied a fusion of reality and imagination. Notably, she incorporated found objects into her works, adding a tangible depth that transcends traditional two-dimensional art forms.

In addition to her prolific artistic output, Rosa assumed leadership roles within the artistic community, serving as the deputy chairperson of the Uganda Visual Artists Association in 2007.

Tragedy struck on January 4, 1994, when she lost her father just two weeks before sitting her O-Level finals in London. Despite this profound loss, she returned to Uganda for her father’s burial and then resumed her education, completing her A-Level college finals before enrolling at the University of London to study business. However, she soon realised that university life was not for her, and after a year of study, she made the difficult decision to drop out.

The death of her father had a lasting impact on her, with her mother noting that she was never quite the same after. Returning to Uganda, she joined her mother in the family business, but it became evident that her true passions lay elsewhere. Embracing her love for art and media, she officially transitioned into these fields. She also returned to university at Kampala University and pursued her earlier deserted degree in business.

Her adventurous spirit led her to intern at Sanyu FM, followed by roles at Capital FM and Radio One. However, she was not one to remain stagnant, constantly seeking new experiences and challenges. This dynamic lifestyle allowed her to forge numerous friendships and connections as she moved from one venture to the next.

A decade ago, she bid farewell to radio and ventured into freelance journalism, drawn to the allure of capturing compelling stories through the lens of her camera. Her work took her to conflict zones such as Somalia and South Sudan.

Her death

According to her mother, Rosa had been experiencing health issues recently. Two weeks ago, she sought medical attention and was diagnosed with a hernia. Following medical advice, she underwent surgery, promptly, which was successful. Subsequently, Rosa returned to her rented apartment in Nairobi, where she maintained communication with her family, indicating a gradual recovery.

However, earlier this week, Rosa began experiencing severe pain and shortness of breath, symptoms she hadn’t previously reported. Despite their hopes for her recovery, her condition deteriorated rapidly, culminating in her collapse and subsequent death.

Arrangements are being made for the funeral that will take place next Saturday at her ancestral home slightly over 4.5 hours from Kampala, on the Kenya side of the border.

She leaves behind three children—two daughters and a son—all residing in Uganda.

Rosa unplugged

Rosa was born Rosario Achola Odido on October 28, 1978, in Nairobi, Kenya, as the firstborn of her parents, Maria Odido and the late Alfonse Odido. Growing up alongside her two sisters, Angie Odido and Andrea Odido, as well as a brother, she displayed exceptional intelligence from a young age. Starting school at three, she quickly advanced, impressing her educators to the extent that she was promoted to Grade One aged just five while attending the French School of Kampala.

Her educational journey continued with a brief stint at Braeburn High School in Nairobi, before she moved to Bedgebury School in Goudhurst, Kent, United Kingdom. During her time at Bedgebury, an IQ test, required for admission, yielded results that astonished her educators, indicating the highest score they had seen in 25 years.

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