#UGBlogWeek: Blesser (Part 3)

Kahill wants a vacation and Twonjex wants to go for KoiKoi East, all very nice. All very pleasant. But I want something else… Not a trip to an exotic island with actual sand and clear blue water or a trip to discover my beautiful country amidst beautiful people and fun conversation.

Yes, you may proceed to roll your eyes at the character that is me.

I have seen mention of a Blesser on my timeline, and seen mention of the definition of a Blesser (see Part 2), but I am choosing this definition of blesser: a person with a heart of gold and filled up-pressed down-shaken together-running over bank account.

Yes, the bank account must be overflowing because books are expensive and my mind is thirst! Yes! I need books, more books, more than what I have already… I need to be able to stretch out and pick one when the whim attacks me. I want to be able to read and re-read all of my favourite ones.

Until they are torn and in tatters, pages missing from months and months of loving use. Yes, loving use can lead to a torn book… Or so I have been told. Truth is, I can tear my book but you cannot. If you did, your name and biometrics would be sent to Interpol, and you would be put on the International Book Offenders list.

Next to my library, I want a chair. Not the leather sort that is filled in almost every showroom in the city. No. I want the kind that I can sink into. The cushonie-kind. The kind that can support my reading gymnastics as comfort is of paramount importance.

Oh Blesser… My heart is literally skipping at the notion of it all.
Won’t you hurry and bless my mind before thirst consumes my mind.

books

Chain #1: The Vacation Adventure
http://pkahill.com/blesser-part-1/

Chain #2: The KoiKoiEast Adventure
https://djtwonjex.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/blesser-part-2/

Advertisements

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.

6a23b28e6cbb83767bd0798e986acc4f

***

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.

 

Book Review: The Ghosts of 1894 by Oduor Jagero

 

I believe it’s tricky when choosing to write about topics that are very sensitive. Whether the content of the book is based on a true story or it’s fiction, you can never really tell where or when to draw the line.

Oduor does an excellent job of gripping our hearts and taking us on a journey into the hearts and minds of his characters. The way he wrote this book… It felt like I was walking through Nyungwe with Akamanzi and Juliet.

The character development was something that my mind kept running back to, after I started reading – Oduor introduces and builds up several characters that are integral to the plot of the story. With a back story on each leading to the point where we meet them. Each story very well thought out, there is a point where even though he is giving you their past, there is a certain mystery that still remains with the character. I felt this way about one of the lead female characters. Actually, throughout the entire book, I kept expecting the ball to drop in some drastic way.

Another interesting thing about this book, is the way it cuts across timelines and countries. Weaving a tale of the unresolved differences of the masters that bled into the hearts of the unsuspecting colonies. This gripping thriller will hook it’s unrelenting claws into you and keep you turning her pages.

There are some tiny details that did often wake me from my reverie, like the notion that Kabale is infinitely more rural than Busia *major side-eye*; or the fact that locals kept referring to Mille Collines in it’s full form (Hôtel des Mille Collines or shortening it as des Mille); or Matoke instead of Matooke; the American recognising ‘groundnuts‘… Again, these are just teensy-wincy details that often pulled me out of the I-can’t-get-enough-of-this-book.

The topic of creative licence came to mind as I noted above. In all circumstances, an author who is writing fiction should be able to create and redefine places as they see fit. But what happens when you are writing fiction surrounding events that have happened or even writing about places that currently exist.

Must we stay in line with the nuances of the locals or do we have the licence to integrate the physical reality with a hint of fiction.

Side Note: This is the sixth book I am completing off the 2016 Africa Reading Challenge. My reading list is here in case you are looking for books to add to yours OR if you have book I simply must read feel free to share.

My next book is Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go


**The Ghosts of 1894 photo source: AfricaReview.com

#Writivism2016 Mannequins are beige, alert the sand dunes!

It is six days later, the sun is still shining, darkness still falls over the land and the birds are still noisy. In short, life has moved on – even the aftertaste is slowly but quickly fading.

Writivism saw the meeting of some of the continent’s most talented literary minds. I say some because there were some who were obviously missing (*sigh* Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, one day we shall meet…) and also because I believe there are many authors out there who couldn’t make it, have not heard of the festival or have not yet been discovered.

Truth be told, it’s been a while since I have made the time to soak in and indulge in my literary passion. One week of shamelessly buying more books, while picking up and putting back others that my heart was tempting me to own. Most evenings were spent listening to authors read and perform some of their work, others spent discussion our reaction to certain themes.

