Diana Ayiro, a customer service agent working for one of the telecommunications companies, has attended many of the events and festivals held in the Museum’s gardens this year, although she has never set foot in the area. exposure.
“I only visited to see the prestigious BET Award that Eddie Musuuza, aka Eddy Kenzo, a Ugandan artist, who presented his award to be kept in the museum in 2018. Otherwise, I don’t know why I doesn’t often enter the museum,” says Ayiro.
It is common knowledge that the Ugandan Museum located on Kitante Hill on the Kira Road in Kampala is the only museum known to the majority of people in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area.
Yet many Ugandans born and raised in and around the capital have never bothered to explore the exhibits of traditional culture, archaeology, history, science and natural history. which have been preserved in this monument, whose history dates back to 1908.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA), Uganda was the first to develop museums and monuments or cultural heritage sites in East Africa. Currently, the Pearl of Africa has the fewest number of museums and heritage sites compared to Kenya and Tanzania.
Struggle to attract local tourists
Kenya has eight regional museums, while Tanzania has 10 regional museums and eight cultural heritage sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. Uganda has a developed national museum and two regional museums, which do not meet international standards.
John Ssempebwa, owner and chief curator of the Ssemagulu Museum, explains that museums struggle to attract local tourists because they have meager budgets for promotion and communication.
“The average Ugandan tourist is looking for an experience characterized by multi-sensory learning. Rather than listening to legends or stories, they want to engage in backdrop and iron making, which is participatory,” he explains.
Sempebwa adds, “For example, after explaining our local dances to them, I play music and we go through Bakisimba dances. He is also quick to note that museum marketing tactics seem generic. Over the past few years, he has learned to segment the market for his Mutundwe-based museum. “It’s expensive for me to host walk-ins. So I mainly focus on schools, business groups and clubs. On the Ugandan calendar, my low season is the first and third term. The second term is my peak,” he adds.
With the aim of preserving and presenting Uganda’s diverse cultural heritage by providing spaces to access, enjoy and express Uganda’s diverse cultures, the Uganda Community Museums Association (UCOMA) was established in 2010.
Community and institutional museums
Kitaulwa Abraham, President of UCOMA and Director of Kigulu Museum in Iganga District, says community museums are initiatives of individuals or groups of people with a passion for documenting and preserving their culture.
He says Uganda has 36 registered community museums. He notes that in addition to the popular Ugandan museum, there are community, private and institutional museums spread across the country.
He cites examples of institutional museums such as the CN Kikonyongo Money Museum run by the Bank of Uganda, the Uganda Revenue Authority Museum and the Parliament Museum.
Community museums, on the other hand, include Mount Elgon Museum of History and Culture, Ik Memorial House, Ham Mukasa Museum and Uganda Martyrs University Museum, while the Museum Ssemagulu is an ideal example of a private museum.
“Private museums are profit driven, while community museums are driven by the goal of preserving our heritage,” says Kitaulwa. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) describes a museum as a permanent, non-profit institution at the service of society and its development.
It is open to the public, which acquires, preserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for the purposes of study, education and pleasure, material testimonies about people and their environment.
At the 2019 ICOM conference in Kyoto, there was a heated debate over the definition, which prompted ICOM to come up with a new museum definition. Earlier this month, ICOM published two alternative proposals for its updated definition of a museum. ICOM committee chairs are currently voting in a poll, following an 18-month global consultation.
UCOMA, supported by the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU), plays an advocacy role and enforces quality standards. The President of UCOMA said that at present, 16 members of UCOMA are undertaking different projects.
Five of them are undertaking a UNSECO-sponsored project to promote intangible heritage. Uganda has six inscribed intangible cultural elements; Backdrop-making skill among the Baganda, Bigwala music and dance of the Busoga, Purification of male children of the Langi, Ma’di Bowl Lyre music and dance, Empaako naming ceremony of the Bunyoro oral tradition and Koogere in Tooro.
