Ebifananyi: a study of photographs in Uganda in and through an artistic practice

Andrea Stultiens

Research output: Ph.D. ThesisPhD Research internal, graduation external

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In Luganda, the widest spoken minority language in East African country Uganda, the word for photographs is Ebifananyi. However, ebifananyi does not, contrary to the etymology of the word photographs, relate to light writings. Ebifananyi instead means things that look like something else. Ebifananyi are likenesses.

My research project explores the historical context of this particular conceptualisation of photographs as well as its consequences for present day visual culture in Uganda. It also discusses my artistic practice as research method, which led to the digitisation of numerous collections of photographs which were previously unavailable to the public. This resulted in eight books and in exhibitions that took place in Uganda and in Europe.

The research was conducted in collaboration with both human and non-human actors. These actors included photographs, their owners, Ugandan picture makers as well as visitors to the exhibitions that were organised in Uganda and Western Europe. This methodology led to insights into differences in the production and uses of, and into meanings given to, photographs in both Ugandan and Dutch contexts.

Understanding differences between ebifananyi and photographs shapes the communication about photographs between Luganda and English speakers. Reflection on the conceptualisations languages offer for objects and for sensible aspects of the surrounding world will help prevent misunderstandings in communication in general.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Leiden University
  • Wesseling, Janneke, Supervisor, External person
  • de Ruiter, Frans, Supervisor, External person
  • Doortmont, Michel, Supervisor, External person
  • Villevoye, Roy , Supervisor, External person
Award date20 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2018


  • photography
  • uganda


Dive into the research topics of 'Ebifananyi: a study of photographs in Uganda in and through an artistic practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Ebifananyi: politics of presentation

    Stultiens, A., 25 Sept 2018

    Research output: Non-textual formExhibitionProfessional

  • Ebifananyi: the photographer's trilogy

    Stultiens, A., 14 Sept 2018

    Research output: Non-textual formExhibitionPopular

  • Ebifananyi (bookcircles)

    Stultiens, A., 4 Oct 2018

    Research output: Non-textual formExhibitionProfessional

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