Topographies of Freedom. Photography and Visual Literacy for Active Citizenship

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Edited by Anna Kućma and Stella Nantongo Layout: Ivan Barigye Photographs: George Mutambuka and Stuart Tibaweswa Printer: MPK Graphics © February 2021. All rights reserved. All images and texts are subject to copyright and remain the property of their authors. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission. This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of FOTEA Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. |


Photography and Visual Literacy for Active Citizenship is a programme developed by FOTEA Foundation in collaboration with the Makerere University Department of Journalism and Communication (DJC) with the goal of expanding photography education as provided to DJC students. Participants took part in a series of in-depth workshops, lectures and talks and presented their resulting work to the public in an exhibition at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The focus of the programme has been to develop visual literacy skills, critical and creative thinking, project research and idea development techniques as well as to encourage learning about the history of photography on the African continent. It also encompassed technical skills and encouraged participants to engage with their history and archives, and to work on projects documenting local communities and looking into cultural, political and social issues. We believe that visual education really matters, and so we were thrilled to be able to approach it in a new and creative way. My gratitude and appreciation go to our partners at DJC, in particular to Dr. Fred Kakooza, Dr. William Tayeebwa and Dr. Aisha Sembatya Nakiwala. Furthermore, I would like to thank our trainers who have supported us in this project despite the extraordinary circumstances of the past year. Nikissi Serumaga, Solomon King Benge, Will Boase, Sumy Sadurni, Giovanni Okot, R. Canon Griffin, Jim Joel Nyakaana and Edward Echwalu - thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience! I’m grateful too to our sponsors, a consortium of eight African, European and international partners who joined forces with the European Union to create new opportunities for the promotion of intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity in urban and peri-urban areas in Africa as drivers for social inclusion and sustainable human development, under the Culture at Work Africa: Promoting the Public Value of Intercultural Dialogue for Social Cohesion in Urban Africa Programme. And of course my special thanks go to all the wonderful students who participated in this program with such talent and enthusiasm. Despite a truly unprecedented year, and despite conditions which have been at best unfavourable and at times unworkable, the students created remarkable and memorable work and we hope you enjoy looking at the selected works as much as we enjoyed the process of creating them. Anna Kućma | Director, FOTEA Foundation

LEARNING THE BASICS People who can’t read images will always struggle to engage critically with them, and good journalism is as much about how it’s read as how it’s written. Students from the Bachelors Degrees in Journalism and Communication and in Fine Arts at Makerere University took part in workshops in Visual Literacy, Critical Thinking and Research Methodologies and they critically engaged with histories of photography and varied photography practices on the African continent. This series of meetings and conversations laid the groundwork for the rest of the programme.

NOTES FROM LOCKDOWN The next step on our journey was to re-establish and reinforce our students’ basic photography skills and storytelling techniques. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to make changes in the programming and this workshop took place just at the end of Uganda’s COVID lockdown which was one of the most restrictive in the world, lasting from the end of March until May 2020. The pandemic dominated the minds of the world and our students, and the restrictions placed by the state meant that options for topics were limited. So, with movement limited and a curfew in place, the students turned their cameras and smartphones on their nearest surroundings. Photo essays explored a diverse, occasionally lighthearted range of topics including how the pandemic has resulted in unemployment for young men like Louis, 28, a new father from Kibera in Nairobi, and the adventures of children like 12-year old Vernon, who spends his days becoming creative with cardboard and welcoming the absence of ‘school stress’. Here we are sharing a few of the selected stories from the students.

KIDS IN LOCKDOWN | VANESSA MULONDO “Lockdown has been fun. I’ve learnt new stuff like cooking and making things with cardboard boxes. Sometimes it has also been boring, somedays there’s nothing to do and you just feel like sleeping. I know the reason we are having this lockdown is because the coronavirus is a deadly disease and we need to stop the spread of it because many people have lost their lives due to it. It has made me feel anxious because I’m wondering when it will stop and I’m tired of going through this lockdown. I’m only happy because I don’t have to be so stressed about school“ - Vernon, 12 years old.

