Hidden Histories: Indian Influence on Architecture and Urbanism across the East African Interior

Wako, Anthony Kalimugabo and Olweny, Mark (2022) Hidden Histories: Indian Influence on Architecture and Urbanism across the East African Interior. In: CAMEA Adelaide Congress 2021: Migrant Labour and Material Transfer: Politics of construction in the Indian Ocean Rim, 7 - 9 November 2021, Adelaide, Australia.

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Hidden Histories: Indian Influence on Architecture and Urbanism across the East African Interior
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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


In 1896 construction of the Uganda Railway began at the East African port town of Mombasa, in what was then British East Africa, reaching the Lake Victoria- Nyanza terminus of Port Florence (now Kisumu) in 1901. This engineering feat was achieved with the importation of workers from British India, beginning a presence of a vibrant Asian migrant community in the interior of East Africa. They established a vigorous and ingenious Indian community in the interior of East Africa that thrived throughout the twentieth century and its influence today is unassailable. Their enterprising spirit was instrumental to the development of trading centres across the region during the early decades of the twentieth century. The legacy left behind, and ever-present reality of many urban centres, is somewhat invisible in the historical narratives related to architecture and urbanism. Exploring these hidden histories is in recognition of this contribution, a growing appreciation of the multifaceted influences on the built environments across East Africa, and a necessary frame of reference for further explorations of the development and evolution of contemporary architecture across the region. The paper uses Jinja on the northern shore of Lake Victoria-Nyanza as a focus of study. Jinja was home to a large population of ‘Ugandan’ Asians’ during the middle of the twentieth century, contributing to its role as a key transport and industrial hub. Through the tumultuous years toward the end of the century, this contribution remains as a powerful reminder of the contribution of Asian migrants to Uganda. The Asian contribution has largely been side-lined by the domination of European modernism and more recently Middle East commercialism. Through this initial foray and future explorations, we seek to build an understanding of the rich histories within the African triple heritage.

Keywords:Ugandan Asians, Jinja, Architecture, colonialism, uganda railway, India, Postcolonialism
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K900 Others in Architecture, Building and Planning
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V254 East African History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V360 History of Architecture
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Architecture and the Built Environment
ID Code:47320
Deposited On:14 Dec 2021 14:14

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