Five monuments in Kampala from the first 50 years of independence
Now that Uganda has just celebrated 50 years of independence, it will take the nation more 50 years to celebrate a century. Although most of us might be dead by that time, one thing is for certain, Kampala’s artistic landmarks, the monuments, will still be standing.
Written by Nakisanze Segawa
Here are some of the most significant monuments that represent our past and the future.
The CHOGM-monument, themed The Stride, romanticizes the energetic fraternity of the Commonwealth countries, symbolized by the confident stride of the family group. Located behind the Parliament Gardens, the construction of the monument was contracted to Kann Artists by the tourism industry prior to the country’s historic hosting of the Commonwealth Head of States in November 2007, and was done by Maria Naita, David Kigozi and Segamwenge Henry in collaboration with other artists.
The cooper and stainless monument which depicts a nucleus family gives a somewhat unrealistic impression of a western type of family in contrast to the extended Ugandan one.
However, when contacted, the supervisor of the monument construction, Dr George Kyeyune, explained that “the idea of a man and a woman holding a flag with a sunflower tainted on it and their one child walking in the middle of the two parents doesn’t necessarily symbolize a system of a nucleus family, but rather a beginning of a new family”.
He goes ahead to add that they had to look at the finances put up by the Ministry of Tourism in order to come up with a great piece of work, but of a minimal cost.
With cloths wrapped around them in the same way natives used to dress before the introduction of the literacy culture in the country, it is through their son who is holding a book that the parents in the monument seem to perceive a brighter future.
Another monument, which is also the newest in Kampala, is located on the much secured independence grounds of the Kololo airstrip. Themed The Journey this monument depicts five youthful individuals, among which three of them are carrying a flag, taking steps up on a pedestal.
“The five youthful individuals represent the five decades Uganda has passed through as an independent state,” elaborates Dr Kyeyune who worked together with General Elly Tumwine and other artists on this one.
He goes ahead and explains that the story behind the monument is that of inspiration. It tells of the long journey that Uganda has taken to reach where it is today: “It has not been a smooth flow from 9th October 1962 to 9th October 2012. Uganda has been through thick and thin, but a nation still has to grow,” he adds.
The Independence Monument
Along Speke Road stands the six metres tall Independence Monument that was raised to celebrate Uganda’s much awaited independence in 1962 and to portray the state of self-leadership Uganda that had attained.
The monument was built by Gregory Magoba, one of Uganda’s professional sculptors at the time, and it depicts a mother with widened legs carrying a child whose hands are raised. Behind the monument is a concrete wall that has until previously been revamped with a painting depicting Uganda’s political life, but now stands plain in like a grey wall.
When asked what he thought of the independence landmark, Assimwe Bonaventure, a sculpture, painter, web designer, poet and a graduate from Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts, says that the sculptor was great as an artist. But Assimwe also wondered whether the late Mr. Magoba achieved to deliver the independence message to the people through this piece of work:
“Until someone points out that the monument celebrates the county’s independence, it’s hard for a layman to marry the two—to relate the monument to independence,”he adds.
Kabaka Mutesa II
A few metres from the Independence Monument stands Kabaka Mutesa II’s Monument at the junction of Speke Road and Nile Avenue. As the 35th of Buganda’s kings, he was also the first president of the country, whose contribution to the country’s independence can not be denied.
The monument, showing Mutesa standing on a pedestal, displays his military training as the Kabaka is dressed in military fatigue.
“In relation to the pedestal, the sculpture is almost invisible,” says Assimwe, “but when you pay close attention, it is detailed, realistic and dynamic. Every part of it is proportional. An admirable piece of work,” he adds.
The sculpture, which was unveiled by Mutesa’s own son, the current Kabaka of Buganda in 2009, was funded by Mr. Gordon Wavaamuno, the Bank of Uganda and KCC.
Sir Apolo Kaggwa
Another monument that is themed the Statue of Leadership is of Sir Apolo Kaggwa, situated in the face of Amber House along Kampala Road.
Apolo Kaggwa is commonly known and celebrated for pioneering the campaign of the usage of electricity in the country, especially amongst his fellow Baganda. Using his position as the Katikiro in the 1890’s up to the mid 1920’s, he based his own vision and foresight for development to persuade the people of Buganda to embrace Christianity and all the development that came with it.
He also encouraged Ugandans to grow coffee as a cash crop. Although he didn’t live to experience 1962, his vision for an elitist self-governance Uganda, through providing his own land to set up schools that would later create a platform for Ugandans to get educated and then campaign for self-governance, couldn’t be ignored.
With a critical eye, Assimwe thinks that the artist of this seven feet statue intended to be realistic but failed at that: “The propositions of the whole statue figure aren’t right,” he explains, “the arms are so rigid, so small and so short; one thumb is too small and the other too big. It’s not dynamic. And the head is too big on the shoulders,” he adds.
“The statue is just empty,” says Sissy a pedestrian I talked to. “It doesn’t talk to me. It’s almost invisible yet it’s vast and located on the main road side,” she adds. “Even the little bio about him written below is in very small letters, making it hard for me to read them.”
She then looks up at me with her eyebrows raised and asks: “Is this really the sir Apolo Kaggwa I read about in history books? Well … his neck appears shorter than it is in photos of him.”
Nakisanze Segawa is an aspring writer and the third winner of the 2010 Bereverly Nambozo Poetry award. Currentlly she is working on her first novel, which is also historical about Kabaka Mwanga.
All photos by Startjournal/Thomas Bjørnskau.