“These have been inscribed by UNESCO. Through UCOMA, UNESCO funds museums to promote works of intangible heritage,” he explains.
Simon Musasizi, Heritage Trust program manager at CCFU, recognizes the role of museums in national development. CCFU works closely with UCOMA to spearhead heritage education.
“Heritage clubs have been established in 150 secondary schools in Uganda under the coordination of UCOMA. Heritage studies have been incorporated into primary schools, where students must visit a heritage site to study and earn points for doing so. This encourages people from childhood to visit museums. We have to start nurturing our interests from an early age,” adds Musasizi.
He reveals that through their partnerships, a bachelor’s degree in Archeology and Heritage has been introduced in four Ugandan universities. “Kyambogo University has an enrollment of 15 students for this inaugural academic year, Islamic University of Uganda (UIU) in Mbale, Kabale and Nkozi University have not yet received any students,” says he.
For tourism to remain competitive and one of the fastest growing sectors in Uganda, concerted efforts by all private, non-governmental and governmental parties are required in equal measure.
Musasizi calls on the government to support museums. “For a country, having a national museum is absurd. Since they are not spread across the country, the idea of establishing community museums fills in the gaps. But the government must support them with the necessary resources,” he says.
Another critical thing Musasizi points out is the need for a law to preserve historic buildings in Kampala. “This ordinance will incentivize owners to protect their buildings from taxing and taxing arduous licensing. It should also promote zoning for heritage purposes,” he adds.
Musasizi argues that CCFU and its partners are advocating for the revision of the Historic Monuments Bill 1967 Amendment. In 2020, UCOMA asked the then Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, to fast-track the 1967 amendment, which it says is outdated.
One of the suggestions put forward by President Kitaulwa was that “the 1967 law is outdated and continues to refer only to the Ugandan museum. We do not depend on the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities or the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development,” he adds.
Musasizi explains that it is a small step to have the intangible and tangible elements under one roof. “We cannot disintegrate the two. It is the intangible history that attracts a tourist to a tangible museum,” he adds.
Developing countries make every effort to support dynamic heritage sites of regional development, attracting cultural tourism and preserving material and cultural heritage.
Musasizi says CCFU has documented historic buildings in Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe and Fort Portal, which are already on their app. CCFU is now in Mbale, where it documents the North Road Primary School built in 1932, the first administrative building in Mbale when Bugisu and Bukedi formed a district under Semei Kakungulu.
He adds that 44 buildings have been documented in Kampala, including the Ham Mukasa house in Mengo and the first council hall kept by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Meanwhile, the preservation of cultural heritage sites is costly and requires support from government and other cultural heritage funding organizations. UCOMA president Abraham Kitaulwa implores the government to support his efforts to document culture through publications. “We struggle to document our unrecognized culture and resources that are a tourist attraction. The government should contribute at least 500 million shillings to enable us to compile our culture and disseminate it to the public,” he says.
During the vintage tour dubbed Vintage on the Wheels to mark International Museum Day 2022, vintage car owners petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to stop the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) from taking their large number plates six digits in exchange for the new plates.
“Our cars are losing their identity. Imagine a car from 1958 with the UBK series. It is disheartening that the URA refused to include the large license plates in their system,” lamented Mackay Mwebingwa, a vintage car owner. Museum in perspective
Racheal Nansubuga Kakungulu, the great-granddaughter of Ugandan statesman Semei Kakungulu spearheaded the creation of his museum in Mbale. “We want to preserve artifacts of Semei Kakungulu and African civilization for geography and history tours. The museum will have a library and recreational gardens,” she says.
Nansubuga says Kakungulu’s diaries, paintings and African heritage artifacts such as spears, drums and books have attracted scholars and tourists.
At the launch of International Museum Day (IMD) 2022 held at the Media Centre, Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities echoed the government’s efforts to promote the hidden potential of museums. He said there are plans to bring museums closer together and equip regional museums with artifacts.