a prophecy hidden in fiction #UGBlogWeek

Today started out pretty well, I completed all my tasks by midday. Including one task that I was dreading with all of me – let’s face it, some bugs are easier than others.

Despite this awesome start, little did I know that my life would come to a grinding halt after a crashing collusion with Paige’s. For the first time, two timelines have crossed and I’m seated here in the aftermath not even sure about where my head’s at.

I’ve always loved the mystery that surrounds itself in the stories that are born in my head. I knew Paige when I started typing, but I didn’t know what was going to happen to her… so as I wrote, the story unfolded. The twists and turns always happened at the point where I’m nervous about the story getting too long, also coupled with the fact that life sometimes poops like a chubby cute newborn.

Paige’s day one literally picked itself up and plopped itself into my existence. Sadly, I did not have the luxury of running to my Dee. No. I had to return to work and try to continue with my existence sans glitter, fairies and butterflies.

Because the chances of my Jared reading this are microscopic, I’ll regale you with the detail of this tale turned reality.

I’ve been smiling for no reason for the last 4 days, despite the insomnia I’ve suffered for the past 2 weeks. No, not the mind drifting, lets-soft-build-castles-in-the-air drifting. Nah bruh! More like lets-create-multiple-universes-with-different-timelines-and-warp-capabilities kind of drifting. When my mind wonders, it takes the brutal force of reality to being me crashing back. Thats the second time I have used the word crashing and it am just 200 words in.

Some universes are worth smiling over, a gaze focused passed the object in front of you, into a reality even your imagination wouldn’t mind but will not admit it. I wore blue today, for the sole reason that my mind was convinced that you liked blue. I wore those black shoes from the other day. Come to think of it, it might be the shoes. The last time I wore these shoes was also a set up for disappointment.

I was early. Ha! These days, I am hardly ever early but look at me walking in 10 minutes early. None of that, restaurant adjacent to another business. I am momentarily distracted by your scent because you smell soo good. You smile good too. Yes, insert the African blush all over this material. Conversation is easy. No forced talk or awkward silences. I’m bidding my time, I am waiting. There is a question coming. A smile on my face as I write this. The kind of question that leaves men weak and women giddy.

it was worse than website.

Paige should be happy she got website.

emotional-abuse

Split second recovery is something that is taught to you in grad school as your hours of hard work are shredded to pieces. Split second recovery is what makes you smile an emotionless smile as the memory of the moment is pulled into your head. Split second recovery is nowhere, as you stand and stare at your reflection in the bathroom mirror.

I stare at her, in the mirror, trying to scrutinise… what exactly is it about her that is not just not desirable but… sigh. I’m hugging my middle before my knees give way, making me slide into a squat. Like the one when you use in a pit latrine for better aim. You know the one…

I just need a minute. I need to process what just happened. I just need my pillow, thats all. No, it’s not a blankie, but it has more experience in these situation than the soothing cold tiles of this toilet. I’m just staring at the floor and letting the cold seep into my back.

I should probably talk to God at this point. It is probably a good idea for me to do that right about now. I should find my completion in him. I should find my centre in him. I should put my hope in him. I should… I should… I should… You know just because you say it does not make it easy.

Just because it’s running through my mind doesn’t mean I have the energy to get off this floor.

Today, should have ended different.

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***

This Dandelion tale has stolen a verse from my life.

Even Hollywood wouldn’t have been able to script this ish! Only life in it’s purest form! There is aways a possibility that life will attempt to screw you over but hope must remain. Dawn will return. 

The Dandelion series will return after this short break. In the mean time, find part One, Two and Three here.

 

#Writivism2016 Day 5: The colonies are coming…

It’s four o’clock, my regular boda guy is late, I’m tapping my foot impatiently under my desk as my eyes turn back to the code I was troubleshooting. You see I am a writer of software by day and a writer of fiction by night. After one last satisfactory glance, I start to pack up, I don’t want to miss the keynote- but clearly I am going to be late. I don’t like being late, especially when it is not a weekend morning. When he finally gets to the office, he apologizes – traffic he says. Apprehensive at the thought that I am going to be further delayed, traffic means weaving through mildly irritated Ugandans driving at the mercy of the officer in white. When did I get so impatient, I wonder!

I finally get to the museum, geared and ready for Day 5 of Writivism – on the line up: a keynote by Zukiswa Wanner titled ‘Decolonizing African Literature’; another triple book launch: Ghosts of 1894 by Odour Jagero, A Poetic Duet by Jane p’Bitek and Sophie Bamwoyeraki, and 100 Days by Juliane Okot Bitek; Femrite at 20 hosted by Afrikult and a performance of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.

