Exclusive Photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 1972 Visit to Uganda Through the Lens of Sultan Baloo
By SULTAN BALOO
Since its founding some three years ago, Barakah has published some rare and extraordinary photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and members of his family from private collections from around the world. For quite some time now, I have had the desire to submit photographs for publication on Barakah that I myself took some 48 years ago in 1972. That little project was expedited when I saw my cousin sister Shirin Laviolette share her Collection of Photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Visits to Soroti and Mbale on the blog.
Thus, I am truly delighted to share an important sub-set from several dozen photographs that I took during Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah’s visit to Kampala, Masaka, Mengo and Kololo Secondary School during their visit to Uganda from February 20-27, 1972.
My interest in photography goes back to early childhood. I picked up a Kodak Box camera at the age of 10, and have continued to shoot photos to this day. I am an Optometrist by profession which is a good fit for my interest in photography. I came to Canada following the Uganda Asian Exodus in September 1972, six months after Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Uganda Padhramni (visit). Luckily, together with all my photo collection, I made sure I had my negatives and colour slides with me. The negatives — well preserved — sat in a box for close to 30 years. Around 2005 as good quality home scanners started to show up, I managed to digitize all my photos, negatives and slides. I was one of a group of official photographers during the 1972 Padhramni. As you can see from the photographs, all outdoor events were a free for all, and anyone with a camera could join in to take the pictures.
My first settlement in Canada was in Winnipeg. I was Chairman of the Administrative Committee when Mawlana Hazar Imam came to Canada for his first mulaqat with the Jamat in 1978. Readers will be surprised to know that at that time Winnipeg was the only centre where Mawlana Hazar Imam gave Deedar in a Jamatkhana in Canada, a fact that was also noted by Mawlana Hazar Imam in his Farman.
Several years later I settled in Vancouver. Moving forward to 2017, Begum Salimah was in Vancouver for a fundraiser in her capacity as the Global Ambassador for SOS Children’s Village. We have an SOS centre in Surrey, BC, and I was invited to cover the event together with another photographer. I met with the Begum and had an interesting conversation with her. She remembered her 1972 visit to Uganda as well as the visit to Winnipeg in 1978. So over a span of 45 years, I have had three occasions to see her.
I sincerely hope that this humble collection will bring back many many wonderful memories of the 1972 visit. It is my hope that individuals who appear in the photos will come forward and identify themselves so that photo captions can be updated over a period of time. Please write to Barakah’s editor Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com. Each photo has an Id associated with it, which should be specified when submitting details for captions.
1. Mawlana Hazar Imam at Kampala Darkhana Jamatkhana
2. Begum Salimah at Reception Organized by the Ismaili Women’s Organization at Apollo Hotel, Kampala
3. Mawlana Hazar Imam Visits Aga Khan High School in Kampala’s Kololo Suburb
4. Mawlana Hazar Imam at Foundation Laying Ceremony of Fairway Hotel Extension, Kampala
5. Mawlana Hazar Imam Visits Mengo Jamat
6. Begum Salimah at Joint Reception by the Aga Khan Health Board and Ismaili Women’s Organization
7. Mawlana Hazar Imam Visits Masaka Jamat
8. An Anecdote and Photo: Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah at Equator Crossing
The Equator marker is located along the 130 km drive from Masaka to Kampala, 35 km from Masaka. I was tipped off that a surprise unscheduled very short stop was going to be made at the marker for a photo-op. I had my brother-in-law, Noorali Hasham, who passed away less than 2 weeks ago in Masaka, drive me behind the six car deep motorcade. By the time we reached there and I got out of the car and dashed towards the spot, Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah had already had their pictures taken, but I did manage to get this wonderful single shot!
Date posted: December 24, 2020.
Before departing this website please visit our exclusive collections of photos that we have received from individuals and families from around the world as well as take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 250 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.
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