ESCAPING LOCKDOWN | BLAIR DAVIS MUGUME What would you do if you were stuck in the confines of a single location or space for an unknown period of time? Following the global coronavirus pandemic, Uganda imposed a lockdown on many activities. With schools closed and students stuck at home, a group of young people living on Lubya Hill in Kampala dreamt up an escape plan. Armed with passion and driven by a need to escape this unfamiliar situation, they re-united their dance crew after a four-year hiatus and danced the lockdown away, crafting choreographies almost every day. With this project, I hope to take a look at how these young people, so accustomed to mobility and freedom, have dealt with life in the confines of a single place.

LOUIS | EDWIN OBLAK For many people social distance is a luxury they cannot afford. Residents in informal settlements like Kibera rely on daily incomes that often do not exceed $2 on average, and they live in very close proximity to their neighbours because, simply put, space costs money. This photo essay explores the impact of COVID-19 on the life of 28-year-old Louis Ooko, a young man living in Kibera. In normal times Louis works as a mason but with the lockdown, he has been stuck at home with only his threemonth-old daughter, Angie, for company. While he struggles with worries relating to the lack of work, he spends time with her, or plays video games to pass the time. “My daughter gives me happiness, and at a time like this I would be struggling with depression, but just by seeing her it gives me hope of a better tomorrow,”says Louis.

HAND WASHING SYSTEMS IN KAMPALA | NYISOMEH ANNA As public places started running out of hand sanitiser, hand washing systems became the next best thing and were taken up. There are so many varieties; some permanent, some working, others completely out of use. This photo essay is a simple typology of the different hand washing systems around town and what they look like, for those that have adapted this more permanent system that provides a higher protection than their hand sanitiser counterpart.

VILLAGE RADIO | MUNGERE PETER MUBIRU A photo essay exploring how children study using radio. Schools have remained closed for many months as a result of measures introduced by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19, and both parents and students had to adjust to a new reality for homeschooling. One such innovation was radio-based lessons, which students are expected to tune in to and study from as if they were in school.

WE ARE FACING A HARD TIME! | PENINAH NAMWANGA The story explores the hard time that pupils and mothers are going through as they attempt to follow the home learning curriculum instituted by the Ministry of Education in Uganda to ensure that students continued to follow classes despite their schools being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SPECIAL TREES IN BUGANDA AND THEIR HISTORY | JACKSON SEWANAYA In my project I’m taking a look at the Special Trees in Buganda Culture, the norms and values attached to them in the interest of their preservation. Unlike nowadays, where the Ugandan government is at war with its citizens over respecting environmental rules and regulations, elderly people say that back in a day their traditional norms and beliefs were loyally observed by everyone. Therefore, some believe that if these norms were to be revived, modified and promoted by the government, they will play a key role in protecting the environment. In my survey I’m looking specifically at Jjirikiti tree (known as Graveyard for Dogs), Mvule tree (known for being a host for ghosts & spirits), Mutuba tree (source of barkcloth), Mwoloola tree (used for purifying and safeguarding babies from misfortunes), Kabakaanjagala tree (planted along roadsides where the Kabaka - King passes), Mugavu tree (fantastic timber), Musambya tree (planted on the extreme ends of peoples’ land or kibanja to separate it from that of their neighbors) and Muyembe tree (Mango tree).

ACTIVATING THE ARCHIVES By exploring different materials and experimenting with techniques, lens-based works can break out of their normal frame to express deeper views and make statements about the world around or within us. Archival photography, in particular press and official images which lie in libraries and families’ personal archives and albums, offer unique insights and can be interpreted critically. The series’ created here are inspired by the histories of Uganda and Ugandans, whether exploring the construction of self from past personal snapshots or scanning successive Ugandan leaders’ statements on presidential power over the decades.

