“You are, you are the future.And the future looks good,the future looks good…”– Future looks good, OneRepublic
Imagine being at a reading of unpublished work. How cool is that? Seriously. Doreen Beingana, author of Tropical Fish and Yewande Omotoso read from their upcoming books at the Miles Morland Panel. Yes, Doreen Beingana has an upcoming novel. The Miles Morland scholarship is one writers of African descent with previously published work can access. All you have to do is write. This year’s submissions are still open.
Julius Ocwinyo, author of Fate of the Banished, gave the key note address on Ugandan literature. He says there is no such thing as “English English“. To paraphrase, there are ‘Englishes‘ unique to every geographical area and he gave the example of the English of an American in Michigan being different from that of one in the Appalachian. So to say one is speaking ‘American English’ does not make much sense. The point he was trying to drive home though, is that we should be comfortable enough with our ‘Ugandan English’ as to write in it because when you use words foreign to you, your story loses authenticity. Suffice to say, I doubt he was discouraging learning of new vocabulary but rather, a different way to learn it. Through reading. Read and read and read and write and read and read and read and write. You get the point? On trying to write ‘universal stories’ about ‘serious issues’ he asked, “Which universe?”
The eternal question of what African literature is or isn’t. I think we cannot divorce the fact that we are African from our work as it is. Write what you will, as long as it is a good story. I think to try to define “African literature” is to box it in. One festival attendee argued that we should not reduce African literature to the whims and fancies of academics. Not paraphrased.
The winner of the inaugural Okot P’bitek prize for Poetry in translation was also announced.
Literature professors insist no language is ‘richer’ than the other. The vitality is lost in translation, they say. And so this was the case for Nakisanze, a luganda performance poet who is also the author of The Triangle, a book that was launched last night. She read an excerpt from her book in English(of course, the book is in English) and repeated it in Luganda.
sometimes i want to say it. and there is nothing in english. that will say it. – Nejma, Nayyirah Waheed
That is all I will say on the subject. Otherwise The Triangle, even though fiction, fills in some gaps in Buganda history. I am welcome to all blessers who don’t expect blessings 😅.
Chukwu Owonko, is quite the story teller. The author of How to spell Naija, a short story collection did read us one story. He says he doesn’t write long stories as such because he has a short memory. That aside, the story was really funny as I suppose the rest of the book is. He agrees with Beaton that life is already hard as it is. The book, We are all Blue by Donald Molosi was also launched in his absence.
I have not yet read Sweet Medicine. My to-read list stresses me out. Anyway, I am positive I am going to read it soon after last night when it was officially launched to the universe. Yes, Bob Kisiki, the moderator of the session called the 30 or so people present the universe☺.
Oh yes, the book started as a short story and was written over a period of five years. Mmh, good things don’t just drop from Mars. And in the discussion that followed, I liked that Panashe talked about a ‘middle class feminism’ which is more acceptable as opposed to the one where people need blessers as a means for survival. The men were asked how they feel about being blessers but I think they were shy😅. Okay, maybe none of them is getting blessings for blessing.
The conversation on religion is one that, I think, will forever be inconclusive. The book begins with someone at the witch doctor’s and ends with the same person thanking white Jesus(I have not paraphrased this. That’s exactly how it was said). And it is an open secret in African society that people will dress up and look nice for white Jesus or whatever and still go to the backyard when things aren’t working as they should. The speaker called it “Africans’ refusal to put all their eggs in one basket”. What do y’all think on this?
I sadly did not attend the Readers’ choice awards.
“I am a poem/ will you recite me?”
That was how Harriet Anena’s powerful, I Bow for My Boobs performance ended with a well deserved standing ovation. I am still trying to find the perfect way to describe it though. I was very surprised, pleasantly surprised when she said it is only her second performance. It’s as though she was born for this. Performance poetry, that is.
The poetry is rich with very vivid imagery. It is bold and unapologetic and demanding. She held nothing back in her act. It was exciting as it was inciting. Inciting a righteous anger. Oh, I forget to mention; the poetry is very political. It is of a beloved, with Uganda as the lover. Of course, the beloved is in an abusive relationship. (We are still crossing our fingers hoping none of the leopard’s rats was in attendance. But hell if they were, the beloved is unhappy, shouldn’t the lover care to know? Okay, I’m getting carried away.)
Anena has a very strong stage presence so it was a very intense hour. The room was dead silent as everyone keenly watched her(of course, except for the very many few times I caught myself giggling).
“Loving you is like trying to catch the wind in a basket…”
“My lover has screwed me sooo hard, for so long…and every time I zip up my womanhood, he says this is the last term…”
“I have written you so many love letters which you never read…”
“I sit by the waters of Lake Victoria and watch the waves carry the memories of our love making…”
“My son, Amama, you tell us to go forward but in which direction?…”
Those are off the top of my head. I liked the build up of the performance. It got better and better till the final second. It was an interesting thing to find out in the discussion that followed that she is a very laid back person. Performance poetry, I came to learn, is for the writer.
Again, I didn’t regret my choice. I’m delivering short lectures on decision making henceforth 😅. Okay, too early but Joel insists the movie, Half of a Yellow Sun is a must watch.
Yesterday was the official opening of the festival. Ruyonga did not disappoint. Also, I think Kenyans are a great crowd. So much energy.
Guess who met her brain crush and didn’t embarass herself? Das right. Lucky I ☺.