I think you understand why it was important not to be late or tarry anywhere, least of all be interrupted by traffic.

Tiptoeing into the room, I found a chair next to Ntwatwa (of the Nevender fame), right behind Nyana (of the Soo Many Stories fame), and in front of Nwokolo (author of How To Spell Naija II, launched on Day 4). Little did I know, this was to be the fate of my night, rubbing shoulders with the greats. Lugging my helmet, jumper and a 1 litre jerrycan of honey, I sit as quietly as I can.

Wanner was speaking, so effortlessly and poised – it’s hard not to give her your full attention. The topic of her address, Decolonizing African Literature. To be honest I was a skeptic until today, perhaps it is the use of the term decolonize. All week, I have found myself alienated from this term. In the discussion after the keynote, Chigumadzi (author of Sweet Medicine, launched on Day 3) asked a question that dealt with the fact that different parts of Africa were dealt with varying degrees of the white gaze. In one part of the continent, they will exclaim – ‘ah! just move on‘ and in another part not so much. I found myself in the first category until today, you see, life has a whole host issues that grab at me, demanding for my attention. Attempting to add Speke and Grant to the list seemed unnecessary – however, remember the multiple facets?

So what changed today? Today, I remembered the first story I ever wrote. I was in P5 and the characters in my story: all young girls who were best friends, they had bluish green eyes with pale blond hair. Sound familiar? Let me tell you about the story that I wrote in my S4 vacation, a princess born in a poor family who is madly attracted to the crown prince. However, the queen dislikes her immensely so she finally gives up and joins the royal air force.

Get the point? How easy it was for a young version of me to relate to characters the look nothing like me? Very easy. That is what I was surrounded with – Bradford, Steel, Follet, Archer, Clancy, Grisham, Sheldon and the characters that they gave birth to. This was my perceived definition of story telling. This was the definition of story telling according to them, to these authors.

And I wasn’t the only one in this boat, in fact, the only reason why I remembered my old stories was because someone in the audience mentioned the exact same thing, writing about blue eyes and blond hair. How then can we change? Someone asked, after all it hasn’t taken just one person to get here, nor did this never happen overnight. How do we change the minds of publishers and distributers, making them more willing to give African themed literature a chance? How do we convince schools that as much as Ngugi wa thiong’o will always remain a timeless classic, there are other noteworthy books that can be added to the curriculum? How do we convince book clubs, within our own continent, on this rock that we call Africa – how do we convince them that African published books are not to be shunned?

What would happen if we got together, bought copies of our five favourite books, and donated them to our high schools?

– Zukiswa Wanner, Writivism 2016

The next session was chaired by Henry Brefo and Zaahida Nabagereka of Afrikult – the Femrite at 20 session! On the panel was Hilda Twongyeirwe, Harriet Anena and Bonita Arinaitwe. We were taken on the journey of Femrite from the beginning, focusing on the main idea that the founding members had when starting the initiative. A place that encourages and supports Ugandan women in their writing. Femrite has two types of memberships, Monday club which is open to all and the second a more formal membership which includes a nominal subscription. At Monday club, texts are submitted anonymously and then critiqued by the entire group.

Arinaitwe, a young girl who published her first book when she was 10 – and currently has two books out, told us that one of her inspirations is her father. He recognized her talent and told her if she wrote a book, he would go ahead and publish it. She laughed as she said, I thought he was joking.

Her father, who was also in attendance remarked on the impact that Femrite had on his daughter. Reminiscing about the first time they went for Monday club, the members treated Arinaitwe as though she was a writer. He said he held his head in his hands as he listened the barrage of questions that were being fired at his girl, every now and then wanting to protest, asking them if they couldn’t see that she was a young girl. However, to his surprise and to her credit, Arinaitwe rose to the occasion and gracefully answered everything that was asked of her. He applauded them for the support that they have shown his daughter on her literary dream.

Anena talked about her journey to publishing and about how she took the road of self publication because she got rejected by publishing houses. When asked about the cost, she said something that I found to be profound: she saved towards her book. You may roll your eyes all you want, but people saving towards projects in Uganda is not a very common phenomenon.

