HIPUganda weekly, September 26-October 2 2016, (We) The People

Last week there were two posts that got an equal amount of views on our Facebook page. Nothing spectacular really. An image with a missionary nature, and, of course, an Idi Amin image, published in the state newspaper. This week, however, we are working with a small group of photographers and filmers on an investigation on press photographs in Uganda and think that is much more exciting to tell you about.

During an initial meeting we; Zahara Abdul, Max Bwire, Badru Katumba, Irene Kimuli, Jim Joel and UPPA‘s Stella Nantongo and I made a list of historical events and phenomena we would like to look up in Uganda’s printed news media. Today we were hosted at the main library of Makerere University, and found ourselves completely emerged in the newspapers made available to us. We found lots of interesting images and articles we had no idea we were looking for. We found that some of the subjects we were interested in (the Uganda Railway) were barely visually present in the newspapers for instance. We of course saw presidents Obote and Amin, Kabakas, and looked at many fascinating advertisements, particularly for pre boda boda motorcycles and for still familiar beer brands (all to be shared with you sooner or later!).

Among the more pleasant surprises was the encounter with the 1966 issues of a weekly news paper that none of us had been aware of previously, and that we also cannot find additional information about online. Its name is ‘The People’, and it types itself as ‘The National Newspaper for, about and by Ugandans’. We have not yet looked in more detail at who these Ugandans are that made this newspaper, but are looking forward to following up.

The paper seems to be neutral in a political and ideological sense. It voices different, sometimes conflicting points of view next to each other. And it reflects on itself as a news medium quite regularly.

It also has a staff photographer who is given credit. This has been and is far from a given in Uganda where a cameraman is not seen as an author or co-author of the message(s) embedded in the produced (by the camera? By the man?) photographic images. We would love to get in touch with anyone who could tell us more about this photographer, named Alfred Odoy Asoka.

In the November 12 1966 issue of The People we found an article based on a lecture by Prof Ali Mazrui, delivered as part of a seminar titled ‘The Press in Africa – Is it dying?’ The article starts like this:

The article doesn’t mention the visual and photographic aspects of the newspapers. But if I allow myself to wander through the images seen today and shared from Ugandan printed news media earlier, it seems like the choices made with regards to the dilemma mentioned are clear. It was a nation that had to be created, rather than an intellectual heritage. And that nation had to be connected to strong and visible leaders, headed by an even stronger and more visible head of the nation. This means, among other things, that it will not take long before another HIPUganda weekly will have to be devoted to a photograph of a president who felt responsible for the building of the nation.

But for now we will let the published version of Mazrui’s text on the printed word in the press lead us, while we work towards a presentation of some of the photographs encountered today for next month’s UPPA exhibition. We select those photographs that we think deserve continued or renewed attention, in order to at least make their propagandistic nature apparent, or maybe, just maybe, even contribute to the creation of an intellectual heritage after all. Keeping the spirit of The People that we got a little taste of today alive.

Stay tuned for more information about the exhibition and the HIPUganda contribution to it.

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