Cultural heritage is an important aspect of our identity, history and aspirations. In Uganda, a beautiful collage of 65 culturally diverse ethnic groups presents unique cultures reflected in varied traditional institutions, languages, indigenous knowledge and skills, the creative and performing arts, crafts, dress and food. The country’s natural, cultural and historical landscapes and archaeological sites also showcase our cultural heritage.

In this programme we focus on supporting initiatives to preserve aspects of Uganda’s rich cultural heritage, tangible and intangible. The Foundation in collaboration with various partners, advocates for a favorable policy environment to protect, develop and promote our heritage, nationally and internationally.

1. Support to Community Museums

Inspired by the pride and self motivation exhibited by individuals, families, clans, and community groups to preserve and showcase their artefacts and literature, CCFU chose to support local initiatives to promote and preserve cultural heritage. So far we have worked with close to thirty self motivated and dynamic individuals, groups and families, as our partners. Each have established museums: these community museums display unique ethnographic collections, literature, traditional instruments, all demonstrating the cultural rights of self-expression and identity by a variety of local communities. In 2011 CCFU supported the establishment and recognition of the Uganda Community Museums Association (UCOMA) as an NGO, to raise the profile of the museums and link them to potential funders and other supporters. A digital site for community museums has been developed to further profile their work; and support to selected community museums to establish cultural enterprises is being undertaken. For more information, see these resourcesCheck out some museums that CCFU has worked with.

2. Safeguarding our built and natural heritage

In 2020, CCFU established a heritage trust – the Heritage Conservation Trust of Uganda to champion the safeguarding of historic sites, cultivate pride in our heritage and help citizens and foreign visitors alike experience the “spirit” of a city, community and nation; and to protect our natural heritage. Having a dedicated Trust accelerates our efforts to protect historic sites in the country.

In 2015, we embarked on a programme whose ultimate objective is to protect and promote historic buildings and sites in Uganda. As a first step, maps of historic properties in Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and Fort Portal were produced. This was followed by a training for owners and managers of historical buildings and support to the development of information materials on selected properties. The Foundation has also worked with Mengo Hospital and the Ham Mukasa family in a bid to celebrate specific historical buildings in Kampala (these appear on the historical buildings map of Kampala).

CCFU is also engaging with KCCA to promulgate an Ordinance to protect Historic Properties in Kampala. This work complements our active engagement with the International National Trusts Organisation.

In 2018, with support from the European Union, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) recognised and unveiled commemorative plaques on notable historical sites in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe. These events were preceded by a training of photographers and researchers on how to document historical buildings and seminars on the value and contribution of historical buildings and sites in Jinja, Entebbe and Kampala. Three outputs including an executive book, maps and a mobile app (for android and IOS users) were launched.

In 2022, the Irish Embassy in Uganda supported CCFU to profile 3 historic buildings in Mbale and information boards were erected on them.

The Uganda Railway Museum

CCFU in partnership with the Uganda Railways Corporation and support from the European Union and SOGEA-SATOM has established the Uganda Railway Museum. Its role is to highlight the role of the railway line on Uganda’s history and nation building.

The Uganda Railways Museum is premised on CCFU’s previous work on the history of the railway in Uganda. A book titled “Our Railways, Our History” was produced in 2020 to recognise and celebrate the story of our railway lines; explore their role in the lives of Ugandans who lived and worked along them, and their place in the country’s economic and political development. The book is available at 90,000shs at selected bookshops and CCFU offices.

The Museum is located along the Iganga-Jinja Highway in Jinja City and is now open for public visits. Click here for more information

3. Heritage education in Uganda

In 2011, CCFU initiated a programme to enhance heritage education in Uganda, recognising the role of the young generation in promoting cultural rights and heritage. CCFU now supports more than 150 “school heritage clubs” by training teachers and providing materials. CCFU also supports the development of cultural heritage resources in the vicinity of the selected schools by supporting 15 community museums and their outreach activities. The Foundation has also been engaging the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) to integrate culture into the new national curriculum for lower secondary schools. For more information, see HEP resources.

In 2017, CCFU received support from UNESCO for a 3-year project that aims at raising awareness of the management and academic staff in 4 universities in Uganda on the relevance of intangible cultural heritage in Uganda’s current development context.

4. Culture and conservation

CCFU works with  local communities, state and non-state agencies to to foster a culturally-aware approach to conservation work.

In 2014 and 2018,  CCFU  carried out a desk study and action research respectively that  confirmed a significant nexus between culture and conservation, with particular focus on the great apes. It highlighted cultural resources linked to ancestry, genealogy, identity, spirituality, social practices, legends and folklore and traditional medicine. It was concluded that such cultural and social attachments contribute to communities’ motivation to conserve nature, and the great apes in particular. In light of the above, and with the continued support from the Arcus Foundation, CCFU embarked on the implementation of a 2-year  (2019-2021) project aimed at harnessing positive cultural resources to strengthen collaborative conservation of chimpanzees (between State and non-State actors) in Bunyoro and the Rwenzori regions.

5. Culture and climate change

The effects of climate change are being felt throughout Uganda, whether on agricultural production, forestry, the water levels in rivers and lakes, or the receding glaciers in the Rwenzori mountains. Such change also affects cultural sites and their associated values and traditions. Several sites of cultural importance, all associated with significant aspects of the cosmology and values of the concerned communities, have already disappeared. Cultural sites in the Rwenzori mountains  and Alur region are particularly at risk.

These sites represent different elements of the tangible and intangible heritage of the Bakonzo  who live on the slopes of the mountains, and the Alur people in WestNile which together, help to define their identity. It is against this background that CCFU in partnership with the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) embarked in late 2020 on a project aimed at contributing to the preservation of the important elements of the cultural heritage of communities in the Rwenzori and Alur regions.

With support from the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, heritage sites under risk from climate change were identified, documented (Rwenzori and Alur booklets), part-protected and signposted. The project not only illustrates the relationship between climate change and natural and cultural heritage, but also shows why measures to address climate change require the involvement of diverse stakeholders, especially of cultural leaders and other holders of indigenous knowledge

6. Cultural enterprises for youth

CCFU supports groups of youth engaging in cultural enterprises that promote their livelihood through the use of cultural resources. This initiative intends to highlight the value of culture through cultural activities organised and managed by the youth not only as a source of income but also as a way of promoting positive aspects of culture.

7. Policy advocacy for heritage conservation and development

The culture sector is faced with a number of challenges arising from a lack of awareness of the importance of cultural heritage, limited political will and resources to develop and promote heritage and a lack of relevant and updated legal instruments to protect cultural heritage. This, coupled with negative perceptions of culture as backward, and the increasing challenges that modern development and globalisation present, calls for a deliberate effort to save our quickly vanishing heritage. Accordingly, CCFU has contributed to a number of policy instruments, including the National Culture Policy and the National Museums and Monuments Policy.

CCFU is also contributing to the implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is accredited to the Inter-Governmental Committee, provides training services, has developed training materials in the context of the Convention  and is a member of the Intangible Cultural Heritage NGO Forum