An installation based on the research for the last book in the Ebifananyi series. The book presents a largely visual social biography of the photograph Henry Morton Stanley made in 1875 of Ssekabaka Muteesa 1 of Buganda and his chiefs. The group portrait is one of the first photographs made in the territory currently known as Uganda. The social biography I made is partly based on historical sources and partly ‘written’ in the form of a chain of responses to and interpretations of those historical sources. These responses and interpretations were, as a result of my interest in the photograph, made in 2016 and 2017 by (mostly Ugandan) artists.
This installation is what you could call a spatial assemblage. It includes prints, collages, projections and a book. All of these components show – or are directly related to – the pictures made by explorers John Hanning Speke and James Augustus Grant during and around their visit to Muteesa, thirteen years before Stanley made the photograph. Considering Speke’s and Grant’s drawings gives an insight into the appreciation for pictures on the side of the Baganda and the use of these same visual materials by the visitors. It helps to understand the context in which Stanley brought out a camera to make a ‘drawing with light’ that Muteesa and his chiefs may never have had a chance to see themselves.
The title “My Guide Through Africa” is taken from words jotted down by James Augustus Grant on the cover of an instruction book on how to make watercolours. He carried the book with him on his journey through ‘Africa’. As this book was a ‘Guide’, so are the drawings made by him and his colleague. Now that we know them, we cannot avoid for our gaze to be moulded by journal notes and drawings made in the 19th century.
Recent responses to the historical pictures were made by Violet Nantume, Herman van Hoogdalem, Stella Atal and me (in collaboration with R. Canon Griffin). Additional thoughts about components of the installation can be found in this blogpost and of course in “Ebifananyi 8, Ekifananyi Kya Muteesa – The King has been pictured (by many)” (for sale online in a set with three or all seven other books in the series here).
The installation is part of the group show ‘Dwell Act Transform’ on artistic research in the North (of the Netherlands). The historical materials presented are part of the collections of the Royal Geographical Society (Speke), National Library of Scotland (Grant) and The Ugandan Society (Stanley’s and Speke’s books).