Letters from Sonja: The Kabaka's Photographers
A Muganda woman with child by the Nile(1950's).

Letters from Sonja: The Kabaka's Photographers


Sonja and Hubert's friendship with the Kabaka introduces them to other royals as well as other important people in Kampala.

By Sonja Winklmaier
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First published: July 10, 2005


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Hubert had to go to Nairobi rather often, for example to court cases either as a witness or as an expert or to regular meetings with the directors of CMC.

March 30th, 1956-

Hubert at the moment is in Nairobi again. Last night I even went out without Hubert. Mr. And Mrs. Goetz from Nairobi are on a vacation in Uganda at the moment. They were in Kampala yesterday.

In the evening I went together with them to visit Mr. Lehmann. (Mr. Lehmann is a Chemist specializing in the making of soap. He was building up a soap factory for an Asian.) I came home past mid-night.

Everybody in Nairobi now wants to see, how we are getting on in Kampala. During Easter we are awaiting a real invasion. The Götzens like our flat. They are very enthusiastic about Kampala and would prefer to live here instead of Nairobi.

In the meantime we became:

Royal Court-Photographers
To H.R.H. The Kabaka
Mutesa II of Buganda

(This is just a joke)

How does that sound?! We have already been “Translators to H.R.H “ for some time. (We had a darkroom and developed and printed our own photographs.) (In one of the letters we translated for His Highness, he was addressed as “Lieber Herr König” meaning “Dear Mr. King”.)

Saturday evening Prince Lincoln came with a friend and brought us, by order of his brother, the Kabaka, a number of negatives of private photographs to be enlarged and printed, as H.H. wants the photos to be handled confidentially and therefore does not want to take them to an English or Asian shop. By Sunday evening twenty-five 18 x 24 prints and sixty 12 x 16 ½ prints were ready. They were about 30 to 35 different pictures showing, for example, how H.H. plays with his heir, Prince Ronald (about a year old) and Princess Dorothy, who has her legs in braces due to polio. In some photographs he parties with prominent Africans, Prince Henry, and some of meetings of the “elders“. Very interesting and valuable pictures passed through our hands. We take the word “confidential” very seriously and we do not make any extra prints.

(I am sure, that all these pictures got lost during the attack on the Kabaka’s palace by Obote‘s troops under the command of Idi Amin in May 1966. Especially for the present Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II and Princess Dorothy, it is a loss when these pictures of their childhood don’t exist anymore.)

April 4th, 1956-

Hubert is back from Nairobi. He had a splendid flight over Lake Victoria. Actually received an invitation from the Kabaka, while Hubert was in Nairobi. Unfortunately I only heard about the invitation when it was too late. The physician who is treating Princess Dorothy came to Kampala from England for a couple of days. That was the reason for the party I was invited to. Paul, who should have conveyed the invitation to me, unexpectedly had to go on a business trip and therefore could not execute the order. I felt quite honored again.

During Easter, originally we were invited to the Kabaka’s Bamunanika Palace. His Highness changed his plans and went hunting instead. They really seem to like us. Within the Royal Family Prince Lincoln is already called “Bwana Winkamaier”. It is interesting, how quick everything is known not only in Kampala, but even in Nairobi. Many times when Prince Lincoln was at our place, some Germans were also there.

The other day an Austrian woman, who is a cashier for Barclays Bank, and whose husband is the Immigration Officer, wanted to advise me not to go to the Kabaka’s Palace. We don’t care about such advice, but it shows, how well we are being watched.

The Teubers were here for Easter. We went to “Seven Falls” together on Sunday. This is a very nice place to go to near Jinja. At this point the Nile is running through some jungle and 7 waterfalls join the river. We had to walk quite a bit through the jungle on a very narrow path in order to get there.

Monday afternoon we went to Entebbe for a swim. There is a short stretch of beach, very nice with white sand and a shallow shore. In spite of notices like “Beware of Crocodiles”, this piece of beach is the common bathing-beach.

April 16th, 1956-

More Germans are coming to Kampala. Last week six more Germans arrived. They are all working in the new Record-Factory of Dr. von Opel. They are a 19 year old toolmaker, 2 galvanisers (22 and about 45 years old), a 60 year old man who is setting up the factory and who will be returning to Germany after about 6 months, and a couple, who already had a car accident and is in hospital at the moment. He is the director of the company.

