Vol. 29 No. 4 (2020): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Culture and History

Boda Bodas and painted exclusion in Western Uganda

Alexander Öbom
Uppsala University

Published 2020-12-12


  • Paintings,
  • Visual Anthropology,
  • Mobility,
  • Modernity,
  • Motorcycle-taxi,
  • Development,
  • Rural,
  • Uganda
  • ...More

How to Cite

Öbom, A. (2020). Boda Bodas and painted exclusion in Western Uganda. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 29(4), 25. https://doi.org/10.53228/njas.v29i4.564


Motorcycle-taxi drivers in Kisoro, a rural district of Uganda, observed various processes around them which they termed “development” or “modernity”. But they also, in many ways, felt excluded from these processes. Through a combination of text and my own painted images, the aim here is to share as many nuances as possible of my interpretations of these drivers’ observations. I argue for the use of images to assist in describing visual experiences, and I compare and discuss the potentials of paintings and photographs, suggesting that paintings can clarify the ever-present subjectivity in social science-related research more expressively than photographs. In addition, I propose that paintings can bring the reader-viewer closer to the experiences of the informants. I conducted anthropological fieldwork among these drivers – locally referred to as Boda Boda drivers – and other workers of similar socioeconomic status in 2017. These young adults, most of them men, waited for more beneficial developments, while struggling to handle their current positions as more or less excluded spectators. In addition to identifying what my informants would need to feel fully included in the modernisation of their society, I discuss ways of improving research-related painting in order to involve informants further in this practice as well.