Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
THE RISE OF CANNIBALS
Tooro is a small kingdom in Western Uganda at the foot of the legendary Mountains of the Moon. These steep, partly snow-covered mountains form part of the East African Rift Valley. Named after a celestial body, the moon, thereby transcending the boundaries of the earth, the Mountains of the Moon formed part of an imaginary geography in antiquity. The ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy filled his map of the then unknown heart of Africa with a range of snowcapped mountains that he named ‘Mountains of the Moon’. According to his geography, the people inhabiting the area around the Mountains of the Moon were dwarfs and man-eaters, the radical Other of ancient people.
When I came to Fort Portal, the capital of Tooro, in 1998, I was more than surprised to find people talking about cannibals. Not only women and men with little schooling in the rural areas but also people with higher education, from the elite in the capital, were talking about cannibals. Cannibals, they said, bewitched people so that they fell sick and died only to be resurrected and die a second time by being eaten. Through these cannibals, the horror of witchcraft and of death was radicalized by their killing twice. The boundary between life and death, between the living and the dead, had become ever more permeable and insecure, resulting in a sort of ‘zombification’ of postcolonial life in Tooro – as has been described also for other regions of east and central Africa (de Boeck 1998:49).