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Commutual Histories | Colonial Building in East Africa: Metaphors of Hegemony, or Cultural Stepping-Stones?

Part 1 Dissertation 2014
Matthew Gatehouse
Coventry University | UK
As a most potent symbol and demonstrable manifestation of cultural, socio-economic and political power, architecture has been used for millennia, throughout the world, as a means of exerting influence and authority. In the modern era, some of the most pronounced demonstrations of architecture being used allegorically as political and cultural symbols are in the European colonisation of African nations; the establishment of colonial cities in Africa, and the development of existing settlements, represents a significant period of development for both the colonised nations of the African continent and the European colonising powers. For many modern African cities, their colonial past still remains as a prevalent facet of their urban fabric, and demonstrates the relationships that developed between the colonising administrations and the native population, but here, there are perceivably contrary approaches exhibited. Though there was an approach that intended to invoke hegemonic messages, there were also attempts made to understand, and to adapt to, the cultural, political and ecological circumstances of the foreign lands where the settlers found themselves. This is the aspect of commutual histories, which represents a shared, intertwined narrative that tells of the significant and profound development of nations and peoples, both African and European. The subject of this dissertation represents a topic that has long been of great personal interest, as it concerns a significant aspect of my own familial history. The specific examination of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul at Namirembe, Kampala, Uganda, utilises the products of long-standing research I have undertaken into the history and cultural heritage of this building; this is due to the fact that my great-grandfather, James Kerr Watson, a colonial settler in British East Africa in the early 20th century, was responsible for the construction of this building, along with many other examples of colonial buildings in and around Nairobi and Kampala. By using first hand research, both of personal and archival material, and extensive interrogation of existing sources, this work aims to understand the relationship between the inhabiting peoples, and the settlers, on a deeper level, and explore the more complex commutual narrative that was woven between them.
Matthew Gatehouse

Russell Stevens
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