Some themes that stuck with me revolved around Francophone Africa and Decolonization. As I write this, I am sipping my favorite Blackcurrant Bracer tea courtesy of the London Fruit and Herb company. No, the irony is not lost on me, but rather, it’s the realisation that I take no notice when I am reaching out for F&H instead of Mpanga or Kericho. When I’m stuck in traffic and to pass the time I resort to taxi-window shopping, I mostly notice the clothes and never the color of the mannequin. The issue of colonisation outside of my social studies class, is not one that has ever come up. Until Writivism, that is.

Panashe remarked on this during Zukiswa’s keynote, about how even though we are one continent, we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss another’s struggles just because where we are from, that particular struggle is not one people deal with.

Also for the first time, I encountered the word decolonisation and how we are subtly losing certain aspects of our story without even realising it.

This was also a week when it dawned on me that there are certain sections of Africa that do not speak English – *pause* mind blowing isn’t it? An African who thinks everyone in Africa understands English… This is especially embarrassing for me, seeing as I spent some time in Rwanda. And perhaps, it is just me, but there has been an underrepresentation of Francophone Africa – where underrepresentation is open to interpretation. While there still some kinks, it was awesome to see and hear questions being asked in French.

Last really cool highlight for me, was titles. For some reason, and I have no idea where I picked this up from – I have always believed that I needed to keep the title short, sweet and relevant. I always believed that a title should not be a sentence on it’s own. As you can see from previous posts, I have since let go of such beliefs. What is my new belief? A title can in some way represent the story or certain aspects of it or sometimes, just make it a fun title and give the readers a good laugh.

All in all, it was an amazing week well spent!

writivismbooks

#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

51914
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 4: Tell Me A Story In A Language That Moves You…

A Triple book launch AND a Long Story Short Staged Readings is what was planned for tonight. Unfortunately, I could not attend all the events, however, I did manage to get the first half hour of the triple book launch.

The books on the line up were: The Triangle by Nakisanze Segawa, How to Spell Naija II by Chuma Nwokolo and We are All Blue by Donald Molosi. This session was moderated by Nwokolo, who I think was a fun and engaging host.

We started off a bit late with people trickling in at their own pace, so Nwokolo got a brilliant idea on how to lure them in. He gave those of us who were in the room the plan and we were all in agreement.

Up he stood, book in hand, in a bold loud voice – he started to read. Was the story already written on the pages of the book, I have no idea. As he read aloud, people started coming in and with everyone who entered, we clapped as loudly as we could – as if we wholehearted agreed with what he had just said.

It was probably the clapping that caused the tarrying feet to pick up their pace – Ingenious idea Nwokolo, ingenious! Standing ovation from the timekeepers in the room!

After he made the introductions, we dived head first into Molosi’s We are All Blue. Sadly, Molosi was unable to come however, he was well represented by his publisher – Shaun Randol. Randol talked about the significance of the book not only in Botswana but also in the US, where the book speaks to racial tension. What had me amused was that this is not a novel but a play packaged in a book. Who does that? Packages a play into a book?

One of the organizers of a local arts festival raised a question about how she found it difficult to convince publishers to take on similar publishing projects because they were more interested in work that had the potential to make it onto a school curriculum. She then proposed that Randol take a look at the different works coming out of East Africa. To which he responded in the affirmative. He did note that he was not initially looking to publish drama, but that Molosi’s manuscript was powerful enough to change his mind.

Next up was Nakisanze who took us into a little background about her book, The Triangle, and some of her reasons for the angles she took while writing it. She took a reading in English and then also gave an electrifying brief performance in Luganda. In her words, the book takes on the life of Kabaka Mwanga and especially the periods of his life that are not popular in history text books.

One particular question that she got asked that had me bobbing my head was, how did she make the choice on what to include in her book and what to leave out of her book. To which she responded, that her research did lead her to a staggering wealth of information, but she was urged by fellow writer, Jennifer Makumbi (of the Kintu fame – book review here) not to include every single thing into her book. After all she was not writing a historical piece but a book in which she was going to weave truth and fiction.

Which makes me wonder about where one is supposed to draw the line between fiction and fact? Who has the authority to do that especially when the protagonist in the story is a well known figure in the hallways of Ugandan history?

Then the intriguing question of language reared it’s head once again. For those of us whose first language is not English, there is the laborious task that involves thinking in your mother tongue first, then attempting to switch back to English. Most times, English does not truly portray the emotion that is bellied deep within the intonations and gestures that come along with speaking in a native tongue.

Unfortunately, that was all I had time for last evening as I had to rush off to another meeting. However, I did manage to get a recording of Nakisanze giving a short captivating performance of a scene from the book (The Triangle) in Luganda.

Enjoy!

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.