HIPUganda weekly, June 27-July 3rd, Arches

This weeks most popular photograph is the reverse view of the photograph I wrote about in last week’s blog post. Same collection, street, same (Barclays) bank building, same arch. But the other side of the arch. This side does not celebrate ‘his excellentie General Idi Amin,’ but tells us that ‘Kampala City is jubilant on the rebirth of the 2nd republic of Uganda.’ This second republic was Idi Amin’s. Or so he claimed in a book he wrote about his first year as president.

This time the photograph made me think a bit more about this phenomenon of the arch. I took a dive into our collections and dug up a few more triumphant arches. Each one creates a frame within a frame, and reveals something about assumed power structures, about who and what is worth framing and being triumphant about, whether there were cameras around or not.

But there were. At least in these examples.

The Wood Family collection photograph seems to be the most recent one of those I managed to find. I’ll work my way back in time, as far as I can read of the available information.

Deo Kyakulagira’s image takes us to Entebbe road, probably around Kisubi. And back to 1969 when Pope Paul VI honoured Uganda with a visit. It was a well documented visit (of course).

Kyakulagira was a religious Catholic. He also was a photographer, running, at the time a studio in Kisubi. Probably he was also working for the ministry of agriculture in Entebbe. Images from both these sides of his professional practice can be found in the book we made about him.

Most of the images in Eng. M.W. Wambwa’s collection that we were able to digitise were made not long before or in the years following Uganda’s independence. One of these arches celebrates Obote’s UPC, the other one teleports general ‘UHURU greetings to us.

One step further back of course takes us back to the days of the Uganda Protectorate and a photograph that shows how part of the city was ‘framed’ to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953.

I had not given this phenomenon a lot of thought before looking up these photographs. But have seen quite a number of arches when driving through Buganda. The were all directly related to the Kingdom, and now make me wonder whether the ones we see on photographs were imported, suggested by colonials, or, as must have been the case here, built by the colonial administration. Could it be that they were building on traditions different from and older than the arrival of explorers and missionaries. Or should we think of them as a combination of the two? A triumph of acculturation, where one culture adopts aspects of another one and naturalises them.

The photographs I present here do not give an answer to this question. They cannot, since making photographs was first done by those same missionaries and explorers.

The oldest photograph I found on my weekly quest, was made by Rev. A.B. Fisher, and seems, thanks to the tree in the centre of the photograph, to have been built to celebrate Christmas. This picture was made around 1900 in Hoima. I am not completely sure that what can be seen on this photograph actually could be called a triumphant arche. Leave alon what and who it was celebrating. Mrs Fisher in her Victorian dress? Ot the people seated next to her, and their new religion, and the triumphs of the a missionary in Uganda.

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