Uganda celebrates promoters of cultural heritage

Monday June 05 2023

Ibrahim Byomugabe points to the ruins of the Ten Commandments of God Church. Cross-Cultural Foundation honours institutions that protect Christian heritage. PHOTO | ELIUD MAUMO | NMG


Ankole Diocese has been honoured at the 2023 National Cultural Heritage Awards for establishing the East African Revival Museum in Mbarara District, western Uganda.

The diocese which is part of the province of Church of Uganda took the top prize for launching the African Revival Museum — that preserves the country's Christian heritage — in 2016.

Ankole received the Tangible Cultural Heritage prize during the fifth National Cultural Heritage Awards ceremony held at the Ham Mukasa Historical Residence in Kampala on May 25, 2023.

The first and second runners-up in the Tangible Cultural Heritage category were Hana Longole, the proprietor of the Ateker Cultural Centre, and the College of Health Sciences at Makerere University respectively. On top of a plaque, each winner received a cash prize worth Ushs2.5 million ($668).

Longole was recognised for her lead role in the establishment and management of the not-for-profit centre in Moroto District, eastern Uganda. The centre preserves the culture of the Ateker communities— Karamoja of Uganda, Turkana (Kenya), Toposa and Joe (South Sudan), Nyangatom (south Ethiopia), and other pastoralist groups in Africa.

The centre focuses on cross-border engagement, promotion of community museums and heritage homes.


Read: Uganda’s 'lost' kingdom

Medical records

The College of Health Sciences at Makerere University was acknowledged for preserving rare medical records at the Albert Cook Medical Library.

The library houses the rare collection donated by Sir Albert Cook (also known as the 'father' of modern medicine in Uganda), a Church Missionary Society doctor who arrived in Uganda in 1897 and founded Mengo Hospital.

Sir Cook subsequently donated his records to the then medical library, which in 1965 was named after him, hence its official name, the Albert Cook Medical Library. Over the decades, the library has opened its archives to Ugandan health workers, local and international researchers.

Young generations

The top prize in the Intangible Cultural Heritage category went to the Francis Walakira Family located at Mpambire, along the Masaka Road, for preserving their knowledge of making Buganda Kingdom's royal drums and passing on the skills to young generations.

Read: Works restore Kasubi Royal Tombs to former glory

The Francis Walakira Family was celebrated for demonstrating a good example of preserving and promoting the skill of making drums and cultural entrepreneurship.

People from various countries go to Mpambire to buy the hand-made drums which have been sold in the same location for more than 75 years. They have also preserved a forest for indigenous trees.

The second and third winners in the category were Judith Bakirya of Jinja for conserving and promoting indigenous/herbal medicine and Dr Mercy Mirembe Ntangaare for promoting oral literature and traditional music.

Bakirya blends herbal medicine and fruit seeds (avocado, mangoes, and jackfruit) to promote good health and learning. The medicines find their way into various marketplaces in world.

Bakirya has branded her medicines as Namazzi Organic Herbals. The farm is also an agro-tourism centre.

Traditional music

Dr Mirembe has over the years kept folk stories alive by promoting oral literature and traditional music. She is an associate professor of drama/theatre, a playwright and a folklorist. She teaches drama, theatre marketing and folklore at the Performing Arts and Film Department, Makerere University.

Read: Things that fell apart put together at Kampala exhibition

She is a co-author of Dustbin Nations (2000) and The Chief of Shumankuzi (2002), two children’s plays that decry war and corruption in post-independent Africa.

Her other plays: Lady, Will You Marry Me? (2002); The Rat Trap and Other Plays (2007), which is an anthology of five plays; Rhythms of Life (2009), an audio/talking play; and Semitego, The Famous Hunter (2011) discuss socio-economic and political issues. She has also written scholarly articles on drama/theatre and culture.

The Heritage Press Award went to freelance journalist Bismac Amumpaire for consistently reporting on cultural heritage promotion and involvement in practical work regarding culture’s contribution to environmental conservation.

The Special Recognition Award went to Rose Mwanja, who for many years has contributed to the development of the culture sector during her service under the Department of Museums and Monuments in Uganda.

Organised by the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda, the annual awards aim at raising awareness about the importance of safeguarding national cultural heritage for future generations.