This weeks most popular post is, just like our all time most popular post to date, a photograph including Idi Amin. A couple of years ago we had a juice with Ssalongo Jaffar Amin, one of the sons of… He was interested in what HIPUganda is trying to do, and gave us a valuable piece of advise. ‘You have to be careful that Idi Amin does not take over your page.’
These were, looking at the statistics, wise words. The trauma and painful memories of Amin’s regime live on. As does the admiration for some of his ideas and policies. Photographs we share seem to provide some an opportunity to voice sentiments connected to either way of thinking back to what the 1970s brought Uganda. Amin’s fame and infame leads, judging from likes and shares of photographs including or related to him, to level of recognition and/or identification of/with what is shown.
To indeed prevent HIPUganda from being taken over by Idi Amin, the focus of this post now shifts to the two other individuals identified in or with the photo, and explores how they can be remembered anno 2016, with a little help from google.
The photograph at the top of this post was made on the occasion of a visit of the Chinese embassy’s staff to Uganda, including their new Head Of Mission, ambassador ‘mr. Ke Pu-Hai’ and published in the Voice of Uganda April 1972. Idi Amin appears on almost every front page of the state news paper throughout his reign in a wide variety of setting and accompanied by a wide range of people. Rather curious, if not funny is the difference between the rather big Ugandan statesman and the Chinese nationals around him. The Ugandan ministers are on the edges of the group, and I have to force myself to look at them to really notice them. Idi Amin’s military outfit holds a middle ground between the western suits worn by his ministers and the Mao suits worn by the Chinese.
Googling the former ambassador does not lead me anywhere other than our own post on Facebook including his name. That does not mean he cannot be found of course, but merely that a search made in Uganda, using the Latin writing system and not the Chinese alphabet, is not productive here.
Different from most of the other photographs that can be found in the UgandaNewsPictures_1972 file, this one is credited. The name with the photograph is Jimmy Parma. Parma is a place in Italy. I like its ham. This does not give us any certainty about Jimmy’s nationality. I would love to find out though, tips are welcome as always (the comments section of our website has issues, so please use mail or Facebook to reach me). But for now I am tempted to follow two leads that make me conclude that this photographer was not a Ugandan.
Next to the connotations his name holds, there is the phenomenon of the credited photo.
If Parma was trained outside of Uganda chances are be bigger that he was making a point of being credited than would be the case had he been Ugandan. I know this is a generalisation, but we can, by looking through historical and even contemporary Ugandan news papers, be sure that crediting of photographers was and is not a common practice. And neither, as recently confirmed at a round table discussion with a variety of Ugandan photographers and news paper picture editors, is an appreciation of the authorship of photographers that would naturally lead to their names being mentioned.
While we are told in one of the first links of the google search on Jimmy Parma, that he was ‘a famous photographer’ his fame seems to be based on one particular photo. A photograph that got him killed. A photograph I cannot find online, but that he supposedly sold to ‘a South African newspaper’ showing a ‘half burned body’, resulting in his own body being ‘riddled with bullets and lacerated by knife wounds’. A photograph of Dora Bloch, one of the passengers of the plane that was famously hijacked in 1976, leading to the Entebbe raid.
The appearance of this photograph indicates that he was working for the Voice of Uganda. But sources do not agree on in what capacity. One book tells us that he was a freelancer. Somewhere else Parma was ‘the chief photographer in the Uganda ministry of information’. And that his body was ‘tied up and bundled into the boot of a car’ and later, in a mutilated state, found in Namanve forest, where he earlier had photographed Bloch’s remains.
The raid was recently commemorated in Uganda in a way that should (continue) to make us think of who is remembered and how…
(n.b. after writing the above I spoke to Elly Rwakoma, who was working as a freelancer for The Voice of Uganda at the same time as Parma. Elly did not know Parma personally, but he did know of him and confirmed that he was not Uganda)