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Community museums lead way into deeper research about Ugandans’ way of life

Rachel Magoola (middle) with one of the artifacts at the exhibition

Rachel Magoola (middle) with one of the artifacts at the exhibition

When we talk about museums in Uganda, many minds will be drawn to the Uganda museum in Kampala.

However, in recent years, there has been development of over 25 community museums across the country which mainly showcase the cultural heritage of the places they are located in.

As Uganda joined the rest of the world on May 18 to celebrate the International Museum day under the theme “Museums for Education and Research” in Soroti, the Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) organized a two-day exhibition for community museums at the National theatre in Kampala prior to the main celebrations.

The exhibition aimed at creating awareness among Ugandans about the importance of community museums and the role they can play in promoting our diverse cultural heritage. According to CCFU, in many parts of Uganda, community museum owners, supporters and managers, passionate about culture and heritage, have collected artefacts, oral history and other elements of the local culture.

Community museums also link the past and the future through their collections, which are accessible to schools, local residents and those from farther away. Barbra Babweteera, the executive director of CCFU, said they are putting focus on community museum because they want to promote learning by putting a link to our past, the present and preserving it for the future generations.

Some of the artifacts displayed during the exhibition
Some of the artifacts displayed during the exhibition

“Museums are centres for preserving our cultural heritage; you will find all the different explanations about our ways of life, how we used to live, and how we live today. This exhibition is largely to create awareness about the role that community museums play in contributing to the development discourse of our country,” she said.

Babweteera, however, noted that these museums are facing numerous challenges such as little or no government support, negative attitude of Ugandans who tend to think these museums are displaying old irrelevant items, lack of sustainability whereby  if the founding person dies, the museum also collapses and conflict between culture and religion where sometimes people think that our own culture is satanic.

Rachel Magoola, chairperson of the parliamentary forum for creative industry, while presiding over the exhibition, underscored the important role played by community museums.

“I have come to learn that community museums are still perceived by a large section of Ugandans as representing largely irrelevant pasts and it is our job to make sure people know why they need to know their past.

“My appeal is that let us all support community museums as centres for research and heritage education, cultural rights expression, enjoyment and access,” she said.

Among the museums which exhibited was St Luke Community Museum in Kyotera district which was initiated by Brother Anatoli Wasswa of the Bannakaroli Brothers of Masaka Catholic diocese to preserve and showcase objects, mostly received from traditional medicine practitioners who have discarded their belief systems as being unchristian.

The museum teaches healing methods that do not involve worshipping ancestral spirits. The museum is also linked to a ‘hospital’ where herbal medicine is prescribed and administered.

The Uganda Railway museum located along the Jinja-Iganga highway at the railway station in Jinja city also exhibited. The museum is housed in one of Jinja’s oldest and historical buildings constructed in 1928; the museum contains artefacts from the days before the railway in Uganda, the life during the early days of the railway development, the era of colonial expansion, and the railways after independence.

The Buddu Cultural museum exhibition
The Buddu Cultural museum exhibition

The East African Revival museum founded by the Ankole diocese with the aim of preserving the history and paying homage to the leaders and believers who played pivotal roles in the East African Revival Movement which started in the 1930s. Visitors to the museum can expect to delve deep into a rich trove of artefacts, photographs, personal testimonies and interactive displays.

The experience aims to transport them back to the era of the revival, making them feel the fervor and zeal that characterized the movement. Hamu Mukasa museum in Nasuuti, Mukono promotes and preserves the legacy of Hamu Mukasa, one of the first scholars in Uganda and secretary to Sir Apollo Kaggwa, the then katikkiro of Buganda.

Koogere Foundation museum in Fort Portal promotes community education on the value of traditional knowledge and cultural assets in Tooro kingdom and also inspires community members to remember the forgotten glory of the knowledge of their forefathers.

Kigulu Cultural museum in Iganga town preserves and promotes the cultural heritage of the Basoga. It is housed in one of the historical buildings previously owned by the chief of Kigulu.

Other community museums which exhibited include Madi- Lugbara Cultural museum, Buddu Cultural museum, Obundingiya Bwa Bamba museum, Madi Community museum and The Great Lakes museum.

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