Ebishushani 3 - All the Tricks - Elly Rwakoma, 2015
Elly Rwakoma (born 1938- ) and I were introduced to each other by his son Eric, who is a photographer, a metal and woodworker, and a friend of a friend. I had just started the archival platform History In Progress Uganda and was thrilled to hear Ellys stories and see the albums kept at his home on Makerere University campus where his Madame worked at the time. There was a promise of more materials in the village. Elly grew up in Ankole, is currently running a farm close to Bushenyi and trying to finalize the last bits and pieces of the construction of a family house.
This book tells the story of Ellys discovery of photography, what he could do with it, and what it did with him. It is based on the part of his image production that is still available and links to the collection of his colleague Mohamed Amin, whose son Salim Amin kindly gave permission to use some of his fathers photographs. Elly was a presidential photographer, worked for industrial companies made school photographs, ran his studio and documented his family extensively. He is inventive, both as a darkroom operator as well as a person. What he loved to do most as a photographer was to make portraits of women and children. He has not been afraid to try outexperiment with a thing or two and to stand up for what he believes in, which has led to what you are about to see and read.
The noun Ebifananyi (which is the plural, singular is Ekifananyi) comes from the verb Kufanana, and means to be similar to. It is the Luganda word not only for drawings, or paintings or photographs, but for every two dimensional likeness.
Ebifananyi is also the title of the series of at eight publications by History In Progress Uganda (HIPUganda). Each book will start from a photocollection in Uganda and explore its narrative possibilities in images supported by words.
When HIPUganda was initiated by Andrea Stultiens and Rumanzi Canon its first aim was to digitize photographic material in Uganda to prevent the loss of its content that is often threatened by challenging conservational circumstances. But since both Andrea and Rumanzi are image makers themselves and not archivist or conservators, the idea was also to create possibilities to engage with the digitized material. Archives are dead until their content is handled by people connecting it to their reality in one way or the other. Ebifananyi presents the results of engagement with archives by the HIP initiators and a wider circle of Ugandans in compelling stories and beautifully designed and printed books.