TIME: A PHOTO AS A GHOST | CLAIRE ZERIDA BALUNGI “Time: A photo as a ghost” is a poetic expression of static stories in photographs brought to life. In this project I use my own photo archives to explain how time tampers with the life of a photograph. It gives the photo an afterlife; once the snap is taken the person in the photo ceases to be us in our complete form, and becomes a ghost. The project is inspired by Roland Barthes’ Reflections on Photography in Camera Lucida. He writes: “A photo always carries its referent with itself, both affected by the same amorous or funereal immobility, at the very heart of the moving world.” I use a timeline of my ghosts (read photographs) from childhood to the present to activate the lives of these forgotten things that tell a story of who I am. With this, I seek to encourage the viewer to store and remember to bring their stories to life through the artistic expression of photos; whether vernacular or professional, photography remains an art of expression. Towards the end is a screenshot of a tweet I make on 08.06.2020 upon the realisation that we’re indeed not the people in the photographs, it’s just a part of us; the ghosts of us. The tweet is symbolic of the changing times and the development of media. We probably have so much to say, but on this particular platform, I can only use few words to express my realizations. And on this day, I had this to say, “The photo; in your wedding frame, the faded Kodak in an old album, a selfie for today or the photo you’ll never take…It tells us who we are, what we might become, but, in these photos, we’re not there.” I make an appeal to the world to keep our ghosts… to activate them, for we’re incomplete without them. This lends itself to the discipline of conservation. How else to tell the story of our journeys than through photos; our own ghosts. They were with us. They are with us.

OBOTE DECONSTRUCTED AND GOLDEN SILHOUETTES | PHILIP PETER KAIRU My artwork explores unlikely situations in history based on archival material related to politics, health, freedom, and education. These political topics are highlighted by influential political figures like Apollo Milton Obote and Idi Amin Dada. Milton Obote (1962-1966, 1980-1985) and Idi Amin (1971-1979) were both former Presidents of the Republic of Uganda, and their histories are intertwined and bound by their mutual desire for power. The two figures are used as motifs all through the artwork, with the deconstruction of Milton Obote’s face as the general mood and inspiration of the entire artwork. My desire was to propagate archives of text and imagery to represent different scenarios of themes and personalities surfacing in the artwork as one, interacting, supporting, and silently conversing with perfect representations of their actual selves from the past.

LIFE I AND LIFE II Women, faith, religion and inclusion: Life I is a mixed media art work inspired by articles on the role of women in the Uganda Martyrs’ story and the use of my family archives to fill the gaps on care, motherly love, and nurturing from childhood to adulthood with inclusion of a few of the many Martyrs such as Achilleus Kiwanuka and Adolofu Mukasa Ludigo. Princess Clara Catherine Nalumansi, Rebecca Magali, Rachel Sebuliba, Sara Nakima, Malyamu Mukasa, Fanny Mubulire, and Ketula were among the first female Christian converts according to a number of articles including Uganda Martyrs: Place and Role of Women, by Olivia Nassaka Banja and The Life of A Female Martyr, an article in Uganda’s Daily Monitor. There is much to think about the role women played in the story of the Uganda Martyrs. Life II is an art work where the application of shadows on to my family archives on child care, motherhood and upbringing is inspired by my previous approach to the first artwork of the series. The absence of scenes within the original picture is the idea behind what was written and gives room to captions of stories as acquired from an article by Olivia Nassaka Banja.

