Ham Mukasa’s 1902 home and more
The NARO headquarters are one example in Entebbe.There is also the Bugonga Church in Entebbe which was built in 1902. This is perhaps the earliest permanent Catholic Church in Uganda as it features a spot where the first Catholic missionaries camped and prepared for their meeting with Kabaka Muteesa I in 1899.
Some of the listed historical buildings in Kampala include the Treasury Building, Parliament, the Museum, the Post Offices, and many others that are privately owned.
Others are the home of Ham Mukasa, a leading politician, intellectual and ethnographer which was built in 1902. Ham Mukasa’s house showcases the architectural style of the colonial period with its colonnades, entrance steps, and red corrugated sheets.
Dr. Albert Cook’s House built around the 1920s is another historic house that still stands today. Dr. Cook, respected as the pioneer of modern medicine in Uganda, arrived in the country in 1896 and started medical work soon after. It is on these premises that Kabaka Muteesa II was born in 1924.
There is St. Paul’s Cathedral atop Namirembe Hill built around 1919, the Bank of Uganda, the National Theatre, the Watoto Church building and Bulange— the seat of Parliament and administrative offices for the Buganda Kingdom whose design is inspired by the Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland.
The stories behind each heritage are told in a photographic book, titled “Beyond the Reeds and Bricks: Historical Sites and Buildings in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe.” It showcases in glossy format with exclusive pictures the legacy of pre-colonial kingdoms, the introduction of western education, medicine and religions, the growth of commerce and industry, right through to Uganda’s struggles for a new independent identity.
Set over eight chapters, the book features at least 60 buildings in the three towns, representing Uganda’s architectural history, covering the pre-colonial era and post-independence Uganda. Annotated maps detail the historical buildings and sites for each of the three cities. A mobile app, “Uganda’s Built Heritage” has been added digitalizing the content for easy smart devise use.
“These are places where something happened, or places where important people have lived or places with architectural merit or unique qualities,” says Emily Drani, the executive director of the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda. She says recognising what past society has done is a practice that exists world over.
“When you go to France or Italy, you will see buildings that are really old but have been preserved and are very much respected by the people in those countries,” she says.
Drani says in Uganda’s case, many more insignificant but important buildings are not even known by the leaders in those cities.
Drani says in the cities where the project took place, some of the leaders were not aware of some of the wealth and assets that are within their mandate.
However, she says, whenever the researchers explained why it is important to protect these sites, “there was a marked change in attitude.”
“It is a matter of education and publicity and making sure that Ugandans not only realise that this is a resource for tourism but it is also part of our identity.”
Drani says the loss of historic sites means a lost connection with a shared past, and a risk of losing those unique features which distinguish Ugandan cities.
She says although Uganda is gifted with diverse cultural, natural and built heritage, urbanisation, rapid population growth and the pressing drive for modernity have created a constant demand for new, high-density development. Most of the new development is on plots which are already occupied by historical buildings and sites.