Candid: Katanga through the lens

Saturday August 27 2011

Main photo. Sherry Semakula, popularly known as Mama Mayor, admires herself and left, the different sights of ‘Mu Katanga’ photo exhibition by Arthur Kisitu.

Main photo. Sherry Semakula, popularly known as Mama Mayor, admires herself and left, the different sights of ‘Mu Katanga’ photo exhibition by Arthur Kisitu. PHOTOS BY EDGAR R. BATTE 

By Edgar R Batte

The photographs were pegged on wires that ran across the rooftop of one of the oldest permanent structures. From a distance, it looked like a clothes line, but on moving closer, the distinct images captured by the camera lens gripped you.

The photographs are intense and distinct. They would fit perfectly in elaborate frames on the walls of a hall in one of the city’s lavish hotels where the guests would sip from their wine glasses as they made the rounds, taking time to share their elite observations. But no, this exhibition, like its name ‘Mu Katanga’ highlights, happened in Katanga slum. We didn’t toast to champagne, but sipped on good Ugandan tea and nibbled on pancakes made by locals from the slum.

‘Mu Katanga’ is a tale of life in Katanga, using the camera lens to divulge the lives of its residents and contribute to positively impacting their lives. The nine photographers who participated in the exhibition created a bond with the residents by becoming part of their lives through constant interaction to tell the story from within.

They penetrated the lives and homes of their subjects, portraying their souls in their photography and capturing the most vivid moments. The exhibition was born out of a workshop on photography whose focus was on the collaborative aspect of documentary photography held by Bayimba Cultural Foundation from August 8 to 19.

The requirement
“Each photographer was required to connect with a specific person or a small group of people, and commit him or herself to telling the story of that person or group,” Arthur Kisitu, the brain behind the project, explained.

With Katanga’s Busia Zone as the site, the photographers who included Thomas Bjornskau, Paul Lumala, Daniel Gilbert Bwette, Canon Rumanzi, Joel Atiku, Jamie Marvis, Verone Atukunda and Douglas Aaron Musunga used their professional skills to come up with a strategy to tell the story in a surprising, visually interesting and respectful way.

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Kisitu, who had rented a house in the slum for two years, used this platform to further his passion. “I would like to help the people of Katanga within my own measure. I started by looking at the life in a small square between houses in the area and later from an elevated, slightly distanced viewpoint from which I used a long lens to capture the scenes,” he revealed.
Later, Kisitu decided he needed to work with the people he was looking at. He was joined by Irene Sinou with whom he has captured videos and taken photographs that document the life of the residents.

Faisal Kiweewa, director of Bayimba, Cultural Foundation said the exhibition is part of their workshops meant to stimulate the creativity of artists and enhance their skills. The workshop was supervised by international photographer Andrea Stultiens who published “The Kaddu Wasswa Archive, a visual biography” last year.

The photographers hope to create awareness of the conditions in the slums over a period of time as a channel for intervention from the different stake holders.

rbatte@ug.nationmedia.com

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