TRANSCEND THROUGH TIME IN STYLE | VANESSA MULONDO The evolution of how Buganda’s Royals appeared in imagery throughout the years, with a focus on their dress style, and the accessories and objects placed to accentuate their photos. I focused on what their pictures said about them and the culture of Buganda. I also carried out research to find out the people that influenced their style, dressing and pose. I explored how the arrival of the colonialists influenced how the Royals appeared, what they wore and as time went by, why some Kings decided to adopt a more British or western style of dressing, and lean more towards the kind of British Royal appearance. In some images, you can see that some of the Kings are casually dressed like Muteesa I and Mutebi. Did some of the Kings decide to take certain images in order to make themselves more relatable to the people, did they take images with certain objects and in such a manner to express their personality or character, to show who they are and their interests? And when it comes to the Queens and princesses, there’s a lot of information in the details. The Queens of Buganda are not put at the same level as the King- they are either in the background or are not part of the picture altogether. They have also adopted the western kind of dressing. For example, the current Nnabagereka, wears a tiara in some of her pictures, which is not a historically Buganda symbol. The Queens adopted a western culture quickly, perhaps because not so much attention was given to them so it was easier for them to adopt the western style without being judged too much. It’s interesting to know how the Royals presented themselves in the past and how it evolved as time went by and who or what influenced the change and how different factors have determined the appearance of the Royals we see now today.


In 1987 the National Resistance Army magazine Tarehe Sita published a poem titled, “The Freedom Fighter of Luwero”. This was shortly after 1986 when the NRA had taken power in Uganda. Among other things in the magazine, I related in particular to the images that appeared on pages 15 and 18. My father, the late Captain Mohammed Kiwanuka, was one of the earliest recruits of the NRA. He was 19 years old when he set out to fight for the freedom of this land. He was from Luwero too, a true embodiment of the poem I saw in that magazine. My father is my hero. To activate the archives and tell his story and keep his name alive I made a photo collage of all his pictures taken while he served in the army. So this is it, a tribute to my dad, a tribute to my hero.

THE FREEDOM FIGHTER OF LUWERO Perhaps you saw him Passing in silence Silhouetted in darkness, Thin and hungry and disciplined. His resolution lived in silence Unimpressive. You saw him donned in tatters, his hair unkempt. Maybe you saw him in his ‘rugabile’ footwear. In his simplicity, you saw him Covering and protecting people The children, the old women, men, the peasants The wretched of the earth, But Kalashnikov AK-47 firm on his palm, Tirelessly treading the countryside with a noble mission to accomplish. Perhaps you heard him in Masindi, Kiboga, Kabamba Striking like lightning in tropical thunderstorms And sending tyrants in disarray with their tails on fire. On each passing day, new victories he achieved. More foes he vanquished and more allies he made. The freedom fighter of Luwero was, is, and will always be a power, An invincible power of the people.


Rather than time travel, let us travel politically. I compiled some of the available footage of Uganda’s past politicians, both presidents and popular opposition politicians, because many themes reoccur over time. The video compilation tells a story of serious matters in the history of Uganda with a little bit of satire. Some of the issues include elections, foreign relations, tribalism and other topics. They remain as relevant today as when they were recorded. The video starts by playing the many names of the first president of Uganda. That is followed by different clips from previous Ugandan presidents denying that they are interested in the job of leading Uganda. It is illuminating to see the repetitions of answers by different leaders to different interviewers in different eras. Uganda’s leaders seem to be dealing with similar issues from the past, for example accusations of ethnonationalism, whereby tribes accuse the state of favouring a particular ethnic group, especially in government positions. Milton Obote’s regime faced this problem and Yoweri Museveni has had to address it too. Watch and listen for yourself!

TRANSITION FROM NRA TO UPDF | ELVIS LUBANGA When the 1995 Constitution of Uganda was formulated, the National Resistance Army (NRA) was renamed the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). They had to then determine how this name change would affect their presentation and perception. In my work I use archival materials, both physical and digital to explore how communication and visual language influence how the army has been and is seen. I put my emphasis on the channels and content they choose and how they dealt with issues arising from their evolution from a rebellion to a state military.



DOCUMENTING DEMOCRACY As in previous years, the 2020 election season has been a precarious time for Uganda’s democracy, and the pandemic and the measures put in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19 making the situation even more charged. The government’s decision to pursue so-called scientific elections, with restrictions on in-person campaigning, meant it fell to the media to be thorough in their reporting and to show a balanced and unbiased view. There was thus a heightened importance of the role of media, and the need for more citizen participation in creating documentation to hold leaders accountable.