Ah, but I rush the story. I almost did not make it for this glorious encounter. I mean, I almost did not make it for the first day of the Writivism festival. Yes, if you had not yet received the memo, it’s on now. All week. I am attending for two, Kea and I. The rest of you have no valid excuses. You gots to be there in person.
So the devil tried to keep me from going but black Jesus was not having it. No, he didn’t come riding on a donkey. We use boda bodas in Uganda. 6:15pm and I was at the Uganda museum, right on time to be ushered into the exhibition hall for the Ebifananyi 6 book launch. Meanwhile, I had to choose between a film night and this book launch. I have no idea how the film night went but I don’t regret my choice.
Again, I am rushing the story. The book, Ebifananyi 6 documents the history of St.Mary’s College Kisubi photographically. I had not considered the thought which was put in the order the pictures follow. Or how powerful the story is this way. I have a different perspective on visual art. The book sparked a discussion on education, which later evolved into a very insightful conversation on wypipo, political correctness and an unanswered question on religion. While it is true that the education system was designed to subdue the Africans and make it easier for the wypipo to rule over them and therefore doesn’t encourage one to think for themselves but only to regurgitate what is taught, there were questions about what we are doing about it. 50 years later. There was an interesting argument about lost cultures saying maybe we lost the ones we didn’t want to keep anyway. How did the others survive? Also, on the “sida mu kyalo generation”, maybe we shouldn’t blame education, after all isn’t rural urban migration a global trend? Of course, I am being very subjective in my feedback, only echoing what struck a chord with me.
Oh yes, the question on religion; why is it that we can use religion to explain culture but can’t use culture to explain religion? The conversation could have gone on all night me thinks and I would have stayed if only to get the answers to the questions that I was left with. I talked to an interesting gentleman who thinks the idea of ‘Africa’ is grossly exaggerated. He said Africa is the land mass on which the 55 countries are and that should be satisfactory. That everyone is a person and that’s just it. Nothing about race or religion or culture, just people. I am still gathering my thoughts to form an opinion on this. Actually, on almost everything.
And I’m spoilt for choice tonight. Harriet Anena’s performance ‘Bow for My Boobs’ or the film night showing Half of a Yellow Sun? Tough tough choice *rolls dice
Eish, how I’m I even supposed to review this as a book? Madness! Okay, my dramatics aside. Your Heart Will Skip a Beat and Other Stories is clearly an anthology. A flash fiction anthology of 13 stories by brilliant writers so technically speaking, I can’t talk about it as a whole, right? Or maybe I can.
Before I get caught up in my gibberish, my favorite stories are ‘The Kind of Water I Like‘ by Lillian Akampurira Aujo and ‘Tomorrow’s Burden‘ by Uzoma Ihejirika. The thing about reading an anthology is that you don’t get time to ‘recover’ from one story to another. I shall speak for myself though. I did read it all at once and I kind of can’t find my bearings right now. So if you haven’t read it yet, I advise you take some breaths in between the stories. Take as much time as you need to properly move on. I’m serious by the way(just in case).
There is no way(that I can think of) I am going to break down all the stories and not spoil for you…but let me try. ‘Justice‘ made me really angry. A righteous kind of angry. I even felt dead at the end of it. The sudden change of events took me by surprise, which is a good thing…but not a good thing. Ah, I’m itching to narrate the story but you’ll hate me.
I was still trying to get over myself when I read ‘Overcome‘. I think writers are some of the most cruel people walking this earth. The story ended as soon as it started and no, I was not feeling better. I was actually hurt by this one. Why? Why do writers do these things to characters? It’s not fair.
‘Aduke’s Waist‘ placated my mood. I actually managed to laugh. It’s funny. I hope I have a normal sense of humor though, you know, if someone else could please agree with me on this. It’s funny, right? And then ‘The Miners’ is that story that jumps at you and then just disappears. Does that make sense? Yes, of course it leaves with you with questions. Don’t read it before going to bed, or just sleep with the light on. Or maybe I’m just inciting non-existent fear hihi. I can’t know for sure, but those are my sentiments.
‘The Kind of Water I Like‘ is my favorite story, not just because it’s Ugandan
(I really need to stop with this🙈), but it really really warmed my heart. The ‘awww’ kind of warm. *wipes tear. I think seeing some things only on the news makes them seem so far off and stories like these, personal stories, bring the realities closer and paint a more realistic picture. Suddenly it’s not just another feature at 9’o clock.
I like the old man in ‘The Escape‘. He reminds me of so many incidences but I think the most relatable one is when someone seated next to you in a taxi says they are at a certain location. And then the way [insert name] manages to write a beautiful story on such an avoided subject in ‘The God of Death‘…
A man has got to do what a man has got do. That is the law of the jungle and Lagos is the jungle in ‘Lagos Doesn’t Care‘. I laughed so hard at the end of this story, mostly at how absurd it is. Life is hard people, life is hard. I literally clutched my tummy throughout ‘The Convenient Doctor’. Good God, isn’t it vivid?!
Another favorite of mine ‘Tomorrow’s Burden‘ also had me ‘aww’-ing. Never mind that is not a word. It had me on the edge thinking ‘just do it’ but sadly characters don’t listen to readers😦. Why are human beings like this though? ‘Your Heart Will Skip a Beat‘ left me conflicted.
‘Same Size Feet‘ is also another story not to read before bed. It is so emotionally draining from the beginning to the end of it. It made my heart so heavy and ending the book with ‘Juliet‘ didn’t make it any easier.
You can get the book here to have to go through all of this🙂