Uganda, like many other African countries, is experiencing rapid development marked by construction of new buildings and infrastructure. This means an ever changing skyline not just in Kampala, but all other major towns and urban centres.
To maintain the cultural integrity of the urban landscape, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda, with funding the European Union Delegation, is implementing a project for the protection and promotion of historical buildings and sites in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe under the theme, “Connecting with our heritage through historic buildings and sites.”
The project is part of the 2018 European Year for Cultural Heritage. It entails the identification of 60 buildings and sites in the three cities; the production of a photographic book titled Beyond Reeds and Bricks – Historical Sites and Buildings in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe; and the creation of a historical building maps (in both digital and hard copy format) for the three cities; the building of an app for historical buildings; and the placing of 10 plaques with historical information on notable buildings and sites in the three cities.
According to the Cross-Cultural Foundation, the country’s architectural heritage is under threat. Loss of historic sites means a lost connection with the past, and a risk of losing those unique features that make distinguished cities from others.
According to Cross Cultural Foundation the 60 buildings to be featured in the project represent Uganda’s architectural history, covering the era of the kingdoms, the colonial era, trade, transport and industry, and Uganda’s post-Independence development.
“Plaques are important in raising the public’s awareness of the rich history surrounding us, as well as of the need to preserve this heritage. They mark buildings that have been well preserved and help to protect properties at risk,” CCFU says.
The most notable of these buildings is the majestic Chwa II Building located at Mengo Primary School in Kampala district.
It is the oldest surviving formal education building in Uganda, built in 1904.
It is located on the grounds of Uganda’s first Western school, Kayanja Elementary School, which was opened in 1895.
The Chwa II Building was constructed with funds contributed by Kabaka Daudi Chwa’s kingdom and the British people.
Initially, the institution was a training and ‘‘finishing school’’ for girls in Buganda Kingdom in preparation for marriage. Today, it has over 900 mixed pupils and offers a national curriculum.
The army-green building has thick walls made of mud and grass and sun-dried bricks. It has timber trussing, iron sheet roof and soft ceiling boards.
The commemorative plaque was unveiled at the school on November 20.The headteacher, Festus Kirumira, said, “The building is still in service even after over 120-years of existence. We hope it can serve for another 100 years so that the next generations can experience this memory.”
The 10 commemorative plaques give the buildings’ stories and socio-cultural significance.