Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ghosts at Continental Suites #Akefestival2014-(personal account)

These photos were taken by various guests at the Ake Festival.
There were ghosts at The Continental Suites on Presidential Boulevard, Ibara, Abeokuta. Every night, I would hear knocking at my door and I’d call out, “Who is it?”
The Ake Arts and Book Festival 2014 was tremendous. Lola Shoneyin, the Director and to the wonderful team, what can we do to help out next year?
All the nights were short except the first one, with a 3 hour bus ride from Lagos Airport to the June 12 Cultural Center. The Air conditioning and open door matatus alongside us, with conductors standing astride, did not make the time go any faster. They were just a reminder that Nigeria is not Uganda. Also, everyone drives a new car. What’s that about?
It was obvious from the dinner that first night that God created so many fine looking people and said, “They shall be called writers.” This festival was not for the faint at heart. No one’s steed could withstand that. No Sir. The heart flutters and betrayals notwithstanding, the festival was at the crest of literary power in many ways, possibly the synergy of publishers and their authors, feminists and past Presidents (Former President Obasanjo was there) and the poets on their dance floor. The connectivity was scattered and yet absorbed at the same time.
The film, October 1, directed by Kunle Afolayan and written by Tunde Babalola, was an incredible platform of traditional and cultural beliefs, the many faces of National and personal independence and more deeply, sexual abuse against children. The film had lots going on and some can arguably edit out a few scenes but it was overall an intelligent piece of work that has positively changed my opinion of the Nigerian film industry. It’s a film with universal appeal, which grossed 300,000 US Dollars in five weeks and Netflix also contacted them. It’s a good thing.
School tours: In groups of about five, we all headed to different schools for, well, a school tour. My fabulous team had Jekwu Ozoemene (how can you not love this banker with the abs), Adenike Campbell –Fatoki, author of historical fiction, Thread of Gold Beads and the always friend, Richard Ali, who has and continues to be a tremendous support to BN Poetry Foundation. We visited Gateway Secondary School, a public school about ten minutes from the June 12 Cultural Center. The literature class in particular-such confidence in knowing what they wanted to achieve in life, quite amazing. I knew what I wanted at 29 years, I think. Visiting schools is important so that the students get a peek into the various alternatives ahead of them, the creative abundance of choice.
Mutation and Mutilation: Feminism in Africa. A well-thought out panel with Bissi-Ayedele Femi, founder of African Women Development Fund, Iheoma Obibi of Intimate Pleasures, you all need to drop by, Zukiswa Wanner, Molara Wood, Nomboniso Gasa, Ayisha Osori, Edwige-Renee DRO and Ukamaka Olisakwe Evelyn. Bissi, an unapologetic feminist, explained that it’s about mutual respect. It’s not about destabilizing marriages and just because women are born women, they should not be demeaned.
Later in the day, I had the pleasure of launching A Thousand Voices Rising, an African contemporary poetry anthology, produced by the BN Poetry Foundation. Several of the contributors like Rotimi Babatunde, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Richard  Ali and Clifton Gachagua read their poems. Fubaraibi Benstowe, shortlisted poet of the BN Poetry Award 2014, read from his piece, Orukoro Dancer.The launch closed with autographs and a recitation of Ssebo gwe wange. Different reactions each time.
It’s impossible to highlight all the awesomeness of Ake. Call Mr. Robeson, the one man act produced by Tayo Aluko was phenomenal and energetic while historically deep, performances by the remarkable Bassey-Ikpi with multiple meanings of identity and feminism, Kei Miller-Jamaican award-winning poet, Efe Paul with his political piece, Jumoke Verissimo, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, author of several poetry collections, Dr. Dami Ajayi-it got real in there, especially poetry dipped in palm-wine.
And while we all strut about from one session to another, the most talented photographer and artist, <p>Victor Ehikhamenor, showed us his exhibition, The Lion’s Lair, photos of Prof. Wole Soyinka at his home. Honestly though, I would love to read Victor’s secret photo diary, the photos he keeps for himself. Vera Butterbusch, German photographer, likewise revealed interesting shots of various Nigerian social landscapes, like the Masquerades.
What’s a literary festival without a dance party and swimming? We laid it all out there. The music called and we responded. How else could we show our appreciation to the Ogas and first ladies that had put such a great event together? It was a bevy of rams on spit, tangled feet, hands where they shouldn’t have been and sweaty sweaty sweaty bodies. Prof. Rem Raj, President of Association of Nigerian Authors, celebrated his birthday just after midnight as well.
And the ghosts at Continental Suites didn’t follow Lizzy Attree the Caine Prize Director, or myself, to the swimming pool that last night either. Heck! Maybe they couldn’t swim.
by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

