Leaving our lodge after breakfast we passed once more over the dreadful stretch of road leading to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The road bi-sects the park north to south but is not part of the park [i.e. you don’t need to pay the park fee to travel this road]. Beyond the Kazinga Channel the surface improves and we headed for Kasese, crossing the equator once more near the Queen’s Pavilion.
This road is very scenic with the Rwenzori mountains rising gradually on the left and the lowland savanna of the northern QENP on the right. We soon passed Kasese, an unremarkable small town.
About 10kms north of Kasese we were looking out for and passed the orange and purple sign for Rwenzori Founders, which I include from their website so you can spot it! A quick turn around and we followed the signs along a well made murrum track.
We gradually climbed through green and well tended gardens to find the parking lot. I had been told to visit by a friend in Kampala but had not realised that ‘opening is by appointment’. Despite not having called ahead, we were welcomed to the gallery which was opened up for us.
The building itself is innovative, using local materials and cleverly lets light into the gallery space from roof lights.
The gardens are beautifully maintained and provide a wonderfully tranquil location for the sculptures dotted around.
The mother carrying her infant, sheltered by a calabash suggests such movement! On the other side of the gallery is the ‘Bird in the Bush’ and a pangolin.
On display inside are examples of works by the local artists, in metal and stone. The foundry is the only one in Uganda producing cast sculptures. These range in size from keyrings and paperweights to larger animal pieces. Some of these are on sale in Banana Boat outlets in Kampala, but I highly recommend a visit to the source.
A wonderful series of Clan totems has been designed by British Sculptor Jon Buck, many of which are on show. The Clan totem animal is inherited from your father and is an animal you should not hunt, kill or eat. Neither should you marry someone from the same clan. This is an interesting traditional method of conservation and mixing the gene pool! Clan totems were known in the Buganda kingdom and other western kingdoms.
This is a leaflet which you can download here of the totems. To show the quality of the sculptures, here is one of my favourites; the guinea fowl.
The centre was established in 2008 with three locals trained at the Pangolin Editions foundry in UK where huge, bronze statues are cast. Since then the workforce has expanded.
We enjoyed the peaceful setting and the locally produced coffee before continuing on our way, but not before a visit to the toilets, which also featured a lovely sculture!
The road past the foundry is one of the access points to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park where there is six or seven day trek in the high mountains – to summit the peaks you will need crampons and ice-axes, as well as warm clothes! The high peaks are some distance from the road and elusive, hiding in clouds and we saw no sign of snow.
The road north to Fort Portal is getting rather potholed. We passed through Hima, known throughout Uganda as the source of cement and on through fertile landscape with the mountains to our left.
From Fort Portal to Kampala there is a long stretch (approx 50kms!) of roadworks, as far as Kyenjojo which gives an ‘African massage’ and surely tests the shock absorbers. Along the road, which I described before, we continued to see interesting loads on bicycles and bodas as we made our way back to Kampala.