The institution I head called Engabu Za Tooro, has a number of programs which range from promoting traditional music to promoting cultural economic activities and reconstructing traditional indigenous knowledge into today’s development practice and our greatest strength has been using new models of culture and development we have created.
Looking at all these experiences a few people have put us forward like Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda which researches and publishes books on innovative cultural activities in the country. They researched and produced a documentary promoted by Commonwealth Foundation on Engabu Za Tooro experience pointing on a two way model cultural programs we have.
One of them is the Koogere cultural and women empowerment program which uses the traditional wisdom in today’s gender development issues. There is also the Koogere cultural school which seeks to professionalize the cultural service provision.
Some scholars on culture and development who seek to research on the position of culture in contemporary development have also picked on our cultural projects as case studies to illustrate the role and position of culture in modern development.
Of recent, we have been accredited by the United Nations body called the Intellectual Property Organization to participate in the activities of the committee on intellectual property, traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore.
All these achievements put together, demanded the need to have to a home where cultural programs can thrive and for consolidation of all our achievements. We came up with the idea of a cultural centre which will be an epicenter of cultural research, information, education, reclamation of cultural values and promotion of cultural approach to development.
The centre, the first of its kind in the region will involve facilities like an amphi theatre which will be an open space for performances in traditional dances.
We have done a lot of work to promote traditional music as part of the overall promotion of cultural expression.
The second facility will be a community museum, museums in Uganda and all African countries have been seen as facilities of the state and Uganda has only one national museum based in Kampala and not accessed by most people.
We have been promoting the idea of community museums because people should not look at museums as initiatives of the state only. When UNESCO supported a program run by Cross Cultural foundation of Uganda to map community museum initiatives in the country, we were one of the few selected people who have developed an idea related to a museum by collecting material to preserve them for education, tourism and future generation. We were nominated for promoting the idea of a Koogere community museum.
The project started six years back with developing the idea and beginning to collect material, there is a lot of old material in the communities which is disappearing in the present times but our children, scholars, tourists need to look a them and see where societies came from.
To stop materials from disappearing, we started organizing vintage exhibitions every year during our annual cultural week where we call people to bring things of the past related to the society for safe custody; from there we started making collections.
We already have a small museum and the only challenge now is to construct the infrastructure and consolidate the material because without the infrastructure, you can’t consolidate the material and display them adequately for people to view and other problems like theft and destruction.
We shall also establish a community concert hall, a cultural heart as mini-museums, so that the diversity of our African cultural heritage is well maintained since our area is so rich in terms of cultural diversity.
The main collection at the centre of the museum will have all collections from all communities beginning with all the communities in western Uganda.
The main objective of the museum is to preserve our heritage for tourism and income, future generation and education and research therefore, the primary target will be our own people so as to promote local tourism because some of the things in the museum are no longer in daily use therefore local people have to look at their past and learn to be tourists in their local communities.
In 2009, Engabu Za Tooro after a very long process of assessment was considered to have brought up new and innovative models of adopting the traditional knowledge into today’s development practice.
Engabu Za Tooro was nominated as an observer to participate in the future sessions of inter-governmental committee on intellectual property, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
This means that a small effort that started in the rural region of western Uganda is recognized at a UN level and secondly, it gives us chance to interact with many development actors which increases on our knowledge base.
See also PART 3
The writer Solomon Akugizibwe is a graduate journalist and also works for Toro Center for Development and Peace (TOCEDEP)