Urban Open Spaces in Kampala, Uganda
Olweny, Mark R. O.
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Kampala is one of the few cities in Africa arguably of African origin, having been the location of the capital of the Kingdom of Buganda - one of the largest and oldest kingdoms in the region - for close to a century before European influence. The duality is still evident in the modern City of Kampala, and part of the resulting challenges faced in the city today. Indigenous, open space in pre-colonial Uganda, were generally utilitarian in nature. These spaces served a variety of purposes: herding of livestock, plantations gathering spaces or as performance space, but rarely just for show or for leisure (Adule, 2001). In Buganda, the layout of settlements was governed by guidelines that dictated the arrangement of various activity spaces. The layout of the Lubiri (royal enclosure) for instance was always laid out with the Kabaka’s (King) palace facing west – towards the rival Bunyoro Kingdom, considered a threat to Buganda. This guideline followed to this day, in the layout of the palace of the current Kabaka, although the threat from Bunyoro is non-existent today. Homesteads also incorporated within them large forecourts intended for gatherings and receptions, and in all cases, included a large banana plantation – the pride of every household in Buganda. A particular characteristic of the forecourts was the fact that they were neither paved or grasses, but bare earth. Being hilly, Kampala had numerous swampy valleys that were infested by malaria carrying mosquitoes and consequently avoided, essentially defining these as permanent open spaces.