HIPUganda weekly, September 19-25 2016, No Photo Needed.

This week’s most popular post is that of men signing a contract. It is an important contract. Obviously. 16 million was involved, and the construction of a warehouse.

The legally binding status of a signature always puzzles me. It is ink on paper, and, as far as I’m concerned first of all a motion of distrust. And a means of establishing and confirming authority and power. When a photograph is made of the signing, then it gets really serious. If the names of the men alone would not be enough to tell us that we are here dealing with different groups of people, one black Ugandan (on behalf of the government), one Ugandan Asian (‘for the project’), the photograph would. The men are seated on a long table, in different groups. This gathering should have led to the construction of a warehouse in Nakawa. Was it constructed? Were these men among those who left Uganda as part of the expulsion of asians half a year later?

Not only the construction of warehouses and substantial money exchanges related to it are signed upon in contracts. Also colonial agreements are made this way. The first famous one in the history of Uganda is the Buganda agreement. We do not know of any photographs of the event, even though the camera was not an unknown guest at occasions with colonial officers and Ugandan chiefs, as shown in books (such as The Baganda at home for instance) that were published in the UK around the time the contract was signed. Or in photographs like this one in the collection of the Ham Mukasa Foundation.

The Buganda agreement was signed by 8 chiefs (2 of them with an x mark) and H.H. Johnston. All of the chiefs clearly benefited from the agreement. The Kabaka, Daudi Chwa, was still a small child, and his regents who were ruling the country, were among the chiefs signing the contract. Solid enough. No Photo needed.

The signing of the 1955 agreement, that allowed Daudi Chwa’s son Kabaka Muteesa II to return to his post and ended ‘the Kabaka crisis’ was photographed. And a print that event is part of the images that are part of the online database of Makerere University. This brings up a whole other issue. The photograph is found when doing a google image search of ‘Buganda Agreement’, and can be downloaded in a reasonable resolution. But the database itself is, as many of its sort, set up to find what one already knows. That is fine when it is a relatively famous event such as this one. But may be more problematic when browsing in order to find what one did not know one was looking for is concerned.

Even though quite often it is photographs that refer these relatively famous moments and/or figures that receive your likes and are shared by you, we continue to build a collection in which we hope that particularly what is not yet known can be found.

Onward to the next week…

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