ThingsThat Were LostInOurvaginas BY NYACHIRO LYDIA


Aleya Kassam starts off the discussion on Things That Were Lost In Our vaginas BY NYACHIRO LYDIA, TANZANIA

This poem was deeply affecting. It took me a while to figure out why this poem crawled into the pit of my belly and would not come out. The way she writes about something so horrendous as a child being abused, in an almost matter of fact way is where the power of the poem lies. The language echoes this sense of numbness she has had to develop to keep living through something so horrendous....the matter-of-factness that this is just what a girl, a girl! goes through, and that is just the way it makes me feel, as a society we are complicit - and of course, aren't we? Yet the poem has a movement and texture that makes it beautiful, when it almost shouldn't be.

Flavia Kabuye

When I first read the poem, I thought it was so graphic. When I read it again and again I realized that much as it breaks communication barriers, it also highlights structural barriers of age and gender. Women's stories like this one are endless and the writer brings out the emotional trauma that even time cannot heal. Her reference to prayer brings a message of hope...

Stephanie Newham

I want to say this is a beautiful poem but it is difficult ,because of the subject matter. However we have to be thankful that there are poets and writers who are prepared to write openly and honestly from their hearts about societies darker side.

Ivan Okuda ," It-is an epic poem, shortlisted for this years Babishai Niwe Poetry Awards, written by Tanzania's Nyachiro Kasese. If it doesn’t tickle your inner most senses, then nothing ever will.

Arafat Ndugga hehehe..respect..people can write.

Wilbrod Gos'pol Lydia I bow in contentment

Mugume Fortune

Stylistic device...vivid

Henry Mutebe

eh... that's a magnificent display of the language. The subject matter notwithstanding, I credit her for her skill in creating imagery. Its powerfully crafted. four star

Jamie Sanyu Mukama

this is so rich

Mukungu Blessed Dennis

well I’m looking for words to describe this literal artistry

Herbert Kaheeru

vagina monologue

Rosey Sembatya

I was sucked in by the title, the dare...yet the poem is so afraid...the fear within us..

Agatha Ayebazibwe Siima

wow!!! this one, I bow!

Derik Lamar

ReLoaded eeeh bulade

Kuka John

dats de language ov one hu z learned

Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

This poem should win the PRIZE in my humble view/

Harriet Anena

Is Nyachiro on Facebook at all? I need to chat her up. This poem should win #BNPA2014.

Herbert Oketcho

thank you #NYACHIRO_LYDIA,

Kironde Timothy

now this is poetry, i love the simple language she uses to talk about something this deep. and the title; shocker!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Richard Ali:

I got a pile of about 500 submissions and cutting it down to 46 was merely time consuming, relatively easy. But I had headaches and hesitation every step of the way cutting those down to my best 15, and when 15 each came in as well from Kgafela and Joanne Arnott, it was almost as if some special gravitational field had stayed my scroll-read-appraise-delete functions. Choosing the very best 5 poems called up all the strength I had, for it takes strength to be brutal, to decide which is the fine poem of a lot of fine poems, which possesses the slimmest space between word and emotion, which should make it in because it better turns out the fresher metaphor, the more intriguing image, the pure emotion--to pick five of these from such a rich hoard . . . I wondered, at times, if God would forgive me!

Joanne Arnott:(Canada/Metis mixed)

_”Stepping into the river of poetry submissions was a cool immersion, some poems leapt out while others called from the waters. I learned about the contents of the poets’ minds and hearts, about their landscapes and weathers, about their rhythms and songs. In the end, I could carry away only those few.

Kgafela oa Magogodi (South Africa)

Chopping down was hard. But I had to stop the heart from bleeding for my darlings and chop.

Friday, July 11, 2014


With gratitude to all those that submitted for the 2014 BN Poetry Award, we've finally compiled our long-list. Here is the BNPA 2014 Longlist, compiled by Judges Joanne Arnott, award-winning Canadian/Metiz mixed poet, Richard Ali, Publicity Secretary (North) of Association of Nigerian authors and Kgafela oa Magogodi, South African Producer, Musician and Patron Spoken Word Africa. They received the poems blindly and this is the long-list. Congratulations to all who made it.

