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PhD Defence

Ebifananyi; A study of photographs in Uganda in and through an artistic practice

Tuesday 20 November 2018
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

In Luganda, the widest spoken minority language in East African country 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 are likenesses.

My research project explores the historical context of this particular conceptualisation of photographs as well as 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 collections of photographs which were previously unavailable to the public. 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 as well as 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 will help prevent misunderstandings in communication in general.


This defence is part of the PhDArts trajectory. It thus has an artistic component that will be discussed with the defence committee on 20 November at noon in the gallery of the Royal Academy in The Hague. You can read more on the Facebook event.

Funding organisations

Mondriaan Foundation, Hanze University of Applied Sciences.


  • Prof. F. de Ruiter
  • Prof. J. Wesseling


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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