Also some females will be arriving in Kampala. The first one will be the fiancé of Mr. Lürs (about 22 years old), who comes from Nürnberg, then the wife and 17 year old daughter of the galvaniser, as well as Mrs. Kassner (21 years old) will be arriving. Mr. Kassner is a new mechanic, who arrived in the meantime to assist Mr. Geyer. Also Mr. Geyer’s girlfriend will soon be coming. We always seem to be the first ones to come and then a whole lot follow. There will be at least two German weddings in Kampala this year

In the meantime we have seen the Kabaka several times again. He even invited us for a two weeks vacation. We could not accept this, as Hubert has to work.

One evening I was allowed to see the Royal Drums of Buganda. That was very interesting. There are different kinds of drums and there are different ensembles of these drums. Apart from the drums there are quite a number of other musical instruments, such as xylophones, flutes and stringed instruments. For each set of drums there is a separate house made of bamboo. The men who play the drums live and sleep in these houses. The drums are a sort of relic. Prince Lincoln and Prince Badru, who showed me around, on the order of the Kabaka, knelt down every time before entering one of the houses. The men playing the drums were all elderly, grey haired men. It was most interesting to watch their serious faces while they were playing the drums. I once again felt greatly honored.

April 23rd, 1956-

Over the weekend we made some new positive experiences:

My shopping on Saturday was very successful. The meat-prices rose by at least 1 EA Shilling per pound (0,60 DM). This is actually negative, but the end-result was very positive. On Saturday there was no kind of meat that was not available. And there was no endless waiting like on previous Saturdays. Since the prices rose, there even seems to be calves in East Africa. Before one could not get any veal at all. As the butcher was not very busy I could even explain to him how to cut me some veal cutlets. So yesterday we had a “princely” meal with Wiener Schnitzel.

In this land of coffee I found the first coffee beans since our arrival in Kampala. Either Austrians or Italians have opened a Coffee Shop in Kampala, something like “Hochland” in Stuttgart. They blend Kenya-, Tanganyika- und Uganda-Coffee and various blends are daily available, freshly roasted. If you wish you can get your beans ground with an electric coffee-grinder, while you wait.

The next advantage for a change is “mental food”. The “ Deutsche Welle” (The voice of Germany) intensified their broadcasts. We can now receive Cologne very well every evening from 9 to 12 o’clock. The reception is even better than Radio Kampala, not to mention Radio Kenya. In addition Hubert has extended the wire the put up for me on the roof to hang up the laundry, to our sitting room. This “luxury” antenna does real wonders. We now have quite a selection that we can receive with our radio. Especially the US stations are very strong. But I don’t like their music.

By the way, my kitchen, which I found really ugly in the beginning, is now a real “doll’s”-kitchen, even without the American luxury kitchen furniture and equipment that I had in Nairobi. I like my little kitchen so much, that I would like to work in it the whole day. I keep everything in light blue. The walls are painted in a very light cream color. Particularly the two wall shelves, the meat-safe and the kitchen table looked really horrible. I have covered everything with light blue oilcloth and I also have light blue curtains. Mwinzi thinks the kitchen is “maridadi sana” and he too enjoys it.

June 22nd, 1956-

First, the latest occurrence, that happened just an hour ago.

When Hubert came home today for lunch, he gave me an envelope that was addressed to me. When I opened it, I was almost hit by a stroke. An invitation with a gold border and a golden Crown was in the envelope. The invitation read as follows:

His Excellency the Governor and Lady Cohen
Request the pleasure of the company of
Mr. and Mrs. H. Winklmaier
At a Garden Party to celebrate the
Official Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
On Saturday, 9th June, 1956 from 4.15 p.m. to 6.15 p.m
R.S.V.P
A.D.C.
Government House
Entebbe           Dress: Lounge Suit.

How we got this invitation really puzzles us. I never in my life dreamt of one day being invited to a party by a British Governor. Hubert a short while ago introduced me to a Secretary of Government House. Hubert said I probably left a good impression. I cannot imagine however, that this could be the reason for such an invitation.