Here we go:

1. Blood and Water and Celebration (2 in 1) by Elizabeth Muchemwa Zimbabwe 2. After The Rain by Moses Muyanja Kyeyune from Uganda 3. The Crumpled Up paper and The Smooth Elegant One by Willie Ng'ang'a from Kenya. 4. Insane Living by Dorothie Ayebazibwe from Uganda 5. Reborn by Brenda Kanani from Kenya. 6. The Carpenter by Saba El Laziri from Sudan. 7. Sun Visit by Edzordzi Agbozo from Ghana. 8. Piano and drums by Kelvin Opeoluwa Kellman frm Nigeria. 9. Our Oiled Rusty Shores by Attah John Ojonugwa from Nigeria. 10. Beware by Richard Quaz Roodt from South Africa. 11. Time Zones by Kyle Allen of South Africa.

12. Dear Asabi by Mof'oluwawo Mojolaoluwa from Nigeria. 13. Dialogue Over The Twilight Zone ( Ebony & Ivory) by Moses Kyeyune Muyanja, Uganda. 14. The Things That were Lost In Our Vaginas by Nyachiro Lydia Kasese, Tanzania. 15. There Was Once Something Special Here by Tom Nyagari, Kenya. 16. I am Still Here by Chiugo Veronica Akaolisa, Nigeria. 17. L'aruge/Promotion by Saka Aliyu, Nigeria. 18. She Could Hear God by Jennie Marima, Kenya. 19. Smarty Phone by Nassolo Marjorie, Uganda. 20. Biriwa was My Home by Kojo Turkson, Ghana. 21. A Place Called Home by Dela Nyamuame, Ghana. 22. If I Was by Achieng Odhiambo, Kenya. 23. I am The Beginning by Oladele Noah, Nigeria. 24. Greater Enemy by Emiru David Patrick, Uganda. 25. The Conversation (2) by Tumelo Thekisho, South Africa. 26. Why Must African men Not Cry?

27. Between God and Man 1 and 11 by Oladele Noah, Nigeria. 28. Half Filled Graves by Okwudili Nebeolisa 29. Orukoro Dancer by Benstowe Fubaraibi Anari, Nigeria. 30. Moonlight or No Light by Nana Nyarko Boateng, Ghana. 31. Under The Guava Tree by Annetjie van Wynegaard, South Africa.

32. Two Sides of A Window by Damilola Michael Aderibigbe, Nigeria. 33. It Happened to me too by James Yeku, Nigeria. 34. A Weekend in Lagos by Isoje Chou, Nigeria. 35. Paranoia bu Oluwaloni Olowookere, Nigeria. 36. Autshumato by Celeste Fritze, South Africa. 37. Children Also Grow by Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Nigeria. 38. A Sudden Time by Solagbade Oyefara, Nigeria. 39. Different Forms of Slaughter by Asante Lucy Mtenje, Malawi. 40. The Night Sango Came to Ujagbe by Suleiman Agbonkhianmen Buhari, Nigeria. 41. What Poetry Means to Me by Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Nigeria 42. Mama Talks by Valerie Awo-Dede Okaiteh, Ghana, 43.Indeed Beauty Full by Oludami Yomi-Alliyu, Nigeria. 44.Celestial Sprouts (Twin-Tomato-Tree) by Moses Muyanja Kyeyune, Uganda.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

International Writing Tour

Thanks to Lillian Aujo for nominating me for the My Writing Process" international tour.

1. What are you working on?

I am working on a novel called Elgona. I love the name of the novel so much that I sometimes spend more time on that, than the actual novel. Elgona is the name of a feisty 9 year old living in England in a private school, with a family whose eccentricities and her own, cause ripples of misadventures, police interventions, near child-napping, sheroisms and clashes with identity crises.

Secondly, is PoeTRicks: an adventure toolkit for Children who read and write poetry. It is an unravelling of the maze of poetry’s many questions and an unveiling of poetry’s many faces. This handbook is a precious fit for children who struggle with what poetry is about.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Elgona does hold some non-fictional truths which no one can challenge and a lot of it is the bearing of my soul and unabashed self, which again, surprise me at many levels. The writing enables me to rediscover a life I lived and share it with others in a way that is entertaining, introspective and a little bizarre. Children have some of the most shocking encounters with reality and their interpretations, which are deeply honest and bold, enable readers and adults to not only be kinder towards them but also to appreciate honesty and integrity.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Because I’m moved by the need around me, the need in children and other older readers. I am moved to redefine my future and other futures of women and girls and because I believe that poetry is Literature’s most sacred form. Being in that presence, strengthens me to write more.

