With a new and improved website, giving you the possibility to search the HIP collections up, it is also time to revive our blog. We will here draw your attention to photos or collections that deserve special attention. In this case the post is not only giving information we would love to get your feedback on, but also presenting an opportunity for Ugandan artists to work with us and 32[deg] East
We tend to think that images speak for themselves. But the most frequently asked question with photographs HIPUganda shares is ‘what does it show, who is on it?’ This shows the strange split between all the words the photograph is supposed to speak, and the necessity for words to go with images.
Sometimes the most significant thing about images are words. This turned out to be the case with the collection of the Ham Mukasa Foundation, even though some of the images are also pretty special. They show, for example, the young Ham Mukasa, who traveled to England with Apolo Kaggwa in 1902. They include impressions of the construction of the Jinja Railway bridge. And they give a view into some intimate moments of Buganda Royalty.
But back to the words. Most of the photographs in the Ham Mukasa Foundation collection are housed in their family library in Nasuti. The library is publicly accessible. It has both historical and contemporary books, but also a wealth of documents connected to Ham Mukasa’s life. Since the state of some of the documents is going down fast, we decided to not only digitalize the photographs, but also as many of the letters and manuscripts as possible. Among the papers there was an odd document. A list describing images. A small investigation made clear that these were words about images that were never made. Some of the descriptions like ‘Mr. R.R. As he is meeting the Kabaka to inform him of his return to England in 1886’, could have been photographed even though we have not seen the image. Others, like ‘Kiliumba being taken for his execution for fitting in the King’s presents (clothes) before the King tries them on’, seem to be very unlikely to ever have existed as photographs. The medium, developed in France and the UK in the 1820s and 30s had not yet reached Uganda when the described event happened. Our interest was raised. We liked to try to imagine what these images should look like. We hope your interest is raised too and that you are willing to make your imagination work.
Ham Mukasa wrote several books. The account of the trip to the UK and his autobiography were both translated back in the days and are now available for download online. The book tryptich Simuda Nyuma (Forward Ever, Backward Never) on Kabakas Mutesa I, Mwanga, Daudi Chwa and their times was, until recently, only available in Luganda in the Libraries of Makerere University in Kampala and the Uganda Christian University in Mukono. Volume two, can now be bought in Uganda in an English translation, and efforts are made to make the other parts available too.
The captions on the discovered list were, of course, meant for Simuda Nyuma. And they were never made. The list now looks like an open invitation for Ugandan artists to be inspired by – and engage with – their history. The challenge can take many shapes. Read the list if you like and pick whatever inspires you to create an image in your medium. Make a drawing, painting, photograph, or any other type of image. We invite you to let us know what you come up with. We would love to digitalize it and promote it as part of an exhibition that will be shown in Uganda and the Netherlands and possibly also in our publication series Ebifananyi. If you are willing to invest some serious time in this project, then the residency offered by 32[deg] east in collaboration with HIPUganda might be for you. Send a short proposal to the address in the call, and we hope to see you and the work you make this June/July/August.