HIPUganda weekly, August 1-7, 'Apolo's face again' and again.

This weeks most seen HIPUganda Facebook post is a set of two images, relating to Apolo Kivebulaye.

It is easy to find out more about the protagonist of the photos. His life was a success story that missionaries, judging from the biographies published on him, loved to tell. The ultra short, and from a Muganda perspective probably pretty offensive, version of it on Wikipedia reads like one of the born again stories I heard over the years. One has to come from the worst place, to arrive at what is supposedly the best: Apolo Kivebulaye ‘was born, along with a twin brother, in 1864 in Kiwanda, Uganda. His parents originally named him Waswa Munubi. Waswa grew up the son of peasants who apprenticed him to a witch doctor, but when he discovered the man tricking people out of their possessions, he left him to learn about Islam, which had been recently brought to the chief Kabaka Mutesa’s court by Arab traders.’

One of the two versions of Apolo’s bio on the Dictionary of African Christianity Biography add that ‘Before becoming a Christian, Apolo was a Muslim soldier against the Christians. He was also an avid hemp smoker.‘ The other version of the bio in the same Dictionary tells us that ‘Apolo Kivebulaya was born in the district of Singo of the Buganda kingdom around 1864. His mother was Nalongo Tezira Singabadda of the Ngabi clan, and his father was Samweri Salongo Kisawuzi of the Nvuma clan. As a set of twins, he was given the traditional name of Waswa. It seems that his fellow twin died in early childhood. Despite being raised Muslim, Apolo converted to Christianity and affiliated with the Protestant faction at some point during Buganda’s Religious Wars (1888 to 1892). After service as a soldier and a foreman of roadwork, he was baptized in January 1895 at which time he chose the baptismal name Apolo.’ The self chosen name Apolo does not refer to the Greek and Roman god who ‘became associated with dominion over colonists‘, but with the Christian Apollos who ‘played an important role in the early development of the churches of Ephesus and Corinth‘.

Photographed versions of Apolo have crossed our path several times over the years. In most cases he was identified as the man he was. But the person who made the album that is now part of the collection of the Uganda Society did not. The album seems to be a blend of photographs made by various colonials. Sometimes their names are mentioned, either as the photographer or as the person on the photograph. The only two Ugandans who are named beyond the group they belong to is Mutesa (I), whose ‘tomb’ was photographed. And Sekibobo Ham Mukasa. Both photographs disappeared from the album though, leaving a caption with a damaged piece of paper to project our imagination onto, while Apolo Kibebulaye is made into an anonymous ‘old Muganda’.

But this photograph – and here is my imagination at work – could just be the one that this (another!) ‘old man’, saw when he sighed ‘Apolo’s face again’.

Or maybe it he was looking at the image below that was printed (also) as a postcard.

When I first saw the image I did not know who or what ‘A.T.S.’ was, mentioned at the bottom right side of the card. So I referred to ‘him’ as the publisher of the card.

I now know, thanks to our collaboration with the Africana section of Makerere University Library, that A.T.S. is Dr. A.T. Schofield. Photography seems to have been a serious thing in his life, next to his tasks as a doctor. Prints of his images showed up (see this, and this and this one) in the Ham Mukasa family collection. The two families were on friendly terms, and Ham Mukasa and Dr. Schofield shared an interest in ethnography.

It is no surprise then that another version Apolo’s face appears on a negative in box 6 of Makerere’s Schofield/Fisher collection. In this box we find images related to the Church of Uganda, with a variety of images made in and of Namirembe Cathedral, and several of the religious leaders photographed in front of the church. Apolo is photographed in front of a building that we think is part of Mengo hospital. Could this be done on the occasion mentioned by Rev. L. Timothy Manarin, the visit to Kampala in March of 1933, when ‘a medical examination showed that Apolo was suffering from a heart problem.’ Could this be the last time Apolo’s face was duplicated? Since he decided, against hist doctor’s wishes ‘to make the long and arduous trip back to Mboga to end his days where he had ministered for so long.’ And ‘after completing the journey, […] died on May 30.’

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