4. How does your writing process work?

It usually doesn’t. Of late, I’ve taken to 2 hour morning walks, after which I am able to create anything, especially in my head. I write in my head as I walk and hopefully it ends up on my laptop screen. I am learning how messages from our minds filter into our real lives and so self empowerment through personal confidence-building and finding new creative spaces is my new writing process. It’s working because my words these days have found newer avenues to settle and feel at home.

The other writers I nominate are Sanyu Kisaka, who blogs at Sanyu Kisaka is an undergraduate theater student and NYUAD. She is a singer, actress, and Lyricist. Sanyu is currently working on a short story and was winner of the 2011 Bn Poetry Award for her poem, A Handswing of Disguised Depravity.

The other writer is Esther-Karin Mngodo, Tanzanian poet. Esther Karin Mngodo has worked as a storyteller and a journalist for ten years focusing her work on children, youth and women. As a full time employee of The Citizen newspaper (2005-2009) and she worked directly with children through school visits and holding empowerment talks with schoolchildren, preparing content that would entertain, educate and shape the minds of young Tanzanians. She blogs at

Friday, May 23, 2014

When PBS NewsHour Visited Kiwatule for a 4 hour interview

Emmanuel Nsengiyunva, Victoria Fleischer, BNN, Jason

I’m Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva and it’s been so noisy and overwhelming the past couple of months. When my eyes couldn’t stay open, my hands felt the way for me and when my feet were so bruised and worn, my instinct trudged on. Even after letting go of so much excess weight in my personal life, I just felt heavier. And then PBS NewsHour called.

I still don’t understand fully why PBS NewsHour came home to interview my family and I. I didn’t know who they were until I asked a few friends and family in America. I still haven’t had time to feel honoured. The 4 hour interview was engaging and fun and I saw a lot about myself that I had never probed to understand. Usually when I sit to lay my plans and map out where I want to go, there are places I pretend I never travelled to and people I pretend never meant much to me even though they did. Even the steps I walked which were insignificant and lacked direction, the people I dismissed and the ones whose words weighed like wet wood.

There has been no time yet to process or feel because instead of living one life, I’m living many lives right now. I’m a mother of two, Coordinator of the BN Poetry Award, wife (very very sexy wife), cook, cleaner, entrepreneur, daughter, sister, friend. I have to smile and be perky when people call and ask if they can still submit poems to the BN Poetry Award, even a week after the dead-line. I have to smile as I politely say No, because the Judges already have the poems. I manage many other Arts projects which pop up in the most unlikely of places. A friend of a friend who recommended me or who read about me in the papers who wants me to teach her fifteen year old son how to write a novel. Or a Manager that does not have any money wants me to write his book and says I will become rich from the sales. There is so much noise. Everyone is shouting at once.

So, PBS came. Victoria and Jason are nothing but charming. I would invite them home for tea or for a movie or just to talk about books. Emma, my husband was dressed and sharp, more eager than I was. Our girls were at their best, especially when Victoria told them to scribble on the walls so that they could capture a normal day at home. I wanted to tell them everything I could about myself, my projects and my parents, how everything changed when I became a mother and that mothers don’t have to stop with their careers and that could even be when their careers began, as it did for me. Nothing significant happened in my career until I had a baby. And when I become a grandmother, I know that more will happen.

As soon as the PBS crew drove in, I was immediately at ease. There was no need to feel guilty about not buying new curtains or furniture for the huge media house. The interview began almost at once.

I breathed.

I started the poetry award because I knew there was so much more to life than being in an office. And when my daughter turned 4 months and I quit my job to be at home with her, I knew that I was going to pursue poets and poetry until I became breathless. I’ve been doing so for six years now. Every year I feel like giving up because fundraising for poetry projects is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, that and labour pain. Each year though, things happen and more things happen. I’ve met some of the most magnificent friends I could have ever hoped for in a life-time in the past few years. There are people who are celebrated at such wide international scales but whose humility in reaching to me, makes me feel like the most blest person in the Universe. There are some who I always want to boast about, the kind of boasting where I want the world to know that I have visited and inhabited true friendship, the type that is mashed up until the colours blend into one. The type of friendship where it doesn’t need to be publicized because the evidence of its power is evident in the privacy of contentment. Friendships that grow every time they are shared selflessly. Have you made that friend? Whichever way certain friendships may go, I will know that because I did the right thing with my life, I have held one of life’s most potent gifts, friendship. I thank poetry for that. Thank you, Poetry. Thank you, Poetry for PBS NewsHour and for journalists and development partners and people who sit and trust that I am the woman for the job. Thanks Poetry, for the Ambassadorial role in being the BBC Commonwealth Poet from Uganda.

