When Mrs. Margaret Trowell succeeded in setting up an African School of Fine Art in the heart of Africa at Makerere College in 1937, she turned her attention to giving it a local character of inspiration from local resources and the bible to create modern art. The School offered a Teachers certificate course in art and Design which was upgraded to Diploma in 1953. The first three Diploma students graduated in 1958 which also coincided with her retirement.
Trowell was succeeded by Prof. Cecil Todd who strengthened the academic and technical stance of the School which had in any case had began to emerge shortly before she retired. The School expanded under Todd; new buildings were constructed, new courses were introduced, student and staff increased. The School was a beehive of activities especially as it was time of run up to independence. Debates about the necessity of Africanising Art education continued to reverberate in various ways in the School throughout the independence decade.
The School remained open inspite of the rule of terror and economic decline under Gen Idi Amin Dada who captured power in 1971 in a military coup. Images that came from this period express disgust for the corrupt leaders. With the repressive conditions unrelenting several staff fled the country. So bad was the situation that in 1975, the School survived with just two members of staff; Prof. G. Kakooza and Mr. Ignatius Sserulyo. To ease the situation, recent B.A graduates were hired while some were brought in from Pakistan. Conditions did not get better following the collapse of Amin’s government in 1979. The country staggered from one regime to another leading to the disputed elections of 1980 where Obote was declared winner. A civil war broke out where Museveni one of the losers of the election emerged victorious in 1986
Museveni implemented a reconstruction drive of the country which involved liberalization of the economy. His goal was to create a modern and integrated economy. Hitherto, the School was still running the traditional disciplines of Painting, sculpture, Ceramics and graphic art. These were largely non-commercial and therefore did not explicitly contribute o the development of the fragile economy. Moreover the student intake was still small- 20 admissions per year. The School faced an impending closure if it did not a) mount new applied arts programs and b) did not increase on the number of students. Pressure to fulfill these two conditions gave the School the opportunity to agitate for a faculty status. Hitherto, it had been operating as a department even when it exhibited all the properties of a faculty. As a department it had no room to mount new programs or increase on the student enrollment. In 1994, the School successfully applied for promotion to faculty status which was implemented in 1995. The new School’s highest office change from the title from the Head to that of the Dean, who presided over three academic departments as follows; Painting and Art History, Sculpture and Drawing and Industrial Art and Design. In the same vein the academic award changed from Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art (BAFA) to Bachelor of Industrial and Fine Arts (BIFA) to reflect the new developments.
Under this new arrangement, the following courses were introduced; Advertising design, Fashion, Textile Design, Jewelry, Mosaic and Stained Glass, Wood and Metal Fabrication and Marketing. These new courses were in a specific way designed to respond to the demands of not only the local but international market. Because of their industrial orientation and application these were indeed industrial courses. To fulfill the requirements of the industrial and Fine Arts degree, students had to select three courses; two of which would come from either the Fine Art cluster or from the new Industrial Arts cluster. 1995 was also the time the School admitted its first private students. While the 20 government students were maintained private students admissions increased on a yearly basis until it reached an optimum number of 180 in 2004.
At the turn of the millennium, Makerere University embarked on a project to form Constituent Colleges. The aim of this move was to render the University more efficient in both the administrative and academic arena. Faculties that shared related courses were not only encouraged but advised to merge. The School of Industrial and Fine Arts had the option of joining the Faculty of Arts because of the creativity component it shares with Music Dance and Drama and Literature. However, given that the School had just attain a faculty status with industrial courses as their flag ship a decision was made to merge with Faculty of Technology. It is noteworthy that the department of Architecture which shares a lot in common with Fine Art and Design was already part of Faculty of Technology, having been introduced there in 1989. In addition, the Dean of Technology at the time all these developments were unfolding was himself an architect. So, it was easy for him to take a broader view of the benefits that a partnership between Industrial and Fine Arts and Technology would bring.
A number of meetings were held to harmonize the proposed marriage which culminated into the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT). The highest office in the College is that of the Principal who is assisted by the Deputy Principal.
The Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts is itself constituted by three departments. They are headed by Departmental Chairs as follows:
- Department of Fine Art Dr. Maria Kizito Kasule
- Department of Industrial Art and Applied Design Dr. Angelo Kakande
- Department of Visual Communication, Design and Multimedia Assoc. Prof. Philip Kwesiga
The benefits of restructuring were also extended to the Makerere University Gallery. Previously under the protective wings of MTSIFA, the Gallery gained autonomy after it was upgraded to The Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration. With this new status, its mandate expanded to carrying out research and dissemination of visual culture in Uganda, in addition to its conservation and restoration.
I end these remarks by quoting principal of the of the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology in the Undergraduate Handbook 2011-2013, he said “….the technological advancement of the 21st century has further reduced the gap between design art and technology, which more than ever before calls for interdisciplinary pedagogical approaches between the artists, designers architects, surveyors, construction managers and engineers”.
The marriage has allowed a cross fertilization of ideas and resources between engineers artists architects and designers and it is growing from strength to strength.