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Smuts Memorial Fund


Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide and Faculty of Divinity, Smuts Research Grant Recipient

Short fieldwork visit to Fort Portal and Butiti to scope archives and interview significant individuals.

The aim of the fieldwork was to visit Tooro, Uganda in order to develop the archival research already undertaken for a critical biography of Apolo Kivebulaya, through whose life I examine religious encounter at a period of rapid social change. By examining Kivebulaya’s processes of religious adherence to traditional, Muslim, then Christian faith, his travels, Bible translation and church planting, his relationships with missionaries and Ganda political elite, his entanglement with British and Belgian colonial policies and his legacy in biography and corporate memory I intend to suggest approaches for a re-examination of the role of African evangelists and their aspirations. Kivebulaya lived in Tooro between 1895 and 1916 and used Fort Portal as a base for work in Ituri, Congo, until his death in 1933.

I spent two days at the Mountains of the Moon University. They are developing excellent archive collections from the Tooro Kingdom documents and the state administration. Whilst most of the documentation is from a later period than that of my own interest there were a number of files that contained earlier documentation which aids the background of the work. Documentation from the Tooro Kingdom courts also demonstrate the way in which chiefs and the Protestant church were engaged in a collaborative effort to re-order society. The colonial archives reinforced what I had discovered elsewhere: the Protectorate authorities disliked the close alliance and considered that British missionaries were too tolerant of the chiefs.

I spent a day at the Church of Uganda Diocese of Rwenzori offices examining their extant baptism, marriage and service registers dating from 1896. They provide valuable information, including the activities and location of Kivebulaya, not otherwise available. They demonstrate the seniority of Kivebulaya and show that the extent of his travels was far greater than most of his contemporaries.

I interviewed a number of individuals which allowed me to examine his legacy, as one chapter of the monograph will examine the contested memories of his life. An initial assessment suggests that Kivebulaya is held in corporate memory in a different way from the manner in which he is regarded in Buganda and Congo, but that themes of missionary endeavour still remain strong for churchmen and women. I also visited two of the oldest parishes outside Fort Portal. The travel involved enabled me to gain a sense of the landscape which features prominently in relevant sources.

I have returned to Cambridge to assess the data I gathered and to write the two chapters on Kivebulaya’s time in Tooro.

I am most grateful to the trustees of the Smuts Fund for awarding me the research grant.