While Femrite is boasting of a growing base of members, initiatives like this need ideas on how to remain sustainable. So incase you have any ideas, do reach out to them. A question was asked on whether they would consider focusing on playwrights as well and not just novels and poetry. To which Baingana (author of Tropical Fish) answered, she encouraged people with a passion for playwrights to join in on Monday club and take part in the discussions. Thus helping create an atmosphere where other playwrights can engage but also exposing their particular style and art to the poets and novelists.

Because the Femrite at 20 session was happening concurrently with the triple book launch, I was only able to catch the end of the book launch.

That included a reading by Jagero out of his book Ghosts of 1894 and listening to a discussion on A Poetic Duet by Jane p’Bitek and Sophie Bamwoyeraki.

Both p’Bitek and Bamwoyeraki, read three poems each and you could tell they both had their own distinct voices. This in turn raised the question on why a duet, and how they managed the dynamic of two writers each with their own distinct voice. From their camaraderie and how they seemed to have an air of ease about them; made me begin to consider partnerships.

They mentioned that one thing that helped them was having a theme as the central idea that they both focused on but each interpreted in their own style. Which is really interesting when you think about it, I’ve taught myself to believe in following and adhering to certain structures and rules – which I now believe has led to my unwitting participation in censorship.

Sadly, I was unable to go for the performance of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, but hope that I will get a chance to own a copy of the book

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Today, I met four awe-inspiring ladies: Nakisanze Segawa – author of The Triangle, Harriet Anena – author of A Nation in Labor, Beatrice Lamwaka – author of Butterfly Dreams, shortlisted for Caine Prize 2011, Doreen Baingana – author of Tropical Fish, winner Commonwealth Writers Prize

The Writivism Festival is an initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond.

It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

#Writivism2016 Day 3: Blame the innocent animals at the colonial playground.

Today saw the launch of 2 books, Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi and A Death Retold in Truth and Rumor by Grace Musila. While Professor Musila was unable to make it, Chigumadzi was part of the session that was chaired by Bob Kisiki.

As usual, in what I am beginning to believe is proper literary fashion, both books sparked interesting conversation.

We dived into Professor Musila’s book first – A Death Retold in Truth and Rumor, a story of a tourist who is murdered in Masai Mara and the mystery surrounding her death. One of the reactions to this book was in relation to the different roles that the governments played and their reactions or lack thereof.

In the discussion, Africa became analogous to the colonial playground where every once in a while a royal will drop in to get engaged or visit a wildlife sanctuary.

There was some disbelief in the room when it was said that the blame at one point was shifted toward the animals at Masai Mara. After which the blame was turned onto something else. The invisible third force that crops up whenever superiors on the dark continent are put to task .

Chigumadzi took two readings out of her book, Sweet Medicine, and her writing really did take us there. Titsi, the main character of the book, came to life in those short pieces. For a person who has not yet read the book, I was able to get a teeny tiny picture into her story.

Tonights, Aha! moment: Chigumadzi said characters are not a vehicle to write about an issue but rather the other way round. Which is quite interesting when you think about it, I am notorious for trying to model a character after an issue that my mind has fixated on. However, as soon as I am done with that issue, then my character remains lingering with nowhere to go and nothing defined to do. I believe that this discussion started when a question was asked about whether she had a pretty good idea of where the story would lead or whether she just let the story develop as she went along.

Which makes me wonder about something else, do characters have a will of their own, aside from the agenda of the author?

One curious point was with regard to the duplicitous nature of Africans that was blamed on the fact that we would rather not put all our eggs in one basket. For a country that is largely Christian, why is there still a large number of callers to advert that says, ‘Do you want your ex back? Call this number 0777 123 456.

The question that closed off this session was directed toward the African Male, and whether they feel the pressure to be a blesser a.k.a Sugar Daddy?

The night was closed off by the Readers Choice Awards: with 11 submissions in the Ugandan Classics category and a whooping 47 submissions in the African category. The awards were hosted by the Afrikult team and Beewol.

In the Ugandan Classics category, the shortlisted titles were:
1. Kintu – Jennifer Makumbi
2. Fate of the Banished – Julius Ocwinyo
3. The Headline That Morning – Peter Kagayi
4. Song of Lawino – Okot P’Bitek
5. Tropical Fish – Doreen Baingana

In the African category, the shortlisted titles were:
1. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi
2. Black Ass – Igoni Barett
3. The Fisherman – Chigozie Obioma
4. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives Loya Shoneyin
5. Season of Crimson Blossoms – Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

The absence of francophone literature did not go unnoticed, this begged the question: Why? Is it that the call was not wide spread or…

The winners were Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.