PANGS OF CHANGE | KATUMBA BADRU Musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, known popularly as Bobi Wine, was elected to Uganda’s Parliament in 2017 and quickly became a uniting figure for young people left behind by the country’s economic growth and ignored by the political class. His campaign style is easily relatable, talking about progressive policies and promising to tackle the many challenges facing the country’s youth. It was no surprise when last year he announced his intention to challenge the country’s incumbent, President Museveni, in the 2021 General Elections. Museveni has been in power since 1986, and his leadership has been blighted by widespread government corruption and ruthless suppression of his political opposition. In the country’s last presidential contest, in 2016, Kizza Besigye, his main opponent, was arrested on Election Day. Today, over 78% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, and Bobi Wine has been quick to realise that this young electorate is a powerful constituency. “Uganda is full of inequality and injustice, our leaders are turning a blind eye on whatever is going on. “I see hope in Bobi as someone who understands our problems such as unemployment, and everyday struggles. That’s why I choose to support him as the next president of my beloved country” said Denis Senono, 25, one of Bobi Wine’s supporters.

WE ARE HUMAN | STUART TIBAWESWA Many of Ugandan LGBTQ individuals have been victims of violence, social injustice, and discrimination, as well as abandonment by their families, leading them to live in fear of their lives with many of them in dire financial circumstances. As minorities, this story seeks to project their voices and views on democracy while highlighting their experiences of injustice in a year that Uganda goes into a presidential and parliamentary election. The community in Uganda has been yearning for their voice to be heard especially to the people in power and political leaders. Because of homophobic actions towards the community, with some of them coming from the political arena, I thought it was important for minority voices and experiences to be heard and expressed through photography, especially given the electoral panorama. This community hardly takes part in the process and as citizens they feel left out. This prompted me to include the documentation of exclusion in this long term project. “We Are Human’’ involved spending a lot of time with my collaborators in the LGBTQI community while listening and recording their voices. The experiences and stories they told me later informed the visual narrative, which included making their portraits within their safe spaces, which were mostly at their homes. I feel like this project is very significant because it puts a human face to individuals within this minority group and highlights their personal experiences of injustice and undemocratic rule.

THE POLITICS OF A SCIENTIFIC CAMPAIGN | BLAIR DAVIS MUGUME Can stakeholders strike a balance between the protection of both democratic and health rights of the citizens? On the 16th of June, 2020, the chairman of Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) announced the release of a revised election roadmap which proposed that all electoral processes be “scientific”. This would mean that any and all election-related activities would have to observe social distancing, in a bid to curb the growing spread of COVID-19 in the country. Political campaigns in Uganda typically feature spectacle, from huge crowds to processions through city centres, open air rallies, various theatrics and the need for proximity between candidates and voters. The EC argued that the ‘Scientific’ approach aligned with the Government’s health and safety measures aimed at safeguarding the people of Uganda and providing a free and healthy environment. Civil Organizations such as the Elder’s Forum and Opposition Stakeholders were more skeptical and continued to call for provisional regulations for the 2021 election, in order to reach a compromise between the democratic rights and public health of the citizens. By trailing Brian Atuheire Batenda, an opposition FDC candidate for MP in Kinkizi West, Kanungu District in South Western Uganda, this project by Blair Davis Mugume attempts to understand the intricacies and challenges involved in running an election campaign during a pandemic.

VOTE ME WHEN YOU SEE ME | NAIBI TURIHOHABWE The electoral poster. An equaliser in the often skewed electoral campaign process. Posters of aspiring candidates appear everywhere, in private residences and public spaces, reminding possible voters of the choice that awaits them at the polls. This a photo essay about how the population relates with these electoral posters. Some are treated with reverence, like shrines to be tended, while others are found glued to walls, alongside their rivals and stuck on any surface in any public place where passers-by might easily notice them. All photos were taken using a Redmi Note 7 smartphone within Kampala and its surrounding suburbs, in the month of November 2020.

