In Mukono Municipality, Mukono District, Sam Katumba is recognised by nearly everyone. The walk with him from his home in Kikooza village, a suburb of Mukono Town, attracts a lot of knowing stares.
Some people whisper to each other as they point fingers at him, punctuating the gesture with giggles and occasional laughter. Yet others struggle to have a handshake with the new celebrity in town.
Evidently, Katumba is a famous man in this area. But very few people know him by his real names. To his villagemates, he is simply “Kifenkenya”, which means a glutton or a person who eats a lot of food.
“Kifenkenya ogenda kuliira wa emmere?” (loosely translated as ‘glutton, where are you going to eat food from next?’),” one youth asks. Katumba continues with his journey, simply smiling at everyone without uttering a word in response.
“I love to be called kifenkenya because it is my business name, the one that makes me money,” he says.
Growing in his trade
Katumba is known for eating a lot of food, a form of comedy that gets him hired at concerts as one of the entertainers. His first attempt at comedy shows was at 12. As a pupil in Mukono Primary School, Katumba says he used to dodge classes to go and do comedy in bars in Mukono Town.
“I used to wear a gomesi and mime the late Paul Kafeero’s songs in bars and entertainment spots, at Shs200 per song,” he recounts, adding, “Since I was not bright in class, I finally decided to quit school to concentrate on developing my talent.”
He dropped out of school in 1999, in Primary Six, to focus on being an entertainer.
Desperate to improve his entertainment package, Katumba first thought of the idea to add eating food to his shows in 2005.
“I started off by eating two platefuls of rice in just five minutes. In 2007, I increased them to four platefuls, summing up to two kilogrammes, and a pack of five buns,” narrates Katumba.
His reputation started to grow, more for the side entertainment of eating incredible amounts of food than the miming, what was supposed to be his main act. “I started to score more gigs from disco operators in Mukono, Lugazi, Seeta and Kayunga towns. I charged Shs2,500 per show but usually went away with as much Shs10,000 from excited revellers,” he says.
By 2010, the two kilogrammes of rice and pack of buns was nothing so he increased his amounts to 14kg of food, six bottles of mineral water, 10 bottles of soda, a raw cabbage, raw green pepper and tomatoes. He hoped this would be more entertaining and it worked; his fame grew, evidenced by the increase in the number of gigs he got.
With more shows in a week, he decided to abandon the miming to focus on eating food.
Katumba now charges between Shs10,000 and Shs50,000 for a show, depending on the location of the job, as he explains: “If the venue of the show is near Mukono, I charge Shs10,000. If it is farther, I charge Shs50,000.” He stars at parties, in schools, music carnivals and during political rallies.
Although whoever hires him foots the bill for buying the food he is to eat, he insists on buying the food himself, apparently because he is suspicious that some bad people might attempt to poison him.
The viral photos
The photos of Katumba that went viral last month were taken from a concert he had in Kabimbiri Town, Kasawo Sub-county in Mukono District last month. The food he ate cost about Shs25,000 and he was hired by Mr Siraje Batte, an aspirant for the Nakifuma County MP seat.
“I only accepted Shs10,000 although I knew it was not enough because he promised to hire me throughout his campaigns,” Katumba explains.
Katumba’s wife, Thaluwa Nalwoga, has left their marital home twice since they got married in 2013 owing to his ‘job’. “At first, she didn’t know what type of work I did. When she got to know about it, she got infuriated and she left me. But I went to her parents’ home and pleaded with her to return,” he says. With time, he says, she has learnt to cope with the challenge that comes with his nature of work and stayed.
How he does it
Katumba is, on the contrary, not ashamed of his trade, saying: “That is what puts food on my table.”
But that does not mean he does not worry. “I sometimes also feel disturbed by the quantity of food I eat,” he adds.
In fact, he says overtime, the ordinary servings do nothing for him: “I feel very hungry when I don’t have a show because I am used to eating a lot of food but I don’t have money to buy such quantities of food.”
In preparation for his shows, Katumba says he does not eat on the days he has a show, save for drinking a little water. “Because I have mastered my trade, I can hold two food eating shows a day,” he says.
“I don’t feel any pain after eating the food. To be honest, I feel just normal satisfaction. But, I always have to spend at least 30 minutes passing stool,” says Katumba. He also confesses to feeling pain in the throat, which disappears without any treatment, and thinks it might be caused by swallowing large chunks of different types of food at a time.
He, however, fears that one day, he might collapse during a concert and die. “I swallow a lot of food at ago, which might one day choke me. I also fear that I could become obese from all the food I eat.”
For now, he shelves his fears and awaits his next gig; there are bills to pay and dreams to fulfill. At the forefront of these dreams is leaving the two-roomed house he rents to move into his own house. He already has a plot of land he bought at Shs2m at the beginning of the year in Kikooza village. All that remains now is to make enough money to begin construction.
He supplements his eating business by part-timing as a welder in Mukono Town, where he fabricates metal doors, windows and beds. But this is only for the money and has nothing to do with passion.
“I love the comedy work more because comedy is my talent,” he says. “If there is anyone who feels he can challenge me in this trade, let him come forward and take me on. I am sure I would win a gold medal in an international eating contest, which I hope I can one day get the opportunity to take part in.”
Dr Francis Kakooza, a general medical practitioner and the medical superintendent of Kayunga hospital, says: “Katumba is able to eat such large amounts of food because of practice over a long period of time.
No one can eat such large amounts of food suddenly. Katumba started by eating small amounts of food, which he increased gradually. However, he needs psycho-social support so that he can abandon this risky job as it poses a big health risk on his life.
The foods he mainly eats such as chapatti, bread, and posho are primary carbohydrates, which will be converted into fats and will be stored in the body.
He is likely to develop obesity, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart diseases, and insulin intolerance that leads to Type 2 diabetes.
Obesity poses health dangers, including heart diseases and stroke, diabetes, some types of cancers, gallbladder and gallstones disease. Consumption of high levels of proteins will lead to brain damage and heart burn.”
Who is katumba?
Sam Katumba was born in 1989 to a salon owner, Ms Sarah Magadelena, and, a motor vehicle mechanic, Mr Sam Kkubo, of Nsanja village in Ntenjeru Sub-county, Mukono District.
At 10, Katumba moved in with his aunt in Mukono Town after he lost both of his parents. While in Mukono Town, Katumba joined Mukono Day and Boarding Primary School in Primary Four, doing petty trades such as selling sugarcane to get school fees.
He dropped out of school after discovering his talent in entertaining people. He lives in Kikooza village, in Mukono Town, with his wife and a three-month-old daughter.
What they say
“He is interesting but it puts his life in danger. I have always tried to tell him to abandon this work and concentrate on welding,”
Brian Mubiru, Katumba’s neighbour.
“I was amazed when I saw him eating all that food for just Shs10,000. He should get another job because he will die,”
Livingstone Musasizi,Resident of Kabimbiri Town, Mukono District
“I think he is not normal because I don’t think there is a normal person who can eat such an amount of food. Maybe he has evil spirits that eat the food,”
John Katumba, resident of Mbalala, Mukono District
“He should increase the amount he charges because Shs10,000 is not enough to pay for treatment if he developed stomach complications,”
Charles Kigozi, Mukono Town resident
Source: The Daily Monitor