Between home and bush

2-channel video installation
40 Minutes
Collaborator: Alum Green
Exhibited at LSE, London, UK and TAKS Art Centre Gulu, Uganda



This installation marks the turning point from my work of documentary film to that of video and light installations. At the same time it concludes over 10 years of anthropological work in northern Uganda.
The video installation focusses on different moral spaces in the daily lives of the Acholi people of northern Uganda and how they have shifted in the past decades marked by war, displacement and return, when the civil war was no longer present in the region.
The Acholi home is a place of order and protection that has to be defended against the surroundings of wild nature and disorderly relations. During the period of the war, people in Northern Uganda were forced to leave their homes and had to move into IDP (refugee) camps. The home, as it was known before the war, disappeared for the great majority of people.
The bush, that has always been associated with powerful spirits and wild animals, became also the place of the rebels. They, too, were seen as powerful and unpredictable. When people had to leave their villages, nature could creep back into what was previously the protected home.
Moving to the IDP camps confronted people with new life styles and outside influences, and this was almost entirely experienced in terms of its negative aspects: loss of control and autonomy, poverty and suffering due to disruption in the traditional ways of doing things, fear of witchcraft and being a victim of a hostile government.
When the camps began to be dismantled and people had to return to their former homes, these categories shifted again. Many people had gotten used to the way of life in the camps after years of staying there. They were no longer used to the hard peasant existence in remote villages. They had to claim back their home from the wilderness. Others saw that the former camps and now busy trading centres were the origin of immoral life and felt that the only way to go back to the cultural values was by returning home.
The video installation shows how people look at their past and present by making use of these categories. I have filmed the material over a period of several weeks between 2014 and 2016 with a familiy that I know since the time of conflict in early 2005; with people in the trading centre of Pabbo; and with one of my key informants, a former rebel who had stayed with the LRA for 10 years until he escaped at the age of 20, shortly after which I met him.