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Archive for the ‘Looking back’ Category

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This being the golden jubilee year of independence inUganda I could not help, but go back to a picture that has intrigued me for ages. It’s was taken from the first anniversary celebrations in 1964 and the usual pageantry was out in force. The picture from the past that caught my attention was a float by the British American Tobacco company and it featured people all dressed up and smoking away, clearing trying to sell the idea that it was glamorous to smoke.

How politically incorrect that is today does not begin to describe the scene especially when one notices that actually there is a lady among them………smoking away too! She must have been pretty brave as till this very day very few women in Uganda smoke and definitely not in public.

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A quote from John Hanning Speke, written in a book by him about his travel and exploration of the dark continent during the Victorian era, that culminated in his ‘discovery’ of the source of the River Nile, caught my eye:

‘As his fathers ever did, so does he. He works his wife, sells his children, enslaves all he can lay hands upon, and, unless when fighting for the property of others, contents himself with drinking, singing, and dancing like a baboon to drive dull care away. A few only make cotton cloth, or work in wood, iron, copper, or salt; their rule being to do as little as possible, and to store up nothing beyond the necessities of the next season, lest their chiefs or neighbours should covet and take it’.

Now like many parts of east Africa, This Victorian explorer is celebrated in History and is actually viewed with some fondness. He has roads named after him as well as two posh hotels. But after reading excerpts from his book it makes me wonder how he could have got away from it for so long. And the simple truth is that we do not read too deeply about our history, especially the colonial one.

In fact it was only after I read ‘the lunatic express’ that for the first time I really had a proper picture about how the modern states of east Africa were formed. It is a must read for all of us and one will then realize how sanitized the history we read in school really is. In fact, if I remember correctly, we only study Ugandan history in primary school and there is no time or mental capacity for serious detail.

Hence a racist Victorian explorer can get by for 150 years being feted and admired by the same people he despised so much.

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An idle chat during a work break a fortnight ago brought out a forgotten aspect of our childhood: the African photo comic magazine. With heroes like ‘fearless fang’ (an african tarzan) and the ‘son of Samson’ (an african superman in a wrestler’s body suit) we waited every month back in the seventies and eighties for latest edition to hit the news stands. They were sold under the brand name ‘African Film’.

The leading photo comic magazine was of course ‘the Spear’, featuring Lance Spearman, the super cool detective who drove around town in an impossibly named coupe (the stingray), sporting a panama hat and smoking a cigar. Not to be outdone by 007, he too had a bevy of beauties at his beck and call. He was super cool and we all wanted to be like him, right down to the suit and the bow tie.

He pursued the baddies with gusto, outwitting their conspiracies,over coming evil and saving the day…….all in must one issue of the magazine. It was really a portfolio of black and white photos, complete with oval shaped text boxes that included all the sound effects that a kick and a quick upper cut to the jaw could possibly produce. Month in and month out we were spell bound by this African hero hunting down villains and bringing them to justice.

Nostalgia for this long lost mode of story telling has hit me pretty bad and searching for copies of the lost art form has knocked me out for the ten count. All the Internet could cough up was the fact that the series of photo comics were part of the Drum publications stable, but speculation was that the characters were from south Africa, perhaps Nigeria, perhaps Uganda (but I doubt the last bit).

No real photo of any of the characters from the comic is available, Only 2 pictures of the actual magazine can be found. And that is a sad tragedy.

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What a peaceful scene this photo depicts as one looked down Valley Road in the nairobi of the early sixties.

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National Theatre 1958-62

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Being a third generation Old Budonian gives me pride that very few other things can match. For non Ugandans I can only equate King’s College Budo to a combination of Alliance High School and St. Mary’s School, Nairobi. History, tradition, pride and an unmatched old boys/girls network.

I came across this picture while surfing the web a while back and it depicts one of the school buildings that was constructed in 19926. Its got a huge arch across its width and visually provides a gateway from the quads of lawns behind it to the vast playing fields in front of it.Its significance to Budonians runs very deep as it is a symbol of power, order, discipline and boyhood fun.

To the right are the rooms for the sports and chapel prefects and at he back of that was was the deputy head prefect’s digs. To the left was the senior 3A classroom and at the back was the head prefect’s digs. And above the arch was the infamous senior 4C classroom.

Right in front of the building runs the Bursary Road, which every red blooded Budonian of the male gender knew very well not to cross after 7pm. Reason being that it was the dividing line between the sexes after regular school hours. Crossing the road to get to the girl’s dorms across the sports fields after the said time was unheard of, as such an act was considered in the same league as murder and treason………..presumably punishable by death.

But that did not stop the foolhardy amongst us from trying. Skirting along the edges of the road, testing the resolve and patience of the four prefects whose rooms were conveniently located at the border of the garden of eden. Every day a list of people caught ‘loitering’ along the Bursary Road was read out out for all sorts of punishments. The less brave amongst us took the easier route: standing at the windows of the 4C classroom after evening preps, we would cheer, jeer and generally make a total nuisance of ourselves as the ‘brave’ girls walked back , across the road, to their dorms from the classrooms.

The Berlin wall could not have been more secure.

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