Thought and Ideas
Preserving Uganda’s rich history through photojournalism
Posted Sunday, July 22 2012 at 01:00
Hectic venture. Since last year, in January, I have undertaken a venture to compile a record of the physical appearance of Uganda. I am trying to compile and preserve the social and economic geography of the country through photographs. It is something I regard as more important even than the writing I do in the media. Very interesting what I have learnt so far.
Two weeks ago, I started putting samples of those photos on the international photo-publishing and “photo-sharing” website Flickr. (The terms “sharing” on the Internet has acquired the connotations of idle gossip and the low-brow, fun-filled, “unserious” atmosphere of “social media”, which is why I use the term “photo-sharing reluctantly).
My photographs are here: www.flickr.com/photos/timothykalyegira
Photos, as the cliché goes, tell a story better than a thousand words and that’s what the Uganda photos tell. It is a country in decay for most part in the urban centres. What were once tarmac have been reduced to murram roads. Of course there are potholes in many places. Many roads that still have tarmac have their edges being eaten into by murram.
Most of the residents of the capital city, Kampala, live in undignified surroundings and even those in what still pass for upscale, live awkwardly in good houses surrounded by garbage or shanty areas.
These are mainly the photos from the countryside, although it is a struggle to find something beautiful to take of Busia town. Which is a shame, because Busia serves as one of two main import and trading entry points into Uganda via its eastern border with Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa. There is no reason Busia should have to be impoverished.
The sorry state of Busia lends weight to the argument of those like the Uganda Federal Alliance who advocate the majority of tax collections remaining at the source district or town of these tax revenues.
Perhaps the only hope is that most of physical Uganda is still intact. Whole kilometers of the countryside lie idle and untouched. Some of the photographs I’ve taken make Uganda look unbelievably (and deceptively, some might say) beautiful.
It would have been much worse if Uganda had been an already developed country and what has happened to Kampala happened to the whole country.
Considering the utter mess Kampala City is in, the new authorities at KCCA have made a heroic mess of trying to sort out the city, at least part of the central business district.
There is an unfamiliar sight of street lights and the decision to remove vendors and market people from the streets has had an effect in reducing to a degree the street congestion.
There is still an impossibly long way to go, but what the last one year shows so far is a glimpse into the future for those who like to think positively. It shows what the city might start to look like one day when real political change takes place in Uganda and we have a government and public administrators who work for the society.
Jinja Town is much like Kampala. While the Main Street and main business lanes and premises in the centre of town have that worn-out, rusty look, the nearer one gets to the River Nile and Lake Victoria, the more one sees green and relatively untouched land.
Fort Portal is the reverse of Jinja. The business lanes and pockets in the town look like the Asian premises they were in the 1960s while the main public administration area (the “Boma”) is one of the best looking parts of any in Uganda.
I was in Bundibugo in 1992 and saw one of the most beautiful parts of Uganda. Bundibugyo is the nearest thing to Zanzibar that Uganda has. I have also been told of great beauty in Kapchorwa by those who have been there and have seen photos of the Pakwach area of north-east Uganda.
The beauty in the countryside
If what I saw in these photos of Pakwach by European tourists is what Pakwach looks like, then I start to feel Pakwach might be even more beautiful than Bundibugyo.