Taga interprets the totems of Uganda

00:40 by Kaggwa Andrew
The tradition of totems is practiced in many parts of the world but each region has its peculiar norms and customs tagged to this tradition.
In Uganda, totems are practiced in many of the cultures and this is where artist Francis Taga Nuwagaba’s Me and My Totem painting project four years back comes in.
He was unveiling to over 1500 revelers an unbeatable totem trail of the 52 Clans of Buganda. This was at the time he was working on his longest project; Totems of Uganda: Buganda Edition.
After almost fifteen years of research, interpretations and consultation, the art book was launched at the Uganda Museum on Friday.
The project according to Taga was inspired as he travelling in taxi from Kampala to Masaka. Along the way, a squirrel ran into the road and the driver unable to break crushed it within his tyres.
However, the driver whose name is Sengendo, was crest fallen at the end of the journey when he was informed that the squirrel like animal he had hit was effumbe – the actual totem of his clan.
Being so devastated, Sengendo couldn’t drive on that his conductor had to take his place. That’s when Taga realized the tragedy had been a result of Sengendo not knowing what effumbe looked like.
This is when he set out on a mission to research about the totems and how people relate to them. shockingly he realized that much as many Baganda like Sengendo indeed cherished their clans and totems, very few knew what they looked like.
Totems of Uganda, is Taga’s answer to such woes and further more preserve culture through interpreting it to widely spoken languages. In his experience of doing the book, he reveals that he visited the wild in search of information and images.
He also realized that English names to many of these animals were alien to many people that even belonged to some totems.
Nathan Kiwere, who is credited for contributing especially on the totem history, writing much of the book introduction and partly editing it, noted that the process of putting it together was a great lesson for him; “there’s a great importance to conserve nature,” he says.
But that’s not all, he also appreciated the fact that his writing skill has been improved and as a result, the process will give birth to a book; Art of Uganda, his debut project set for release early next year.
The book editor Margaret Bell alias Nakimera said that Ugandans should get themselves a copy since its rich with not only information but knowledge, in her view, people can’t protect what they don’t know.
Formerly a CEO at Aga Khan, Bell has been in Uganda since 1988 and over the years she has not only admired the culture but embraced it. She believes every citizen of the world should adopt a totem if they don’t have one, hers is the grasshopper, thus her Nakimera name.
Totems of Uganda; Buganda Edition is just the first of the project as Tanga promises to work even with other artistes to profile totems in other cultures too.

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