The late nineteenth-century Bugandan king Kabaka Mwanga is perhaps one of the most controversial Ugandan historical personalities because of the perceptions that have shaped and continue to shape how his sexuality is understood. The Kabaka’s sexuality, which has been placed at the center of contemporary sexuality debates in the country, is colored by complexly paradoxical spatial and chronological registers. These registers that stretch from the colonial to postcolonial moments in public discourses in the country variously mobilize Mwanga’s sexuality for propaganda purposes. While the colonial archive mobilizes Mwanga to argue that colonialism and Christianity rescued Ugandans from homosexuality, two versions of the postcolonial library simultaneously lionize and demonize this historical figure for differing ideological purposes. While the earlier postcolonial library briefly constructed Mwanga as a patriot who resisted colonialism, the most recent postcolonial record characterized by an alliance between the Ugandan state and Pentecostal Christianity demonizes Mwanga to justify their project of criminalizing same-sexualities. Writing in the throes of these topically polarizing Ugandan sexuality debates of the last decade, Ugandan novelist Nakisanze Segawa strategically inserts Mwanga’s nonnormative sexuality in the first section of her debut historical/political thriller novel to provide a counter characterization of a historical figure whose sexuality has been used as a metaphor in Ugandan public discourses on sexuality. Nabutanyi argues that Segawa’s representation of Mwanga, which counteracts his politicized portrayal, shows how same-sex loving men are ordinary and flawed.
(Un)Complicating Mwanga’s Sexuality in Nakisanze Segawa’s The Triangle
Edgar Fred Nabutanyi holds a PhD from the Department of English, Stellenbosch University. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Literature, Makerere University. His research interests converge around issues of public discourses in the public sphere regarding how these channels—fiction and media—are subverted and assimilated by vulnerable and minority subjectivities for self-enunciation. The central thesis of his research is that vulnerable populations like children, women, and ethnic and sexual minorities reconfigure the public sphere with such illocutionary force that they make their issues matter and transform their lives from mere statistical footnotes to critical societal issues.
Edgar Fred Nabutanyi; (Un)Complicating Mwanga’s Sexuality in Nakisanze Segawa’s The Triangle. GLQ 1 June 2020; 26 (3): 439–454. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-8311786
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