Yes, I might have done the dance as I nominated and voted for Kintu because Kintu shattered my world and actually was the first African literature book I read and reviewed.

update: I am not sure how I forgot this, well maybe I do – I didn’t win grrrr…. Afrikult held a raffle at the end of the ceremony where Writivism tees, Anthology & a bag and chocolate were up for grabs. However, because #francophonevoicesmatter, the last raffle ticket was rounded off to the nearest number and we had our first francophone winner of the night.

The Writivism Festival is an initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond.

It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

 

#Writivism2016 is here…

With the back of her hand on her lips, she tries to suppress a smile. She finds that this is a little hard to do, as the corners of her lips are being pretty persistent. Her eyes gaze off, outside the window, past the palm trees on her horizon, further past the white fluff pasted on today’s blue sky.

She remembers 2016, at the very start. The resolutions she penned down.
More Writing. More Reading. At least that’s what her journal said. Keeping it an any type of reading or writing would be easy. No. She was determined to dive into the genre named ‘African’… 

Today, 9 stories (and book reviews) later – She is excited and anxious all a once. You see this is her first Writivism. Yes. That sort of thing is worthy of excitement with a heavy dose of anxiety.

She wants to meet these people that are coming — the ones living her dream! She has questions to ask them? How do they write? What happens when the story leaves you? How do you write of a place that you’ve never been? Where do they get the gall to attempt to change the narrative? Did they kill their editors? Did they follow Nike and just do it? Was the story already burdening them, forever assaulting their dreams and waking moments? Or did the words just sort of pop up on the page as they committed to it?

This festival has planned 7 days of mind-blowing literary conversation! From Book Launches, there is literally a launch every day – pun noted :), to Literary Agent Speed Dating – Yeah, that’s right! How fast can you pitch that book idea?

Other activities that she is pumped about are the Book Signings at the Autograph Points; Award Ceremonies (Okot p’Bitek Prize, Short Story Prize); Keynote Addresses (Zukiswa Wanner & Julius Ocwinyo); Readings; Performances and Films; Panels and Discussions on a whole range of things. She is seriously considering apologising to her boss and just pitching camp at the venue – for just seven days. What are the odds that she will be missed?

Truth be told, she is a bit overwhelmed. You see she is a newbie and will probably need a guide, lest she embarrasses herself.

I am she and I’m ready for #Writivism2016.
I hope to see you there!

The Writivism Festival is organised by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE). The organisation’s flagship initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond. The festival grooms young talent in the writing craft and engages in Workshops and Panel discussions revolving around critical issues relating to the creation and dissemination of African Literature. Though young, it is East Africa’s leading literary festival.

2016 is it’s 4th year running. It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

#Writivism2016 http://writivism.com/

stripes.

I could tell you stories of where I have been, stories of how I have had to get there. Some of them, trust me, you will not believe. Some of the ish that I have had to go through, would have you shaking your head.

I have taken this particular route for as long as I can remember. In fact, I remember the first time I had someone sniff in disdain at the state of my condition. Truth be told, I had no idea there was anything wrong with me until that moment.

I could tell you stories about the people that I have met. They range from fiercely contested presidents to the litter nationals.

Uh! Do not get me started on the litter nationals. Seriously though – who grew these people. The other day, I swear, it was two of the most unsuspecting individuals in the nation. This couple could have been on the cover of GQ (how would I know about GQ, you wonder? Well that is a story of another week). Yes, back to team GQ, there I was happy to have what I could term as an eloquent scent wafting through me – then she went and pulled a kavera out of her bag, and he pulled out one with white crystals from his pocket.

Eggs – Of all the snacks on the entire scale of the snack kingdom, they had to choose – eggs!

Sadly, I never get to choose who I hang out with. Reminds me of some of the vile things that I have had to witness. Grown ass men leering at girls fit to be their children – grabbing at them, whistling, catcalling. What was this nation coming to anyway?

As we turn back into the area designated for us, I see throngs of them. Some of them dejected, some of them lost in thought, some of them as young as ten. Apparently, I am not supposed to judge a mother who lets her young child out on their own. tsk tsk. I watch them wearily, they look docile right now, but at the sound of one word, it’s like a ferocious beast is awaked in them. They get very lethal and if that ten year old does not have gumption, he will go down.

Jimmy hops out and then stares at the crowd that is visibly leaning forward. It’s almost like he saviours the moment. Jimmy walks to the front window and engages the driver in a brief discussion.

He then turns his attention back to the slowly growing irate crowd and says his version of Abracadabra.