I have been spending lots of time with positive thinkers who were part of my first writing days, people whose journeys have spread so far that when we sit and talk, it’s not so much about what could have been but more about, Where we are is so much better than we could have ever dreamed!

Interviews like PBS that use the keen eyes of the heart, mind and intellect are good for us to see into ourselves. They helped me see how I actually do care a lot about women and girls and love to travel as often as I can. They helped me see myself through stunning eyes, instead of eyes that are judgemental and bigoted.

I am learning that it’s okay to feel sexy and brave and hot when others are stifling in luke-warmness. Sometimes the best help I can give a flailing friend is not to step back and reach for them but to show them the way by walking at my fullest height.

I look forward to when PBS will air the interview. I look forward more, to how the interview has answered many questions about myself and shown me how to walk the many unused paths of my life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Uganda's Jennifer Makumbi emerges Regional Winner in 2014 Commonwealth Writers' Prize

Courtesy photo

Uganda's Jennifer Makumbi emerges Regional Winner in 2014 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Let’s Tell This Story Properly, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda)

Nnameya is the grieving widow when she arrives at Entebbe Airport from Manchester with her husband Kayita’s coffin. But then events take such a dramatic turn that she must relinquish her widowhood and fight.

Jennifer MakumbiJennifer Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist and short story writer. She studied Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 2012, her short story The Accidental Seaman was published in Moss Side Stories by Crocus Books. In 2013, her poems, Free Range, and Father cried in the kitchen were published in Sweet Tongues. Jennifer also has a PHD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and her doctoral novel, The Kintu Saga, won the Kwani Manuscript Project in 2013. The novel will be published in the summer of 2014 under the title Kintu. Jennifer teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University and is currently working on her second novel, Nnambi.

“I screamed when I learnt the news! To win the regional (Africa) leg is a privilege. It will bring attention to my writing and to Ugandan writing at a global level. I am immensely grateful to Commonwealth Writers.”

Friday, May 2, 2014

BN Poetry Foundation Sends Heartfelt Wishes and News

Hello BNPA Friend,

As we enter mid-year, I hope it ends with fulfilled dreams and unexpected goodness for you. Lots has been happening in 2014 and as someone who has been dear to us, we would like to let you know that your good wishes, kindness, support and trust, have honed us further.

Introducing the new team:

On April 23rd, there was a strategic meeting for the BN Poetry Foundation with a new team of six.

Mona Nsiime, who is a recent graduate of Economics and in charge of data collection and documentation.

Ivan Okuda, a Student of Law at Makerere University, journalist and writer by talent and the Chief Executive Officer of House of Words Consult as well as Editor in Chief, of First Class Magazine.

Rosey Sembatya, poet and writer and the Founder and Coordinator of Malaika Educare, an Education Consultancy.

Peterson Iglesias, a spoken word artist, scientist, computer whizz and passionate wordsmith.

Andrew Ssebaggala, The Director of House of Talent East Africa, performer, producer and Arts Manager.

Flavia Kabuye Zalwango, a Chemist, artist and third place winner of the 2011 BN Poetry Award for the poem, Beads of Hope.

During the Strategic meeting, we identified new ways of branding, marketing, widening the scope to include the entire continent, making ourselves relevant in schools and tertiary institutions, plans for the BN Poetry award 2014 Ceremony, the launch of the poetry anthology and how to involve our Government.

We intend to b active in more areas of career guidance, offering training services, schools’ outreach, media appearances and promotions using various available companies.

We also want to work closely with Arts Therapy Foundation, run by Beatrice Lamwaka, to coordinate Poetry camps in Gulu.

Coupled to that, there are 3 days left to the close of submissions to the 2014 BN Poetry Award after which Judges Joanne Arnott, a Canadian/Metis award-winning poet, Richard Ali, poet and Publicity Secretary of Association of Nigerian Authors and Kgafela oa Magogodi, poet, musician, producer and author of the Book of Rebelations, will begin their work.

More news: The BN Poetry award winners from 2009, along with a few other notable poets from Uganda will feature in Prairie Schooner magazine, one of the world’s leading literary magazines. This Prairie Schooner 2015 FUSION project is being coordinated in collaboration with Echwalu Soyinka, one of Uganda’s leading photographers.

