Independence: A Tribute to Kaddu Wasswa

Image of header and open book, “The Ttabo” Kaddu Wasswa and Andrea Stultiens.

On the 9th October 1962 a territory achieved through conquest and assimilation was handed over to a very eager native populace, this country was a ‘’protectorate’’ for 68 years. During this period the United Kingdom ruled the area that is now Uganda and it was under their protection, in school we are taught that this was to prohibit other colonial powers from exploiting us, however one peculiar thing stands out; this protectorate status is declared over territory previously administered and controlled by private enterprise, a huge part of what is considered Uganda was transferred over from the Imperial East African British Company to the United Kingdom that then established administrative law over the territory.

This history shows us that the territory we inhabit is rooted in a culture of control that disregards human individual agency, it was structured in a way that even with native resistance the company and the protectorate administration acquired land and human resources to control entire nation states, how they achieved this is mainly through violence. Now this claim may seem rather simple, it has been documented and is included in current history pedagogies but the discourse around it merely views this period of violent assimilation as a checkpoint in the inevitable road of progress, and this is understandable because one of the areas that this violence affected severely is cultural agency.

Image of Kaddu Wasswa and I by Canon R Griffin.

Culture informs how people relate with their reality and other people, it encompasses ideas of self and being, it is a whole complex superstructure which here in the territory we live in was completely ravaged by psychological and physical violence, they were deliberate efforts to stop organization outside the administrative power of the colonial government, for example Kaddu Wasswa agitated to have more participation of natives in the national theatre and this was the response he received from the director then.

Kaddu Wasswa: A Visual Archive.

He also writes on his desire to participate in improving drama and he discusses the relations nation states had to the protectorate and how individuals made this distinction, he talks about explicit acts of cultural exclusion and he talks about the active assimilation that was happening at the time. Now this is not to say that pre-colonial nation states within this territory had perfect cultural systems; they didn’t however they were continuously improving, within them they were individuals capable of improving these cultures, what happened in the protectorate and what is happening today is that these individuals are robbed of their agency by the systems of control that initially set up the territory they come from.

It is still happening today because if one analyses our administrative structure, culture is only important only to the extent it is upholding the different regimes, and this hasn’t changed much since the days of IEABCO, and that is why major national arts and culture institutions have not grown past the point they were after independence, they existed to serve a purpose that ended; there was no-longer a need to have active assimilation, a critical mass had been achieved; the effects of the cultural violence had started to show, the next step was that the assimilation would be subtle and self-enforced (by the natives). There have always been people throughout our history as a country who have diagnosed and attempted to solve this, and to them I extend my deepest gratitude.

Now that we can recognize the situation we are in, the burden is on us to learn that we are not ahistorical, that we do not live in an everlasting present, and that we can order a society that supports an inclusive and diverse cultural expression. The time we have spent independent is not yet as long as the time were colonized (we still have 8 years), this alone should signal the urgency with which we should respond to the question of who we were, who we really are and who we want to be.

I am privileged to have met Kaddu Wasswa, to observe from his work and interacting with him, his dedication to carving out the dignity of the Ugandan native, starting early in his youth he contributed to various cultural and societal innovations. His work and story is documented in two books I have read ‘’The Ttabo’’ and ‘’The Kaddu Wasswa Archive’’

I celebrate him this independence day 9th October 2022.

Kaddu Wasswa: A Visual Archive.

Translation of highlighted text:
1 – “therefore I don’t write this history to praise myself, I want my grandchildren to know that there in our home there was leadership that worked towards liberating the black person from control arising from ignorance”
2 – “That is how the National theatre started, it wasn’t started to be used for drama done by Africans.
3 – We begin to agitate to act in there