The Omukama of Toro, who was mentioned in the Rwenzori article (A group of mountain climbers from the hiking club I belonged to before coming to E.A. was climbing the Rwenzori) has been in Hubert’s office several times already. We also developed photos of his son, Prince Stephen.

The Omukama’s most beautiful daughter, Princess Elizabeth Bagaya was introduced to us in the Kabaka’s palace just recently. I think she is about 10 years younger than me.


Owen Falls Dam and the Source of the Nile (1955).

June 25th, 1956-

Two weeks ago on Sunday, we went to Jinja. The road to Jinja is a very good one, almost completely straight, leading through coffee- and tea plantations, through giant sugar-cane plantations and past the Mabira impenetrable forest. I specially liked the Mabira forest.

Jinja is a small but very important little town. It is a sort of business center and the big Owen Falls Dam is there. Mainly Asians live in Jinja. Only few Europeans live there.

We saw a very big crocodile in the Nile and about 12 Hippos. This was one of our few outings since we are in Kampala. I am enclosing some photographs. Please don’t loose the pictures but put them in an album.


Impenetrable forest (Not Mabira but very much like it).

June 26th, 1956-

Only Hubert went to the Garden Party at Government House. I did not feel well and I also was not really that much interested to go there. The Kabaka and his wife were there and also some other people that Hubert knew. We were the only Germans that were invited.

July 20th, 1956-

Dr. Radhakrishnan, the Indian Vice-President, was on a visit to Kampala. The Kabaka gave a Sundowner in his honor. We, of course, have been invited. The Kings of Toro and Ankole were present. Also His Excellency the Governor of Uganda, Sir Andrew Cohen and Lady Cohen were there. The Kabaka was a very experienced host. He paid us the great honor and personally introduced us to His Excellency Dr. Radhakrishnan. Dr. Radhakrishnan talked with me for a very long time. He told me that he is a personal friend of Prof. Theodor Heuss. (Theodor Heuss was our first President after WW II. He is of the same “tribe” as myself. I was so proud.) Dr. Radhakrishnan is a very nice old gentleman. He has great intelligence and knowledge, a real scholar. As I learned later, he is supposed to speak no less than 16 languages, including German. His English is so good as one only hears it very rarely spoken. He has been a Professor at Oxford University for some time.

H.H. The Kabaka also introduced us to Sir Andrew Cohen…

(Quite honestly I did not like the Governor very much. When he shook my hand it was an unpleasant feeling. I very much go by the first handshake of a person. I did however admire the great diplomacy of his Highness the Kabaka.)

On this evening we were also introduced to Lady Irene, mother of the Kabaka.


Makerere Main Building (1956).


Myself, Hubert and Eunice.

August 28th, 1956-

Today I enclose a picture that was taken a fortnight ago. The girl in the picture is Eunice Nabende, a 20-year-old student from Makerere College. Eunice is a very good-looking girl. She is a friend of Prince Lincoln. She is not very interested in having a boyfriend yet as she is planning to go to the US for further studies. She likes it very much when we collect her for Sunday afternoons as she can relax at our home. The photo does not really show her beauty. She has quite an exotic look, like a bit Chinese with slightly slanted eyes. She is the daughter of a Chief from Mbale. We like her very much.

Downstairs from Geyer’s flat lives an Italian couple. The lady is expecting a baby too. Unfortunately she knows neither English nor German and I don’t know any Italian. So it is a bit difficult to have a conversation with her.

At one of the recent visits in the Royal Palace the Kabaka took me to one of the women. She was also expecting a baby and the Kabaka thought she could pass some of her experience on to me. The women all laughed and I was too shy to ask any questions. At that point I did not know, who this mother-to-be was. Only later I found out that she was Sarah Kisosonkole, mother of the present Kabaka of Buganda, Mutebi II. The baby she was expecting was Prince Richard Walugembe.

Click here to continue to "My Greatest Day in 1956"

By Sonja Winklmaier
more from author >>
First published: July 10, 2005
Sonja Winklmaier moved to Uganda in the 1950s to follow her husband, Hubert Winklmaier, as the German Volkswagen Factory sent him to work with their agent, Cooper Motor Corporation.

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