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ART: Diving into the deep

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History in Progress Uganda (HIPU), the historic photograph collecting and publishing team has published yet another archive. Once again it is from St. Mary’s College Kisubi, one of the most prestigious schools in Uganda, writes Dominic Muwanguzi.

Titled ` Dive into the Deep: Ebifananyi 6’, it is a sequel to Ebifananyi 1, and documents the journey undertaken by the founders of Kisubi; missionaries from Montreal, Canada who arrived in Buganda in the 1940s and the impact they have had since.

A black and white photograph of a small lone boat sailing on the waters and inching towards the mainland is the start of the journey of the Brothers of Christian Instructions launching deep into Uganda.

The book shows the Brothers journey from their homeland, the activities that they undertook during their setup in their new destination, Kisubi, and the etymological collection.

Another photo of a butterfly collection now stored now in the College library is a metaphor “for butterflies you get when you are finally accepting of who you are, where you are coming from”.

History in Progress Uganda releases another exciting archive

All the black and white photographs that are published in the book speak of the colonial influence on the locals, the piousness and obedience associated with Catholics and the smartness and academic excellence emphasised by the missionaries.

Images of African young boys dressed in knee-length Khaki shorts and white shirts standing upright, as if propped up by unbendable rods, attest to a tradition of moral unrighteousness.

The archive also brings to light one of the darkest memories of the school: the 1964 road accident that claimed 12 lives of students as they returned from a football competition. This tragic experience as highlighted in the book with photographs, poetry and cut-outs from magazines of the time, suggest the political tension in the post-colonial government of Prime Minister Milton Obote and President Frederick Mutesa II, who was also the Kabaka of Buganda kingdom.

The Kisubi archive has been re-worked and given a contemporary feel in terms of a published book, juxtaposing of old and new photographs in the same publication, and displaying the archive in contemporary public space. All are examples of the marriage between the traditional and contemporary in the contemporary visual arts. The innovation reveals the deep research and study of the subject matter.

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In this way, `Ebifananyi 6’ goes beyond being a an archive of St. Mary’s College Kisubi and becomes a showcase and documentation of Uganda’s history told through the most potent medium that is photography.

Like the other series of the book, `Ebifananyi 6’ seeks to stimulate dialogue on the issue of legitimacy of photograph within the visual arts, revisit the social and political terrain of Uganda and emphasise the notion of documentation through old photographs.

History in Progress is a collaborative project between Andrea Stultiens from the Netherlands and Ugandan photographer Canon Rumanzi. Images are courtesy of History in Progress Uganda.

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