In Summary
  • Organised by the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) and the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU), the Heritage Awards ceremony was set up to recognise individual effort in promoting Uganda’s heritage.

Festo Karwemera, a man who is passionate about preserving the Kikiga culture of southwestern Uganda, and an 108-year-old house built by the late Ham Mukasa, emerged tops at Uganda’s inaugural Heritage Awards.

Karwemera beat two nominees, Mwalimu Austin Bukenya and Petero Ssemwezi Kaboggoza in the Intangible Heritage category, walking away with a cash prize of Ush2 million ($776).

The ceremony, on October 3, was organised by the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) and the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU), to recognise individual effort in promoting Uganda’s heritage.

“We started these heritage awards when we realised that there were many people doing exemplary work in promoting our heritage, yet their efforts were not being recognised,” said Emily Drani, the CCFU director.

“We want to encourage others to do the same.”

Born in 1925 in Kaarubanda, Kabale District, Karwemera, a retired teacher, has written many books in Rukiga including Emicwe n’emigyenzo y’Abakiga (Kiswahili edition), Empandiika ya Runyankore-Rukiga: Egufuhaziibwe, Ija twevugye and Shutama nkuteekyerereze.

He established a museum called the “Home of Edirisa” (the window through which one can see the Kikiga culture), which targets the youth.

The museum resembles a traditional Kiga homestead complete with the tools, utensils, a shrine, interior fittings and furniture.

Bukenya, on the other hand, started teaching oral literature (orature) alongside his contemporary, the late Pio Zirimu, in 1969 at Makerere University.

LARGE BODY OF AFRICAN ORAL FORMS

The two coined the term “orature” to explain the large body of African oral forms and its significance to literary aesthetics. He has taught at several universities in East Africa and beyond, and has published widely.

His works include Understanding Oral Literature (1994); Oral Literature Theory (1991); African Oral Literature for Schools (1983) and Emboozi Mukaaga (1970).

“I was thrilled to be recognised in this way,” said Bukenya. “I hadn’t expected it at all because people like us are never recognised in Uganda. Literary activities are put on the back burner.”

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