Thursday, November 28, 2013


The judges: Richard Ali, Joanne Arnott and Kgafela oa Magogodi.


THE WINNER WILL RECEIVE 1,000 US DOLLARS Submissions to be received from January 6th to May 5th 2014 midday, East African Time. Guidelines for submissions:

• It is open to ALL African poets who will not have published a full-length collection of poetry by May 2014

• Submissions should be original, in English and not more than 40 lines. Times New Roman or Arial, single-spaced and size 12. Local languages are accepted only if English translations are sent alongside them

• Send a maximum of three poems and a minimum of one poem to as a word attachment. DO NOT include your name or contact details on the poem itself

• The subject line should read, “BNPA 2014”

• Include your name, email address, country or birth and country of permanent residence, telephone number and the titles of your poems in the body of the email

• The submissions will be accepted from January 6th to May 5th 2014

• More details on the face book page, Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, on the blog and website

The judges Kgafela oa Magogodi: South African poet, director and musician. He is currently completing a co-writing project for a musical stage play, The Book Of REBELATIONS . Published books include Thy Condom Come (2000) and Outspoken (2004).

Joanne Arnott: Award-winning Canadian poet and writer. Her first book of poetry, Wiles of Girlhood (1991) won the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry (1992). Her newest publication of poetry is, A Night for the Lady (Ronsdale, fall 2013)

Richard Ali: Author of City of Memories, Chief Operations Officer of Parrésia Publishers Ltd and Publicity Secretary [North] of Association of Nigerian Authors. Richard is also Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine and was a runner-up at the 2008 John la Rose Short Story Competition.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lamu-there's no place like it.

Internet source.

Lamu far exceeds them all. A visit to this part of Kenya’s east coast is incalculable. Historically unfamiliar to me before I disembark from the Fly540 carrier from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, I step onto the stony sandy soils of what I call, Africa’s Little Giant Wonder. The transition from the potholed clouds to the disturbingly hushed welcome at the mini landing site jolts us into an unnecessary panic. What happened to the endless oceans and beaches that the brochures talked about? Waiting in unbudgeted for anticipation, we hear a rusty voice yelling, Jambo!

“Jambo Bwana,” someone from our pack responds. “The boat is ready to take you. My boys are coming to carry your luggage.”

Trudging along, we line up our luggage on the gaping rickety dock. The boat tilts as we all clamber on board. At the tip of the dock, the Indian Ocean is a tiny rivulet searching for an outlet to its magnificence. The boat steadies on the waters while gaining the trust of the wide ocean. The boat shakes in excitement of carrying twenty or more writers to a festival on Lamu Island. The secrets of Lamu’s realities are concealed from the naïveté of our pens. Each of us looks ahead at the island not so far off, scratching our minds for an opening paragraph to describe the ugly beauty of the unknown.

Interestingly, Lamu does not spread out its vanity with white sands, blue oceans and setting suns-no. It deceptively creeps up on you and hypnotises you with its intoxicating simplicity and selflessness. There are not placards to welcome us for our week long writing festival. There are no minivans guided by manipulating tour guide companies to drive us around the block to our lodges. The boat stops near the water’s edge and springing out of nowhere, hundreds of beach boys jump on and start heaving our luggage onto their bronze (not proud of the word bronze) backs. Lamu’s community must have like 30% beach boys. This is yet to be statistically proven. I look on as the sturdy young men whose orange dreadlocks dance about over their sweaty backs carry our luggage calling out the different names of lodges and hotels.

“Petley’s!” “Peponi!” “Lamu Palace!” “Manyalenge!” (Definitely wrong spelling). “Jannat!”

All twenty of us have been scattered in the various slots of accommodation. I join the boy yelling Manyalenge with two other friends. He hoists the luggage on his back which is our cue to follow him. We follow him through the narrow corridors between the closely packed peeled off buildings. He waves at the children riding on donkeys. We follow him. He manages to avoid the generous cakes of donkey droppings that are everywhere. We still follow. Someone pours a bucket of dirty water which lands on my now tired feet. “Pole sana.”

