The exhibition of photographs from J. E. Abura’s life (Falmer Common Room) illustrates not only one man’s incredible journey but the coming together of cultures. Born in Uganda in c. 1930, he was the only one of his siblings to attend school. In the 1950s the British set up educational programmes in the colonies and J. E. Abura came to Britain to study. He settled in Brighton in 1957; where he met and married Jean Flett. They had three children and when J. E. Abura completed his education, migrated to Uganda. He worked in several high engineer positions there and in Brighton on several returns. Later he set up his own civil engineering consultancy in Dar Es Salaam (1989).

The photographs of J. E. Abura and his family track his extraordinary life. They are visually striking and heart warming. The images of J. E. Abura and his wife celebrate a union of cultures. These two nationalities must have come together in the man himself. His daughter touches upon this in her poem ‘At Home’. She deliberately contrasts his two identities: ‘the African at home in Hove … In Dar Es Salaam he is the Englishman’.

At the opening of the exhibition, his daughter talked of this meeting of cultures in her speech. She talked of the terrifying defeat of slave traders by her great-great-grandfather; witnessed by Samuel Baker, a British explorer. She imagined telling these men of the life of her father and how much had changed in a relatively short space of time. The exhibition photographs observe Uganda pre-colonial, under colonial rule and post-colonial. It is a fascinating story: a man born with the warrior name of his ancestors who becomes a successful civil engineer. Not only is he able to contribute so much to the development of African countries, but he also becomes a symbol of multiculturalism.

Categories: Artist Focus

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