Richard Vokes Lecture

28 November 2019
Woolnough Lecture Theatre, Geology Building, UWA
General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni

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Idi Amin Photo Archive

The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin

A public lecture by Richard Vokes, Associate Professor in Anthropology, The University of Western Australia.

Over his eight years as president of Uganda, Idi Amin was the subject of hundreds of thousands of photographs. A team of photographers under the Ministry of Information followed Amin around, taking pictures of the many occasions when he appeared before the public. For decades it was thought that the photographs taken by the men of the Ministry had been lost. However in 2015 Richard Vokes, working with Winston Agaba and Malachi Kabaale at the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation in Kampala, uncovered a filing cabinet with over 70,000 of their photographic negatives. In 2018, UBC in partnership with Derek Peterson of the University of Michigan, and UWA, launched a project to digitize the archive. The first major exhibition of these images is now showing at the Uganda Museum.

In this lecture, Richard Vokes will narrate the social biography of the archive, and explore what it reveals about Idi Amin the man, about the nature of his regime, and about everyday life in Amin’s Uganda. It will argue that although the archive has provided extraordinary new insights into the Amin years, so too its discovery and exhibition have raised complicated questions regarding the politics of memory in post-colonial Uganda. The lecture will describe how the project team have sought to engage with public discussions on this subject, in partnership with our many Ugandan collaborators – who include survivors of Amin’s torture chambers, and the relatives of his 300,000 victims.

Richard Vokes is Associate Professor in Anthropology at UWA. His research focuses primarily on Uganda, where he has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork since 2000. He has published extensively, including on the history of photography, media and social change. His books include: Ghosts of Kanungu (2009); Routes and Traces: Anthropology, Photography and the Archive (with Marcus Banks, 2010); Photography in Africa (2012); Media and Development (2018) and; The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin (with Derek Peterson, forthcoming 2020).