Cultural heritage is an important aspect of our identity, history and aspirations. In Uganda, a beautiful collage of over 65 culturally diverse ethnic groups presents unique cultures reflected in varied traditional cultural 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 are also manifestations of our heritage.
In this programme we focus on supporting initiatives to safeguard and promote aspects of Uganda’s rich and diverse heritage, natural and cultural, tangible and intangible. The Foundation in collaboration with various partners, advocates for a favourable 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 that safeguard cultural heritage. So far, we have worked with close to thirty self motivated and dynamic individuals, groups and families, as our partners. All have established museums: these community museums display unique ethnographic collections, literature, and traditional instruments, all demonstrating the resilience of cultural rights of self-expression and identity by 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 sources of support. A digital site for community museums has been developed to further profile and publicise their work; and support to selected community museums to serve as cultural enterprises and as centres of excellence for heritage education and learning. For more information, see these resources. Check out some museums that CCFU has worked with.
2. Safeguarding our built and natural heritage
CCFU has established a heritage trust – the Heritage Conservation Trust of Uganda to champion the safeguarding of built heritage, 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 event for owners and managers of historic buildings and support for 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 historic buildings in Kampala (these appear on the historic buildings map of Kampala).
CCFU is 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. The Foundation shall continue to collaborate with relevant government ministries, departments and agencies to advocate for the implementation of the Museums and Monument Act passed in 2023.
In 2018, with support from the European Union, 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 (available at 180,000 shs), maps and a mobile app (for android and IOS users) were launched.
In 2022, the Irish Embassy in Uganda and other individuals through a crowdfunding campaign, supported CCFU to profile 22 historic buildings in Mbale, erected information boards on 3 and produced a map.
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 document and showcase the role of the railway line in 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. The first one of its kind 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 young people in promoting cultural rights and heritage. CCFU now supports about 180 “school cultural 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 20 community museums and their outreach activities. The Foundation has engaged the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) to mainstream aspects of culture into the new national curriculum for lower secondary schools.Currently, aspects of culture are part of the History and Political Education subject under a topic called culture and ethnic groupings in East African. For more information, see HEP resources.
In 2017, CCFU received support from UNESCO for a 3-year project that aimed at raising awareness of the management and academic staff in 4 universities (Kyambogo, Kabale, Uganda Martyrs and Islamic University in Uganda) in Uganda on the relevance of intangible cultural heritage in Uganda’s current development context. The project led to the development of a Bachelor of Cultural Studies and being pioneered in the aforementioned 4 universities.
4. Culture and conservation
CCFU works with local communities, state and non-state agencies to foster a culturally-aware approach to conservation work. Our approach is premised on the conviction that drawing on community-based cultural and natural resources and worldviews can be a strong strategy for sustaining development efforts geared towards conservation.
In 2014 and 2018, CCFU carried out a desk study and action research respectively that confirmed a significant nexus between culture and conservation, with a particular focus on the great apes. The research 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 implements the #CultureForChimps project which harnesses positive cultural resources to strengthen the collaborative conservation of chimpanzees and habitat restoration in the Bunyoro and Rwenzori regions. Utilisation of indigenous knowledge systems for chimpanzee conservation, livelihood options, behavioral change, forest corridor restoration, intergenerational cultural dialogues, mitigating human-chimpanzee conflicts, understanding chimpanzee behaviors and national stakeholders’ chimpanzee dialogues are being implemented.
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 on the Rwenzori mountains. Such change not only affected the natural sites but has also affected 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, are gradually disappearing. Cultural sites in the Rwenzori mountains and Alur region are some of the heritage sites 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 West Nile 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. With support from the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, the Foundation is documenting indigenous science of local communities in Kasese and how this science can be used to address the effects of climate change on Ekisalhalha kya Kororo site in Kyondo sub-county.
6. Policy advocacy for heritage safeguarding 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 limited implementation of 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, the 2015 National Museums and Monuments Policy, the 2022 Museums and Monuments Act and the 2020 KCCA draft Ordinance to safeguard historic buildings, sites and monuments in Kampala.
CCFU is further 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