||In Luganda, the widest spoken minority language in Uganda,
the word for photographs is 'ebifananyi'. However, 'ebifananyi' does not,
contrary to the etymology of the word photographs, relate to light writings.
'Ebifananyi' instead means things that look like something else. 'Ebifananyi'
My research project explores the historical context of this particular
conceptualisation of photographs and its consequences for present day visual
culture in Uganda. It also discusses my artistic practice as research method,
which led to the digitisation of numerous historical collections of
photographs. This resulted in eight books and in exhibitions that took place
in Uganda and in Europe.
The research was conducted in collaboration with both human and non-human
actors. These actors included photographs, their owners, Ugandan picture
makers and visitors to the exhibitions that were organised in Uganda and
Western Europe. This methodology led to insights into differences in the
production and uses of, and into meanings given to, photographs in both
Ugandan and Dutch contexts.
Understanding differences between ebifananyi and photographs shapes the
communication about photographs between Luganda and English speakers.
Reflection on the conceptualisations languages offer for objects and for
sensible aspects of the surrounding world helps prevent misunderstandings in
communication in general.