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Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa

April 6, 2017
Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa Press Image 4 (1)

Matt Kayem’s interpretation of Stanley’s photograph, photographed by Andrea Stultiens (2016)

 Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa: An exhibition exploring the first photographic portrait made in Uganda. Makerere University Art Gallery/IHCR, April 14th – May 14th. Opening reception April 13th, 5pm.

From a letter, written by Henry Morton Stanley:

            Ulagalla, Mtesa’s Capital, Uganda, […] April 12th 1875

Mtesa is about thirty-four years old, and tall and slender in build, […] but with broad shoulders.

            His face is very agreeable and pleasant, and indicates intelligence and mildness.  

If we would be able to go back 142 years in time we would find ourselves in the middle of Ssekabaka Muteesa I’s reign over Buganda. We might have been among the crowd welcoming Henry Morton Stanley who visited Buganda on his journey to confirm the source of the Nile. It is widely known that Muteesa’s welcome of Stanley resulted in a call for missionaries to come to Buganda. Little known is that Stanley was the first visitor to Buganda who carried a photo camera with him.

Stanley used one of his last glass plate negatives to portray Kabaka Muteesa with his chiefs. This led to depictions of Muteesa that are widely known in Uganda. The photograph these depictions are based on, on the other hand, is not part of a Ugandan collective memory.

In the 1870s it was not yet possible to reproduce photographs in print. The two volume book that reports on Stanley’s journey through East Africa is therefore illustrated with woodcuts. Some of these woodcuts are based on photographs by the author. The illustration of Muteesa and his Chiefs is one of these pictures. In this interpretation of the group portrait the facial features of the men depicted seems to deviate from the photograph. The men are no longer black. It would not be a stretch to call the woodcut a mis-interpretation.

The combination of the observed absence of the photograph from collective memory and its misinterpretation led to this exhibition. It shows responses to the photograph by a wide range Ugandan artists and picture makers and Dutch artist and researcher Andrea Stultiens who initiated the project. Some of the artists explore the photograph formally. They make us see things in the photograph that we might not have noticed with their skillful interpretations. Others approach the picture and its historical and contemporary context in a critical manner. They are questioning the unfolding of history, and want us to think about what could have been had events taken different turns.

The Photograph was made by Henry Morton Stanley (1875). Collection Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium.

Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa is on display from April 14th till May 14th 1974. It includes contributions from (in alphabetical order): Andrea Stultiens, Canon Griffin, Daudi Karungi, Eria Nsubuga, Eva Dembe, Fred Ndaula, Henry Mzili Mujunga, Ian Mwesiga, Margaret Nagawa, Martha Namutosi, Matt Kayem, Migisha Boyd, Nathan Omiel, Odama Jacob, Papa Shabani, Piloya Irene, Ronex Ahimbisbwe, Sanaa Gateja, Timothy Erau, Violet Nantume, Wasswa Donald.

During the opening of the exhibition on April 13th Timothy Erau will make one of his ‘light paintings’ of a performance/installation with and by Martha Namutosi / Piloya Irene / Nathan Omiel / Sanaa Gateja and students from UCU Mukono.

Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa was curated by Andrea Stultiens with Robinah Nansubuga, Martha Kazungu and Canon Griffin. A book featuring the work of all the participating artists will be published later in 2017.

Please note:

A free copy of the photograph made by Henry Morton Stanley can be picked up by visitors to the exhibition as long as the print-run lasts. Visitors are requested to help spread the presence of the photograph in Uganda by photographing it in their respective houses and, in turn sharing that photograph on the HIPUganda Facebook page.

On April 29th Maisha Moto, the monthly talks at Maisha Gardens in Buziga, will be devoted to HIPUganda’s Ekifananyi publications. The afternoon’s motto is ‘How to have a conversation with the past’, and will include discussions with Henry Mzili Mujunga, Violet Nantume, Canon Griffin and Andrea Stultiens.

Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa is made possible with the support of: Hanze University of Applied Arts Groningen, Mondriaan Foundation Amsterdam, Embassy of the Netherlands in Kampala.

Migisha Boyd’s interpretation of Stanley’s photograph (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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