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Is ‘Black Panther’ actor Kaluuya our child or not? Discuss
Charles Onyango Obbo
Posted: 3 weeks 3 days

I am sure many readers of The Monitor in Kampala have watched or already read a lot about the ‘Black Panther’ film. It was a hell of a film, though by that I am not referring to its black cast, gorgeous “African” costumes, and nod to several rich and dark threads of our history.

It was a powerful exploration of global power, and among other things, touched on a matter that I didn’t think anyone else thought about: What would the world be like if one day an African country (Wakanda) had the means to be the unrivalled world superpower and a Hitler-like fascist (Killmonger) motivated by notions of the superiority of his/her race seizes power?

Then there was a small controversy on Ugandan cyberspace about two of the movie’s actors; Florence Kasumba, who is Ugandan-German, and Daniel Kaluuya, who is British. He was born and raised in “Bungereza”, though his parents were born in Uganda. Kasumba, at least, was born in Kampala.

With the film making waves, naturally many Ugandans were quick to claim Kasumba and Kaluuya, and to seek a bit of their star dust. Some people couldn’t have it. Kaluuya, especially, they said, couldn’t be a Ugandan because, to begin with, the Ugandan government does not support the arts.

In fact, the Museveni government doesn’t want to pay for any student to study any art anything at university. The award-winning Kaluuya, himself thanked British funding for arts for his career. In other words, if he had been back home, he wouldn’t have got on the big screen.

Fellows remember that the attempt to film that most Ugandan of stories, Queen of Katwe, ran into trouble before it got half way, and had to be completed in South Africa because State institutions made life hell for the producers.

The Uganda Revenue Authority even shook them down for extra cash. Because the act of arts funding - or doing anything by officialdom to support the creative - is unUgandan, Kaluuya couldn’t be Ugandan, the argument went. It would be like a cat claiming that the cow’s calf was its kitten.

Along with argument, came a criticism that some saw as our disgusting national opportunism: That, on the whole, Ugandans generally don’t help their people when they are struggling to rise, but are quick to claim them as representing the best of them when the fellows find global success or fame.

The second argument was a technical one. Though Kaluuya’s parents were Ugandan, he can only become Ugandan by formally exercising his claim, which apparently he hasn’t. But, the champions of Kaluuya-is-Ugandan say he wears kanzu at the premier of his movies and award ceremonies, so his heart is truly Ugandan.

I had noted all this with a passing interest, when a Ugandan friend brought up the Kaluuya issue, and told me of a conversation he followed on social media.Apparently a “Ugandan-Briton” had argued forcefully that Kaluuya wasn’t a Ugandan, but he was a Muganda. That while one couldn’t be a Ugandan-Briton or British-Ugandan, one could be a Muganda-British, Munyankole-Briton or Japadhola-Briton.My friend was not impressed. Whether knowingly our unknowingly, our Muganda-Briton had made a very profound point.

If you think of it, Uganda is a State like Britain or UK. There are citizens, but no people’s who are British; they are either English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and more.These “more” are the folks from Jamaica, West Indies, India, Nigerians, Ugandans, and so forth, who came to Britain and became British citizens, but not as Ugandans…but as Baganda, Acholi, the sub-nationalities that are equivalent to English, Scots, and so forth.

It is probably why, the same people who now claim Kaluuya as our own, who was not born here, reject the Asians who were born here, but they or their parents were expelled by Field Marshal Idi Amin in 1972.Why? Because they see citizenship as negotiable and malleable. You can buy citizenship, or be naturalised, as much as you can be born a citizen. These people do not see Asians, who are citizens of Uganda, as “our people” because they lack what a mischievous Kenyan editor likes to call “sufficient tribal content”.

Sub-nationality or tribe is not negotiable. You cannot apply to be a Muganda. You are born a Muganda, a Musoga, a Mukiga despite where geographically your birth takes place. For that reason, while you could be stripped of your Ugandan citizenship, you cannot be stripped of your tribe.

Kabaka Ronald Mutebi or President Museveni cannot strip you of your Bugandanness, because it is located in places that even a king or president-for-life can’t touch – in the deep recesses of culture, collective spirituality, and history.It seems this one should be one way. Kaluuya is not a Ugandan. For now, though, he is a Muganda-Briton.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africa data visualiser and explainer site