AGENT OF DEMOCRACY | PHILIP PETER KAIRU Meet Bamulanzeki Timothy (24), a resident of Kisaasi-Bukoto, a suburb in Kampala. Timothy is a graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Land Use and Management from Makerere University, and a football player for the top-flight Maroons Football Club. He’s also Kikaaya Zone B Youth Chairperson, and served as the campaign manager to Namayanja Racheal as she ran for the seat of Local Council 3 (LC3) Women Councillor of Dungu Zone, Kikaaya Zone A and B. Timothy is a proud supporter of the National Unity Platform (NUP), which was founded in 2020. This project examines his participation in the democratic process, and how he uses the different facets of his life, as a Youth Chairperson, footballer, and campaign manager, to convince, network, interact, request for votes, and listen to voters.

POLITICIANS EYES. LET ME HELP YOU LEAD YOU | R. CANON GRIFFIN So, Democracy it is? Some have discouraged it all as a strange solemn charade, in a portmanteau - “DEMOCRAZY”. There you are, your picture on a poster, with promises, slogans, and vows. You want to help me? Lead me? I look into what your eyes are and I see other hungers. They must be in both of us since I recognise them. I will take the role of the dispassionate spectator, someone in loathing of the festivities of “democrazy” which tears out your face or plucks out just your eyes, nothing attached, your POLITICIAN EYES! What’s in those eyes? The hungers? Obviously! But what else? Comedy? Submissiveness? Confusion and mixed desparations? I see my former middle school prefect. The one who was so vigilantly vindictive, punitive, he will never let any slight slide. I see the “passive” king, the guy who taxes the fights and watches them from an unsafe distance, provided for by the taxes. Pictures don’t say any words. They show an image of something, images of things, and then you look at them and you generate the words. The context of these photos of pictures (election posters) is malleable. As malleable as it gets, one consistent thing in them is the confrontation with eyes. Before you know that they are politician eyes, they are eyes. With the ubiquity of photo retouching, photoshopping adds the limitations of photography or other drawing involved in making an election poster, the face you see isn’t even a face you ever meet. Thankfully, in this circus, some things are what they seem to be. Politician’s Eyes, with their blanket mandate: “Let Me Help You Lead You”. Behold.

ABOUT FOTEA FOUNDATION FOTEA Foundation was established in 2016 to provide a central point for the support, management and funding of a growing range of photographic projects. These include the Uganda Press Photo Award, the East African Photography Award, the Young Photographers’ Award and the Young Photographer Mentorship Programme. Alongside this FOTEA also organises photography and video workshops, portfolio reviews, public discussions, exhibitions and film screenings. Through this work we are committed to building a networked photographic community in East Africa. Outside of the UPPA, FOTEA focuses on visual education and works with students and early-career professionals and engages them as partners, encouraging them to look beyond the boundaries of the established media ecosystem and to develop ideas and approaches which address issues which they’re passionate about through photography. We believe that our collaborators have the right to shape and diversify the narratives of their societies, countries and continent, and that by equipping them with the tools to critically engage with the wider world we help them to build better futures. We also firmly believe in the downstream benefits of visual literacy and the essential nature of good visual education. People who can’t read images will always struggle to engage critically with them, and good journalism is as much about how it’s read as how it’s written. We are passionate about collaborations and are always looking for new partners from around and outside of the African continent. At present we are working with the African Photographic Society producing a series of conversations on photography titled TALK TALK TALK. We’re also involved in a photo project about China’s relationship with Africa with Paradox, a Dutch organisation, and we’ve partnered with 32º East | Uganda Arts Trust to work on #ThisisOurs, a project subtitled ‘Democratising Art Production and Participation’. Through all of this FOTEA strives to bring together photographers, visual storytellers and artists and encourage unique voices that document and engage with and reflect on social change.

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