|dc.description.abstract||This study, investigates the use of symbolism in Ugandan films. It explores the nature and
use of symbolism in the creation of meaning in three Ugandan films namely: Phil Mullaly's
The Martyrs of Uganda, Ashraf Simwogerere's The Passion of the Uganda Martyrs;
Dominic Dipio's Crafting the Bamasaba, following the field of semiotics advanced by
Umberto Eco. Eco blended Saussure‟s and Peirce‟s ideas into a concise theory of semiosis.
Semiosis is the process of meaning making of a sign by the interpreter. Eco‟s theory of
semiology advances the idea that something is a sign only because it is interpreted as a sign
of something by some interpreter, much as the sign has validity to exist independent of the
person interpreting it.
In answering the study‟s objectives of investigating the various categories of symbols in
selected Ugandan films; analysing their effectiveness as vehicles of meaning in the selected
films, the research followed a qualitative design in which an analytical approach was adapted.
The selected films were analysed as primary texts and the symbols therein identified. Library
research on ethnographic and historical literature about the Uganda Martyrs and the Bagisu of
Eastern Uganda was carried out so as to deepen the understanding of the cultural context and
the temporal setting of the films.
Mullaly‟s The Martyrs of Uganda was selected on the basis that it is a foreign directed film
that is rich in symbolism, and captures a Ugandan political, cultural, and religious conflict
that led to the death of the Ugandan martyrs. Simwogerere‟s The Passion of the Uganda
Martyrs, renders the same experience through the lenses of a Ugandan director, and Dipio‟s
documentary, Crafting the Bamasaba, was not only been considered for its richness in ritual
symbolism, but also for being directed by a female Ugandan filmmaker.
In this research, I employed a cultural, contextual and personal interpretation of the meaning
of symbols in the selected films. The study enunciated their effectiveness in terms of thematic
and ideological concerns; it was discovered that Mullaly, Simwogerere and Dipio have
employed both archetypal cultural and religious symbols to depict the themes of martyrdom,
the impact of foreign religion on Buganda, the strength and weaknesses of African traditional
leaders that have been metonymically symbolised by Mwanga, and the general analysis of the
practice of Imbalu among the Bagisu of eastern Uganda.
The study concluded that in the selected films, meaning does not exist prior to the symbol.
The process of creating meaning is a negotiated one − between the symbolist or filmmaker
and the viewer. This observation is in line with Umberto Eco‟s view that meaning is
perceived through a synthesis of proposed ideas in the context of viewers/readers‟ past
Therefore, my interpretation of the symbolism in the film texts was relative given the notion
that the symbols‟ significations are dynamic. They change according to the context of
placement and action. This study attempted to bring out the hidden quality and the multiple
layers of meaning that emerge from the reading of the film. For example, in The Martyrs of
Uganda, blood may stand for many meanings: from brotherhood among the converts,
martyrdom, and sacrifice, to such far possible secular interpretations as the ferocity of the
despotic king Mwanga. The study further concludes that understanding the symbolic message
in these texts/films leads to understanding of the entire films meaning.||en_US