Enkadde.

Just like I had predicated, the beasts lunged at me. That ten year old didn’t make it, he was pushed to the back as his elders elbowed and shoved each other out of the way. So funny, for the first twenty seconds, no one climbed in. Everyone pushing each other out of way. Wait, what? Is someone trying to use the rear door? Msschhwwww! Seriously, who grew these people?? Last week, word around was the Kololo route never got such hooligans.

Dang! Where are my manners? I forgot to introduce myself…

I am the blue stripped zebra.

My jungle? Parka Enkadde.

***

Parka Enkadde is the Luganda for Old Taxi Park.

You can find transportation to majority of the places in and around the city as well as to some destination out of the capital city. 

This is also a place where you have to learn to walk while alert and swift. There are pick pockets waiting for you to be lax so they can lift something from you; there are the leer-ists, who just want ‘some’ – they will grab at your arm, ass, shoulder anything they get their hands on; then there are the angry manual labourers, carrying heavy loads for people, shouting ‘fuss fuss’ at people strolling like they are in their grandfather’s backyard; then we have the conductors & drivers & the ones who collect money from them, these guys are famous for reserving the right to name – from ‘Sister, jangu tugende.’ – to – ‘Mumbejja olaga wa?’ – to – ‘Hajjati, gyo lagga?’.

I swear… I mean Hajjat? Reyale?

Anyway, the next time you are in the jungle, take a little care for the ten year old and the blue striped zebra that you ride.

 

The Morning Commute Series: Episode One

So  a couple of really cool Ugandans started a fun campaign to tell the world about the real UG… a story about Uganda by Ugandans… Check out the KoiKoiUG hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram.

It is because of this campaign that I have started becoming a little more aware of my surroundings… Today, was one of those days, simply hilarious I had to write it down.

For some reason, all the taxis were overly greedy this morning, I mean literally – charging 1500 to places that ordinarily cost 500. Meh! After several failed attempts to get into a taxi, I am obviously standing at the stage for a long time, so I get to notice who passes by or who drives by (More on this in another post).

So down walks this girl, earphones plugged in… smiled at a boda guy and made her way to the stage. So she hopes onto a taxi headed to the turnaround spot, so I cross to do as she did – and yes, the guy said “Lukumi bitano wojikoyera”. Frustrated, I exclaim and walk away.

After trying to unsuccessfully procure a boda guy at the stage… No he wasn’t being greedy, he had to wait for school children (this also needs another post). So the same taxi passes by, and their attitude has now changed and they accept my fare. It was at this point that the girl (Lets name her – Lucy)… So it was at this point that Lucy turns and smiles at me…

So off we go… headed towards the big city, then the driver does what ALL other drivers have been in the habit of doing. He takes the longer way around instead of use the tarmac road with slow rolling bumper to bumper traffic. No. You see to them, taking 15 minutes to navigate a bumpy marrum road and ending up in a hell-of-a-longer jam is much better than sticking those same 15 minutes out on a shorter route.

I am thinking all of this in my head… quietly. That is when, Lucy, seated at the front belts out loudly, “Kale singa twandiyise wali”… No. she was LOUD and I doubt she noticed it… LOL!! Then the driver does what any self respecting taxi driver does, he decided to create a second lane…

Lucy: “Banange, eki lorry kija”

Lucy: “Banange, okilaba??”

Yes, she was still belting it out. Lol, what ever she was listening to, it must have been loud. True, there was a lorry coming towards us, and yes, the Lorry driver only stopped right at our front guard.

Lucy belts out again: “Kale singa twandiyise wali”

She turns to look at the driver to see if he is paying attention to her, “Kubanga wali eslopinga”

At this point, I just DIED!! All this time, the conductor was silently getting riled up. The Lucy sneezes, and I think she was eating gnuts, so what does Lucy do… Out the window with her snot.

The conductor could not contain it at this point, under his breath he asked,

“gwe nnyabo, ebinyira byo……….” something something… I couldnt hear the rest of the sentence, but the beginning made the driver grin back at him. The sad thing, is that Lucy didnt hear a thing he said… Remember, she has her earphone plugged in.

So now we get the the bridge.

Lucy belts out: “Banange, leero jam eyitiridde”

Then she looks out her window.

Lucy: “Laba emotoka yabazungu – Banange balabe, boona bamilu ddirisa. Oba ba laga wa?

 

But by this point, I had hit my destination… So I hopped out still grinning about Lucy and her random belting.