Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Watoto Church has been asked to preserve aspects of the original Norman Gordino building occupying part of Kampala Road and Buganda Road, in the heart of Kampala.
Conservationists like Cross-Cultural Heritage Centre, (CCFU), Historic Resource Conservation Initiatives (HRCI) and Perfect Events Ltd have called for the preservation of the Watoto Church Building built in the 1940s by the Indian businessman; Norman Godinho and housed Norman, the first Cinema hall in Kampala. The building also hosted the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) delegates Conference of 1980 that saw Dr Apollo Milton Obote elected unopposed as the Party President.
But, the management of Watoto Church is planning to put up a modern structure, in a project which involves demolishing the old building. The new structure will have a modern building which will comprise of a conference centre to sit over 2,100 people, ample institutional space, youth-related function’s space, retail space and a fully dealt in 50 key, 3-star hotel with all functions for business and recreation.
However, conservationists want the management of Watoto Church to develop the area without demolishing the historic building. Principal Tourism Officer Vivian Lyazi told URN in an interview that the best way to handle the situation is to either preserve some aspects of the building and or maintain the original design in a modernistic design.
Lyazi says, for instance, the Frontal façade of the building could be conserved or even modernized as the inside structure is being repurposed, or the building can be reconstructed but with the same design, so that it is not completely lost in the new development. He says that although development comes with remodelling, there should be a balance between the two, developing the place and maintaining parts of the old structure.
He says officials from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the Uganda National Museum were holding talks to save the historical aspects of the building. He added that the Tourism Ministry was also engaging local Governments to gazette the historical buildings as cultural and historic sites.
Earlier Emily Drani, the Executive Director of the Cross-Cultural Heritage Centre launched a campaign dubbed “Don’t Demolish Our Heritage” and #SaveWatotoChurch”. As part of the campaign, she asks Watoto Church to review its development plan to preserve the architectural uniqueness of the site, adding that the interior of the building can be modified to accommodate and adaptively re-use the building but the outside should be left intact.
Drani added that the government should list the building as one of the important historical monuments in Uganda reflecting the evolution of social life and performing arts. She says the building has cultural heritage significance and tells part of Uganda’s political history and as such should be developed as one of the unique features of Kampala that can even attract tourists.
Rose Mwanja Nkaale, the Commissioner Museum and Monuments at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, said they were engaging Watoto to see how they can redevelop the premises without destroying its cultural heritage.