King Mwanga II

A documentary on gay sexuality in pre-colonial Africa, which aims to refute the belief that homosexuality is ‘un-African’, has premiered in Kampala.

Behind the Mask reports that Gay Love in Pre-colonial Africa: The Untold Story of Ugandan Martyrs, produced by the Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA Uganda), was recently screened in the capital.

The launch of the film was timed with the June 3 public holiday commemorating the killing of the Ugandan martyrs.

The martyrs were a group of Catholic missionaries and converts executed between 1885 and 1887 by King Mwanga II, sometimes described as Uganda’s gay king.

The king, who it was claimed had sex with his male pages, is reputed to have killed the martyrs when they tried to convert him to Christianity and criticised his “debauchery” and his “addiction to sodomy”.

According to Behind the Mask, the film interviews people from inside the Mwanga palace, “where traces of tolerance to homosexuals is still preserved today”.

It also explores the traditional covenants, referred to as ‘okutta omukago’ (making covenants), made by same-sex couples to cement their relationships.

The film notes that most of gay pre-colonial history in Africa has been lost and what was recorded was done so by European colonisers and missionaries.

UHSPA Uganda Director Kikonyogo Kivumbi said at the screening that he hopes that the film will add a new perspective to the struggle for gay equality in Uganda.

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