L-R: Poland’s Maximilian Maria, South Africa’s Manche Masemola, Uganda’s Archbishop Janani Luwum. West entrance to Westminster Abbey featuring ten Twentieth Century Martyrs © Jean-Christophe Benoist via Wikimedia Commons
As part of this year’s Being Human humanities festival, academics from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) and the University of Bristol, have joined forces to form the Archive to blockbuster four (A2BFour). During an evening event at Senate House on 21 November, the team will pitch four ideas for films in an attempt to show their audience how the stories they’ve unearthed during their research could form the basis of four powerful blockbuster movies and help create a more diverse film industry. In a preview event on 24 October, Dr Eva Namusoke will present one of the film pitches: ‘Songs on Namirembe Hill’.
Arguably the most famous cinematic treatment of Ugandan history is the 2006 film, The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whitaker won an Academy Award for his portrayal of President Idi Amin, and subsequent generations of scholars of Uganda are regularly asked, ‘Have you seen The Last King of Scotland?’ when revealing their research interests.
Ugandan history is dominated by the looming figure of Idi Amin, an individual who fascinated the international audience during his presidency from 1971-79 and long after. However, there is far more to Ugandan history than this one man. Indeed there is more to the history of the Amin regime than Idi Amin himself.
During the 1970s, in the shadow of government repression and widespread economic hardship, people nevertheless continued to live their lives. Songs on Namirembe Hill is an effort to tell the story of a community of Ugandan Christians who experienced a tragic loss and had an extraordinary response. In particular, it is the story of one man – Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum.
In February 1977 Janani Luwum made a decision that played a crucial role in raising international awareness of the brutality of the Amin regime. This decision cost him his life just months before Ugandan Anglicans were planning to celebrate 100 years of Christianity in the country.
The story of Janani Luwum’s life and untimely death is as much about mythology as it is about historical fact. In the period directly after his death, its effects were felt around the world, in the Anglican sphere and beyond. Yet, despite his important role in Ugandan church history, he remains in the country’s historical shadows. It is only in recent years that his legacy is being discussed by a wider public.
Songs on Namirembe Hill is pitched as a movie recounting the final weeks in the Archbishop’s life, using material gathered from archives and interviews with those who lived in this period. It seeks to tell an alternative story to those centred on Amin himself, focusing instead on the ways Ugandan people resisted the regime, and their resilience in a period of great difficulty.
Dr Eva Namusoke is a post-doctoral research officer on the Institute of Commonwealth Studies’ Commonwealth Oral History Project. Her research interests cover Uganda, Anglican history and Commonwealth history. She has recently published A divided family: race, the Commonwealth and Brexit in The Round Table.
Songs on Namirembe Hill
6:30-7:30pm, Monday 24 October
Durning Lawrence Room, Senate House Library
Senate House, Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU