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Matinee: 'My Labor of Love' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

25 January 2020

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 328th in our series of Saturday matinees today: My Labor of Love, the full title of which is My Labor of Love Carrying on the Work of the Late Great Ugandan Photographer Kibaate Aloysius Ssalongo.

The two-minute clip is almost shorter than its full name but the project it describes is only just beginning after years of incubation.

It began in Uganda 17 years ago when the car that actor, playwright, photographer, documentarian and activist Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine was driving broke down.

To kill time while it was being repaired, he took photographs of the village life around him. And that's how he discovered the photo studio of Kibaate Aloysius Ssalongo. As the shop sign shows, Ssalongo was multi-talented, too, offering not just photography but framing, camera repair and glass cutting.

They became fast friends.

Mwine discovered that Ssalongo had thousands of medium format negatives deteriorating in a sack. The actor offered to help preserve the negatives and share the images "far and wide."

It was, however, the last time the two would meet. Ssalongo passed away in 2005.

You might think Mwine had bitten off enough to chew with his promise to preserve and share Ssalongo's images. But no, he wanted to honor his friend by seeking out his subjects and taking their portraits again, recording the passage of time.

Of the four thousand images now in his possession, Mwine and Ssalongo's wife managed to trace two dozen subjects who agreed to be rephotographed. We see a few of them in this clip.

Those updated portraits are just one of many steps to come, Mwine says, on the journey to keep his promise to Ssalongo and fulfill his labor of love.

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