Kampala

This day was dedicated to understanding the history and challenges facing the city of Kampala, guided by expert commentary from Ken Rukondo, a lifelong Kampala resident and urban planning professional. Our first stop was St Paul’s Cathedral, the physical representation of the power of the Anglican Church in colonial and postcolonial Uganda.  The present structure was consecrated in 1919.  The church’s role in the history of Uganda is complex. Working alongside the colonial administrators, the church was instrumental in bringing western education and medicine to the country, while simultaneously suppressing local practices that were thought to be at odds with British culture, including polygamy, traditional spiritual practices, notions of communality, music and dance, and the use local names for both people and geographic features.
The westernization of Uganda was evident at St. Paul’s Sunday service, which was in full swing when we arrived. The congregation, packed into a standing-room-only sanctuary, listened to a sermon and sang familiar Anglican and Christian hymns, built on a Western harmonic scales, along with some Ugandan church music. After leaving St. Paul’s, we saw the Buganda Parliament building, the gates of the Kabaka’s palace, and the lake dug under the instructions of Kabaka Mwanga II as Uganda was being absorbed into the British Empire. We then stopped along Nakivubo channel, a polluted waterway adjacent to a slum area that enters Lake Victoria. Poor residents live in the valley bounding the channel, whereas wealthy Ugandans, expatriates, and diplomats live at the top of the surrounding hills in plush homes, taking full advantage of fresh breezes and magnificent views. The slums areas lack running water and sanitation but are organized in small administrative units responsible for security and dispute resolution. This experience, which included some interaction with a few residents, left us with more questions than answers. What did the slum residents think of us and our short visit in an air conditioned bus? Did we see the dignity in each person encountered in the Nakivubo slum beyond the desperate material surroundings? Were we aware of parallel contrasts between wealth and poverty in the United States?
Just before lunch we walked through the vibrant lakefront market at Ggaba which was full of stalls selling vegetables, clothes, and housewares. A number of small restaurants catered to hungry workers and shoppers. This market had large areas dedicated to firewood, sand for construction, and a fish auction. The market was the site for some scenes from the Disney film, “Queen of Katwe”.  We ended our day at the Ndere Center, which is the home of Uganda’s premier dance and music organization.  Ndere’s artists are mostly high school and college students from disadvantaged families who cannot afford school fees. A significant portion of the proceeds from the center are used to pay school fees. Although a prominent feature on the Ugandan tourist circuit, Ndere has struggled against negative attitudes towards traditional music and dance that prevail among portions of Uganda’s westernized and Christianized elite. Ndere’s repertoire includes samples of music and oral traditions from Uganda’s many ethnic groups and some surrounding countries. The result is the continuation of a centuries-old heritage that future generations and the world at large can draw on for inspiration and values.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s