Makerere University Celebrates Professor Timothy Wangusa’s 80th birthday.
“Wangusa became the first Ph.D. holder in the Department of Literature in 1975 since Makerere became an independent University in 1970. Wangusa is a person of many firsts but this one stands out in Makerere’s memory because Wangusa made this history in turbulent times.”
On Friday, 8th July 2022, at the Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences held an event to celebrate Prof. Timothy Wangusa’s 80th birthday, his works, and achievements at the Department of Literature.
Born in 1942, in the Bugisu region of Eastern Uganda, he attended Nabumali High School from 1958 to 1961 and then transferred to Kings College Budo for his A’ Level between 1962-63. He studied English at Makerere University and the University of Leeds.
Makerere University conferred its first doctorate five years after it became a national University in 1970. One of the two recipients that year was Timothy Wangusa who then became a Professor in 1981.
In 1985, he was appointed Minister of Education by the then Head of State, Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa. However, this deployment did not last long as the government was overthrown a few months after the failed Nairobi Peace Talks.
While opening the event, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Umar Kakumba emphasized what a privilege it was for the Makerere community to be present at an event that honours and acknowledges Makerere’s rich heritage and recognizes the people who have worked resolutely to build its indomitable strength in its century of existence.
“I must state that this is a phenomenal time to be present here and I hope and believe that the marking of a hundred years has shone a bright light on Makerere’s rich history, vibrant present, and dazzling future.” he said.
Prof. Umar Kakumba spoke about Prof. Wangusa’s remarkable academic journey and commended him for always hoisting the Makerere banner high.
“Wangusa became the first Ph.D. holder in the Department of Literature in 1975 since Makerere became an independent University in 1970. Wangusa is a person of many firsts but this one stands out in Makerere’s memory because Wangusa made this history in turbulent times. He is one of the academics who never left and knows the history of those troubled times very well but fortunately for us, he also recounts Makerere’s outstanding achievements with fervor.” he added.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor also highlighted the significance of Prof. Wangusa’s doctorate which deals with the future of African poetry. He said that the realization that orality was key in Africa’s literary practice was an argument that resonated with the foundational work of Pio Zirimu and Austin Bukenya on the idea of Orature, a term of notable popularity with its origin in the Department of Literature.
In fact, in 2013, Ngugi wa Thiong’o another great alumnus, called Makerere to patent the term as one of its notable achievements in nurturing Uganda and Africa’s intangible heritage.
Mwalimu Austin Bukenya, a long-time colleague and friend, reflected back on Wangusa’s professorial inaugural lecture, “A wordless world” and said he got two impressions. The first being that Prof. Wangusa’s deep and firm conviction that “the word, ‘as a synecdoche for language’, is the supreme power that defines us humans and enables us to operate as societies and communities in the world.” The second impression was that he “is a man of not only the word, writing and teaching literature. He is also a man of the world, who, much more than most of us his colleagues, has always been ready and willing to engage the wide world society of politics, public administration, and many other activities.”
In a recent article, about Prof Wangusa, written by Mwalimu Bukenya, he is described as the man who “pulled down the Holy Trinity from the exalted heights of heaven to the soil of our fields, with a word.” Bukenya says that the power of that word is in Wangusa’s three-line portrayal of the Three-in-One: “the Father is the root – the Son is the shoot – the Spirit is the fruit”.
The event was highly attended with over a thousand students and faculty filling up the Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility auditorium with entertaining performances from the CHUSS fraternity.