Photography, Evidence and Concealed Histories from Idi Amin's Uganda, 1971-1979

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    This article examines a photographic archive that has been recently identified in the stores of the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation in Kampala. The archive consists of some eighty-five thousand black and white negatives that were taken by various official photographic units, government information officers and commercial photographers – all of whom worked under the umbrella of the Ministry of Information – most of them during the years of President Idi Amin’s rule (1971–79). Significantly, the vast majority of these negatives appear never to have been used to make prints. As a result, their images have been literally never seen before. The archive significantly extends our understanding of official photography in Uganda, and in postcolonial Africa. In particular, it shows how infrastructures of administrative photography that were established during the colonial era, and which resulted in the medium becoming central to an imagined ‘exhibitionary complex’, continued to hold into the 1970s. The archive also highlights how these same infrastructures became increasingly complicated during the Amin years, both as the regime became more invested in photography as a potential tool for increasing the ‘momentum’ of its development agenda and as it became more reliant on other forms of mass media as a means for projecting its – increasingly imaginary – forms of governance to Uganda and to the world. Finally, however, the fact that the majority of the negatives were never printed suggests that whatever were the intended effects of official photographs in Amin’s Uganda, in practice, the performance of photographic techniques and archiving may have been equally politically significant.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-171
    Number of pages21
    JournalHistory of Photography
    Issue number2-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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