Finally we get to a large wooden door which can easily fit into the tale of Ali Baba and the forty thieves. It has an ominous looking brass knocker. Opposite us is a video stall. The boys manning it smile at the three of us ladies. I wonder if they will be our inspiration to write. The ominous looking door opens. There is space. There is sparse and yet exquisite furniture. High ceilings. Fans. Lots of space. Gold and silver lined cushions. Craft. The housekeeper ushers us in. The coolness from the fans and fresh banana juice are our first real treat on the island. We realize then that Lamu does not adjust its taste to suit its guests; we have to fit into its gentle stride. Our beds are protected by mosquito nets but not from the heat as we realize later that night.

I reckon that I will need at least five baths a day as I take my first one soon after arrival. The heat settles on my inside like a big sleeping baby. Unlike my usual travels where I am restless to sightsee, the slow pace of Lamu diminishes my touristic anxiety and I sleep the afternoon off.

It is difficult to distinguish the evening from day in Lamu. Promptness and urgency are but luxuries. At 2am, people stroll to the nearest bar and pack themselves on a boat as they set off to another island. The giggly girls who throughout the day are hidden under veils allow the men to tease their hair. At night, spectacularly and inconceivably, luminous bugs cruise alongside our boats. They illuminate the dark coloured ocean and marvellously appear as if out of nowhere. In the day time, the invisible bugs elude us and at night, tease our imagination and come to life in this amazing way like tiny fish the size of mustard seeds. Simply incredible.

We forget our invitation to the writers’ festival and allow ourselves to be led by Lamu and its beach boys. Mornings begin with a 9am shower and for breakfast, we have what is arguably East Africa’s best brewed coffee. This is followed by pancakes and syrup, fruit, juice and then of course another nap. Our walks take us through different routes on the old town. The buildings are so close by and the narrow streets look the same to us. However, our curiosity takes us to other places. And we discover Aly King. Now, being December and a few days to Christmas, Aly King is someone everyone on the island needs to know. Aly King is a coastal who is a master at tailoring. He sits at his machine and within record time, has tailored outfits that Elle magazine would be jealous of. We stumble upon Aly King by accident. Drapes of airy print, tie and dye, baby suits and others hang outside his shop. Tantalised by the colours, we move in. Aly is like a wizard at the wheel. Customer after customer lines up. Aly sews clothes for families over Christmas; he weaves together outfits for tourists to boast of as they return home. Our job is just to watch and wear. Lamu is not Lamu without Aly King.

The donkeys attempt to pick up the pace at the otherwise unhurried Lamu Old Town. They trot past us dropping their leftovers to guide us to the next stop. The medieval 14th Century settlement of Lamu has a canon that stands motionless hiding stories of conquests and war. The dhows remind me of my primary history. The Lamu Museum ,built in 1891, has wooden doors carved locally in the Omani and Indian styles with old Lamu kitchen utensils.

Each day the beach boys call out to us. With only one thought and that is to have fun, we allow them to take us to Shelah. Shelah is one of the more posh islands, about an hour’s walk away from Lamu Old Town. This crystal blue part of the ocean is inviting. Here, there are limited or no inhibitions about Islam tradition and so we feel free to walk in our costumes and while the time away, swimming while gazing at the equally leisurely Lamu sky. The henna ladies come eagerly and shyly towards us. Speaking little English, they show us pages of patterns which they are willing to draw on our hands and bodies at a minimal fee. We marvel as they transform our palms into flowers and ship anchors until our fingers are soon singing the songs of henna.

Lamu has the knack of letting you let go. Chatting with the beach boys’ stories of instant happiness, chewing mira to let go of pain and taking part in the Swahili weddings. I learn that many have met their aspirations of getting married to an Australian, Norwegian and Dutch and so spend half of the year abroad and the other half on the island chewing mira and making sure everything is just as they left it on the island. Nothing to worry about. Time stands still in Lamu. Apart from the 4am alert of the Imam and the impatient donkeys, everything remains at the same dawdling stride. I shudder to imagine if rumours of investment are true. There is no need for that in Lamu; it is an investment of history and pleasure in itself.

By Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva First published in The Sunday Vision newspaper.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two Gloves, extract from short story, by BNN

The first person to give a testimony after the break tea is a young gentleman. His trousers are a bit big and I can see his boxer shorts showing through. He has one earring on and is wearing a black waistcoat. His hair is very neatly shaven to the skin. He stands up to the microphone. “Good morning to you all. Some of you know me. My name is Rebecca Sengendo.” I almost drop the cake that is still in my mouth. This man is a woman. Or is Rebecca a man’s name as well? “I came with my partner Judith.” A tall woman with curves everywhere walks up to join Rebecca. They kiss each other on the lips Rebecca continues. “We would like to thank you so much for your support as fellow women. Many others look at us and they shun us. We have been chased out of our own homes. One time somebody stoned us and almost raped Judith. Another woman stole my briefcase which had all the money I had for the week. Many times I find rude notes stuck at the car window telling me to stop living with another woman or I will be killed. Thanks to you and other supporters, we got a house where we plan to adopt and raise two children. People see women with other women and think they are mad but we are normal people and we also have a right to live in this world like you.” Some women at the workshop begin to cry at this testimony. “Do we have another testimony?” ******************************************************************************** “Yes, Praise God.” A young lady jumps from her seat and hands me her handbag to keep for her. “Praise the Lord Brethren.” “Amen,” we respond. I look at the lady and feel very excited. I like it when people give testimonies. It encourages me so much. “Brethren,” The lady continues. “You all know that last week I almost died, Amen.” “Last week I became paralysed and could not walk for three days. The doctors could not diagnose anything and I knew that my end was near. Some of you came to hospital to see me and I could not recognize some of you. During those dark days, I waited for the Lord to take my life. I was not sure where I was going after that. However, The Lord decided that I should live and now I am here to testify. Praise the Lord.” “Amen,” we all answer; amidst a clap of hands. Gloves, extract from short story by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ASIIMWE, Novella by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

“Teacher, will we also be studying Islam because according to some world prophets, in the year 2000 when computers will crash, Islam will be the new religion? So, will we also be studying Islam so that we keep with the times?”

The teacher listens with her head tilted towards Dora. She takes long to answer the question but asks Dora to kindly bring the source of the information so that they can have a healthier discussion on that.

The class is in an uproar when the teacher leaves. “Dora, how could you ask that?” Hanifa, a Muslim girl asks. “Hanifa, many people ignore Islam and yet that is your religion. You should be thanking me for standing up for you. Why are we only told about Adam and Eve and Creation, what about Prophet Muhammad?” Dora is now speaking with both her hands on her hip.

“But this is a Christian school and we should only talk about Jesus,” says another girl.

It is getting heated. “Yes, but there are Muslims in the school. Can you imagine how people like Hanifa and Sadat feel if they have to learn about Jesus and yet for them they believe in Prophet Muhammad?” Dora’s voice gets louder each time.

“Wait, who told you we don’t believe in Jesus? In our religion, Jesus is a Prophet and…” Sophie’s voice is cut off as the French teacher walks in. It is one of the new British student teachers.

“Hello, is this Senior One B? Sorry, I’m late. I got a bit lost and then I heard the racket. Is everything all right?” By this time, the entire class is in their seats and quiet. Except for Dora “Hello, my name is Dora Nankunda and I am the class monitor. We were just having a healthy debate on religion but you are very welcome.”

“Thank you.” She writes her name on the blackboard. Mamzelle Francesca. Born and raised in Southampton. Studied a degree in Languages at Southampton University and fluent in French, German and Latin. Likes: Football, reading and catching butterflies Dislikes: Meat, Loud places and too much light

Extract from Asiimwe, novella by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Monday, November 4, 2013

Soft Tonight by Lillian Aujo (First ever BNPA winning poem)

Soft Tonight

I feel so... ... soft... tonight...

I feel like... ...butter... under the sun...

...on hot stone... spreading out... melting...

...flowing... a yellow rivulet... sliding down that slab...

...towards you...

I hope you catch every t...r...i...c...k...l...e...of love I hope you catch every d.......r......o......p......of me when I d...r...i...p...intoyourpalms

'cause I feel so... ...soft... tonight.

