What does a converted King look like?

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A few thoughts around three photographs of Omukama Daudi Kasagama of Tooro. The photographs were, according to the handwriting on the back of the prints, made in 1895, 1896, and 1901. We do not know who wrote them, but shall believe them. Not much choice, and also, no reason not to in this case.

The oldest photograph, posted on Facebook a couple of weeks before this blog post, shows a man with a child. The man looks tall, dwarfing the child. He wears something white, with cloth draped around it. With the child it is the other way around. The two stand in front of what seems to be a huge reed wall. Daudi Kasagama looks into the lens, not too friendly, it seems to me.

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On the photograph made in 1896, ‘King Kasagama’ is standing in front of a reed fence, flanked by two young men. The three are wearing similar clothes. Daudi Kasagama is now clearly wearing footwear, a kind of sandal, distinguishing him from the other two posers. Going back to the previous photo, the same is the case there. The King is not touching the soil directly. The men’s gazes are similar to the ones in the previous photo. There is this ‘what are you doing mr’ look in their eyes.

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The back side of both of these prints show, different from the third one, signs of being ripped out of an album. Like the handwriting, we do not know when this happened, who made the album, who dismantled it. or, why the photo of ‘the King of Toro’, made after his conversion to Christianity, does not seem to have been glued onto something. (I already wrote about a bit of the trajectory we know these photographs made, changing hands, see this previous blog post in case you are interested)

But we can notice some striking differences between the King who was photographed before and after his conversion. The King was, according, again, to the writing on the back of the photograph the first ‘convert of Toro,’ in 1901, almost 20 years after the first pages at Mutesa’s court were christened. The King now presents himself dressed in Kanzu, with a jacket over it, which was also the fashion, according to some of the photographs in other collections, for Baganda chiefs at the time and in several other Kingdoms for decades to come… Kasagama’s hand is now resting on an empty chair with leopard skin. He stands on another one of those. It is hard to tell what is on his feet on this occasion, but the King’s cheeks show the good life. He does not look at the lens this time, but somewhere in the distance. A small dignified smile on his face. This is a royal, yet approachable look.

Someone is seated on the floor next to the King. Could this be Adyeri Damali Tibaitwa, the daughter of Nikodemo Kakurora, Chief of Kitagwenda? She was, according to his Wikipedia page, Kasagama’s favourite wife who he remarried according to Anglican rites on May 4th 1896. This marriage took, again according to the information provided by the Wikipedia page, place less than two months after his conversion. All of the photographs were made by missionary Rev. A.B. Fisher. But the photograph presenting Kasagama as a convert was made five years later.

This photograph may be showing us a converted king, but it is also showing us how a converted king is supposed to present himself.

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See this album for more Fisher photos, part of the collection of Makerere University main library

And this one for the Ntuuma Rusoke collection these prints are part of.

Both collections are still unfolding.

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