Monday, 23 November 2009

(Book Review): Sultan Isara

Born in 1886 (the same year Arsenal FC, my favourite club, was formed), he was the first contact with the British colonial administration in Vurra, Western Arua. Savour the story of a kind, peaceful African farmer and celebrated artist who performed in traditional dances, songs and telling myth stories plus was appointed the cultural leader of Vurra people in 1919 before turning Sultan in Lugbaraland. This biography, published in 2008, is fantastically woven by Charles Kiri Kiri Bua [Mobile (0712)678214 or Box 737 Arua] and authorised by the Isara Memorial Cultural and Community Library (IMCCL) Board of Trustees. It respectfully and comprehensively connects the past to the present documenting very interesting Lugbara history and other research ideas worth 10,000 UgX (about 5 US Dollars) a copy. Contents in this compelling book include Isara’s Story; The Myth Story; Who are Lugbara?; The Origins of Lugbara; The Main Migration Groups; How Isara became Sultan; Vurra is a Ma’di term; Clans in Vurra; What made Isara successful; What Others say; Isara’s own Words; and The Last Days. Dr. Eric Adriko, one of the people acknowledged by the author for encouraging him to record the past and preserve Lugbara identity, once revealed how while in Kenya he heard that Hon. Rajab, one of the members of the Kenyan Parliament in the 1980s (representing Kibera Constituency) was said to be Isara’s descendant and there were many Vurra people living there. Some historians say the Lugbara originated from Sudan but it is more believable that they came from West Africa (Cameroon Mountains) basing on the similarity of African names shared today (despite differing translations) such as President Abubakar Atiku of Nigeria; Bayo of the Big Brother 3 House; Didier Drogba - Chelsea FC striker. Personally, I have also made a few interesting observations for instance President Omar Bongo of Gabon; Dramani - Ghana National Soccer team striker; Drabo, Atiku and many others.

Bua writes in his introduction that, "The book is a collection of consecutive interviews, commentaries by elders, sons and daughters, friends, relatives, politicians, workmates of Isara and research on Lugbara of Uganda and their culture by various scholars. The relationship between Opi Isara and the Lugbara culture is very important. He led people in the house of chiefs not only in Vurra but also in the counties of Ayivu, Terego who had houses of chiefs (In short, he was a Sultan). To others he was a building block between different groups of people. He married at least nine women from various clans and left over 60 children who form part of the Arua District population. Isara’s creative lifestyle had transformed Vurra from traditional leadership to modern British politics. Now that Isara’s descendants under Isara Memorial Cultural and Community Library have formed an association, what Opi Isara failed to achieve will be accomplished. The Lugbara cultural values will be analysed, some preserved and promoted especially the Language, Literature, Art and Craft, Entertainment and its history. The demise of Isara on 26th July, 1949 marked the end of an era in the history of Lugbara."

The Isara Memorial Cultural and Community Library was opened in Ezuku, Vurra 50 years after his death and copies of this book can be purchased there.