Revolutionary Papers

Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. Read More

Uganda Renaissance

This little known political periodical, published in Cairo between 1958 and 1961, was largely the initiative of its founder and editor John Kalekezi, or Kale. An activist in his twenties from the Kisoro district of western Uganda, Kale was responsible for most of the dense articles and lively opinion pieces on African anti-colonial struggles that greeted Renaissance readers.

The significance of the periodical for historians belies its short life. Far from simply a nationalist party organ, Uganda Renaissance is part of the history of Cairo’s ascendency as a radical Afro-Asian hub. Kale’s office – officially that of the Foreign Mission of the Uganda National Congress – on Ahmad Hishmat Street was one of several offices for sub-Saharan liberation movements housed here by the end of the 1950s. Resident activists shared meals and debates with Egyptian intellectuals through the ‘infrastructures of solidarity’ surrounding the recently formed African Association. The publication of a periodical was an obvious activity for such an office: Gamal Abdel Nasser’s government provided office equipment and financed printing at Mondiale Press, and from 1957 the multi-lingual periodical Nahdatu Ifriquiah (African Renaissance) served as a model for budding editors like Kale.

Kale was no stranger to publishing when he arrived in Cairo in late 1957. He had spent the previous months working for the Uganda National Congress at their office in Katwe, Kampala, where Ugandan press ventures like Uganda Eyogera were struggling to inform readers of the fast-moving political scene amid repressive permit laws under British colonial administration. Kale had been involved in publishing at Makerere University College too, where student magazines were launched and banned recurrently in the 1950s – until he was expelled in 1956 for attending a conference of the Soviet-sponsored International Union of Students. Uganda Renaissance was quickly added to the list of proscribed publications in British colonial East Africa.

The pages of Uganda Renaissance demonstrate the editorial experimentation that was possible in an ecology of print where the usually prohibitive start-up costs of publishing were met by an anticolonial patron. Far from simply reproducing dominant anti-imperialist slogans, Kale cut and pasted material from his own pamphlets and brought together eclectic content to follow his interests: the 1916 poem ‘Africa’ by Rabindranath Tagore and a liberation song from central Kenya; an account of the plight of Batutsi refugees in East Africa, and a copy of the Sanniquellie Declaration that was the basis for the Ghana-Guinea federation.

Ismay Milford

Ismay Milford is a historian of Eastern Africa’s global connections during the twentieth century, and is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at Freie Universität Berlin. Her first book, African Activists in a Decolonising World: The Making of an Anticolonial Culture, 1952–1966 (CUP, 2023) explores the transnational anticolonial activism of a cohort of mobile activists […]