A map profiling historic properties in Mbale City has been launched during a function held at Semei Kakungulu heritage site on Gangama Hill in Mbale City. During the same function, the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Site restoration works were unveiled.
The map, which contains 22 historic buildings, sites and monuments, among which are the Semei Kakungulu House, the Old Lukhobo House, the Kitutu House, the Clock Tower and the North Road Primary school, was produced by the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda in partnership with Mbale City Council.
CCFU’s Deputy Executive Director Fredrick Nsibambi said that “Mbale city is endowed with properties of historical, religious, educational and cultural significance that represent different aspects of our human existence, ways of life, architectural knowledge and skills and social organisation and how these have evolved over the years. There is a need to safeguard and promote them.”
Mr. Nsibambi, added that the map will go a long way in raising awareness about the need to safeguard and promote our built and natural heritage. If well protected, our historic buildings can become a vehicle for social and economic transformation through many ways including cultural tourism, cultural entrepreneurship and in promoting social cohesion.
A project to restore the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Site from climate change
During the same occasion, CCFU unveiled its new project: “Withstanding Change: Safeguarding the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Site from the Climate Uncertainty” which is aimed at restoring Kakungulu’s site, safeguarding it against the effects of climate change and opening it up to the general public as a museum.
The project, implemented by CCFU in partnership with the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO), Semei Kakungulu Family, Mbale City Council, with financial support from the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund (CFP), will provide an example of how historic buildings can be restored and adapted to contemporary uses.
According to Mr. Nsibambi, Semei Kakungulu heritage site was chosen because of its historical significance as the home to one of Uganda’s statesmen, who played an important role in shaping what would turn out to be known as Uganda.
The site comprises: the residential/main house, the mausoleum where Kakungulu is buried, a resource centre under construction, remnants of the first synagogue for the Jews locally known as Abayudaya and a vantage view of Mbale city. Architecturally, Kakungulu’s house portrays a new era in the building industry –where people were evolving from grass, mud and wattle structures to innovative ‘modern’ colonial ways of building using sun-dried bricks.
The effects of climate change on the Kakungulu Site
Located in one of Uganda’s hotspots for climate change disasters such as floods and landslides, Semei Kakungulu heritage is significantly threatened by climate change, with evident effects on the structures and its landscape.
Simon Musasizi, CCFU’s Heritage Trust Programme Manager said that the effects of climate change are being felt throughout Uganda; on agricultural production, forestry, the water levels, alluding to the 2022 flooding of Mbale city that killed and displaced people. He added several sites of cultural importance, all associated with significant aspects of the cosmology and values of the communities, including the Bagisu are gradually disappearing.
Therefore, as part of the restoration plan, several activities will be implemented including physical works on the buildings; tree planting and the establishment of a learning centre to bring to life the history and significance of Semei Kakungulu.
Dr. Shanon Kakungulu, a grandson of the Semei Kakungulu, noted that: “Semei Kakungulu was an advocate of environmental protection. He planted so many trees, including the popular Mvule tree and fruit trees, some of which are still standing today across the country.”
Mr. Ayub Majema the Tourism Officer for Mbale City said raising the profile of cultural heritage and its contribution to tourism will diversify the range of tourist attractions in the city.
Godwin Mubuya representing Inzu Ya Masaba cultural institution at the event said the work that CCFU is doing to promote the cultural heritage of the Bagisu is a stepping stone for Inzu to do more. He pledged their collaboration with CCFU to strengthen efforts to promote culture.
CCFU’s efforts to promote built and natural heritage
CCFU has previously documented and produced maps of historic buildings, sites and monuments in four cities: Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe and Fort Portal. This is on top of producing, a coffee table book and an app (Uganda’s Built Heritage) with their stories.
This makes Mbale the fifth city whose historic properties have been documented. CCFU plans to extend its efforts to all the other cities, with the next one being Mbarara.
We partnered with the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) with support from the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund to protect cultural heritage sites in the Rwenzori and West Nile Regions from the effects of climate change. Read more.