By Lillian Akampurira Aujo

This poem was the winning poem of the first ever Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award in 2009, the first poetry award of its kind for Ugandan women. Lillian Aujo won a cash prize of 250 USD. This award was proudly sponsored by Uganda Women Writers’ Association (FEMRITE), WordAlive Publishers, Uganda Clays Limited and Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stories Through Photos

England, The Verb, June

This is us at The Verb, BBC Radio, October 10th 2013.

“I have not read a single book in my life except the bible,” she said. I looked up from Teju Cole’s Open City which I was reading. The lady. Elderly. Tall, with cropped grey hair. “Hello,” I said. “Hello,” she said. “I’m dyslexic you see but I’m a Christian.” Then she burst into tears.

I turned around to see if it was common in England for people to walk up to strangers and burst into tears at the train station. No. It wasn’t. People around me were either reading papers, listening to music, sipping coffee or reading the platform map. “I need someone to talk to.” she said. “Me husband’s so mean to me. My name’s June and when I’m upset, I start shaking. This morning, me husband was so mean to me, so mean,” she went on. I was waiting for someone with a hidden camera to surprise me. Candid Camera. No one seemed to notice June or I sitting on the station bench. “Are you a Christian?” she asked me. Yes, I said.”

Then she burst into tears again. “I had a best friend of mixed race and she left. I miss her so much. I miss me best friend. Me husband was so mean to me this morning. He was awful. I’m dyslexic you see. I also had a hysterectomy because of the cancer and so this morning I told me husband that I needed a blood test because I was feeling awful and he just screamed at me. Now, I’m waiting for my sister and she’s so mean to me. Where are you from?” she asked. “Uganda,” I said. “Is that one of the troubled regions?” she asked. I wanted to tell her that the coffee houses with free wireless were too few in Kampala and that the roads were not wide enough for the many automobiles on the road and also how the state of corruption has reached levels which are too embarrassing to talk about. I didn’t tell her that. I just told her that I am not in the troubled region. Thankfully, the train came. “I will pray for you,” I told her. “Thanks,” she said. I’ll pray for you too.

This encounter perfectly summed up how I appreciate the unapologetic and individual ways of North Englanders. The trip began in Lancaster. The Creative Writing Department, celebrating 30 years this year, invited me as an alumnus to be part of the grand birthday party. Lancaster is young by many traditional English university standards, it is a complex dominated by buildings whose character is defined by the students and faculty. I first made Graham Mort’s acquaintance through the Crossing Borders writing programme in 2002 and after that, as a student of creative writing from Lancaster. However, you can never really know an Englishman until you meet him for a pint of beer. Even though I don’t drink alcohol, I was quite immersed in the pub culture. The undergraduate students invited me along for an open mic session at Sainsbury’s coffee house. There was a fundamental familiarity with poets back home in Uganda. The confident and popular poets always seem to be able to control the atmosphere with their quirky and enjoyable topics. There were poems about everything from the frustration of the new regulations of recycling bins, to mice dancing to the hit, Thriller, to all of us humans having a 1% homosexual aspect in our DNA. What made it more fun than anything else was the way the humor united all of us under this space of creativity and free cheese. Plenty of free cheese which we took with us back to our rooms. And what’s a night in Lancaster without visiting a pub. There are quite a number in the petite cobbled corridors of the town. Filling an entire table, I seemed to be the only one who had children, was above 30, and who didn’t take alcohol but there is almost nothing that beats the fearless nature of university undergraduate students, planning out their lives and taking on the ills of the world with their endless energy. They are also not obsessed with Idi Amin. My only undoing was that I didn’t speak Yoruba.

The Verb on BBC Radio 3 programme which I participated in the day before was an informal yet intense way of sharing creatively with other writers from England and Scotland and seeing myself through their eyes. Together with Graham Mort, Phillip Pullman author of Grimm Tales, Hannah Silva playwright and poet, Stephanie Greer actress and novelist Susan Sellers who also gave me one of her novels. Ian, the producer was able to steer us through discussing about fairy tales and their similarities with many cultures world-wide, writing for performance first and the layers of poetry and their multi-faceted meanings.

Amidst current global discourse of writing and its challenges with readers, Phillip Pullman said something quite profound,
“When a story is simple and straight-forward, it is easier to be creative in the retelling.”
The writer’s journey never ends, does it?