Later in the year, the BN Poetry Foundation, together with Deyu African, managed by Sophie Alal and National Book Trust of Uganda, will launch the first mobile library in Kampala City. BN Poetry Foundation and several other partners will also open the first Poetry Library in Kampala and as soon as the books arrive, details of this will follow.

Under the BN brand, is the BN Leadership Academy for Women and Girls in Africa, which is built on seven pillars, one of them being Leadership Through Readership. Operations will begin in 2015.

Thank you very much for the financial contributions to our mobile money campaign. Much appreciation. Looking forward to sharing and being a part of more Literary Festivals and events later on in the year like Bayimba, Writivism, Open Mic , Poetry –in-Session and many more.

We will be profiling the winners of BNPA from 2009 to 2013 on the website from next week (5th to 9th May), blog and facebook page, to find out what they are doing, their writing, how their poetry has shaped and to learn much more from them. Many perform regularly in Kampala and Nairobi, run workshops, have been published and have great aspirations.

I,BNN, was also selected as the 2014 Commonwealth Games Poet, representing Uganda, and the poem, Lake Nalubaale, will be broadcast during the Games.

Best Wishes and a special rest of the year. You may follow us on the facebook page, Babishai Niwe.

-- Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Blogging The Caine-Kahora's Bold Story

Billy Kahora: Internet source.

It is a brave writer who selects to write on a topic that is rarely unfolded amongst most writers from East Africa or Africa at large. Jimmy Gikonyo, the protagonist in Billy Kahora’s The Gorilla's Apprentice, is surrounded by situations which make him want to escape into the safety of his friend Sebastian, the gorilla. Jimmy’s mother, a drunken woman who seeks boyfriend after boyfriend presents to the reader a different type of mother figure in stories by African writers. While from the continent, we read about the strength of the mothers, their ability to provide and work tirelessly for the home, here is one who is the complete opposite. It is quite refreshingly so except that it’s eerie that the only visible woman in the story bears such characteristics.

Jimmy is a loner; whose family situation and understandably the political environment around him have led him to find solace in the unexpected. By so doing, Sebastian, with whom he has found companionship since a child has been a comrade and almost brother. During this particular visit, there are bombs in Nairobi City, which have been triggered by the post-election violence. Sebastian is also on the verge of death and we learn that he is a survivor of the Rwanda genocide. This, and the fact that Jimmy’s father left him at the age of twelve provides a melancholic view of life, humans and our desperate need for companionship.

There is a little redemption when a Professor, Semambo, is able to bring the gorilla out of his misery at the end. The reader is however cognizant of a deep grief which is almost tangible in the gorilla’s weariness, the post-election violence and the deep sense of loneliness.

Possibly, a more detailed interaction between Jimmy and Sebastian, without the interference of post-election violence, would have served the story better, because that was sufficient enough to make the sadness palpable. The violence was on the periphery of the story and did not necessarily add to the relationship between the boy and gorilla. I think that the story had the potential for us to reflect on ourselves as readers and people full of emotions.

This is what Kahora says in an interview by Granta, where the story first appeared.

"I am interested in how human beings react to a collective ‘wounding’. I wanted to play around with the possibility that in a time of human madness, a primate that might have experienced a similar kind of wounding before would make us understand and see something we couldn’t see for ourselves … that in a time of conflict and war, we lose everything that we are and maybe we need other kinds of ‘intelligences’, in this case, animal, to decipher the foolishness and futility of some of our acts. Or simply make us realize that our inhumanity makes us something worse than any other forces around us. So, for me, Sebastian is greater than all of the human characters in the story, and it is that greatness that might help them recover."

It would be great to read a collection of stories by Kahora, of humans and animals.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

To Answer the Question, how to Become a Poet


first seen in Prairie Schooner Magazine

What paths will you follow into your unconscious self in order to begin to answer the questions about how to become a poet?

Every morning that the sun rises in the east is another morning that modernity’s interest in the poetic imagination has yet to reach its full flower. The pressures of everyday life seem intent on vaporizing the images and words of your dreams along with the terrors of your nightmares. The pressures of everyday life seem uninterested in your lusts and memories and all that makes up the deep reservoir of your creative mind, including the unconscious little dwellings of fantasy and insanity that lurk beneath your daily existence.

It’s as if just sustaining the tribulations — and, yes, the joys too — of domestic and family life or tending to your (even good) job or navigating all this (amazing) technology where the newest upgrade yet again promises an even better experience all conspire to drain the wells of your poetic imagination.

Given how your daily life can careen between needs and necessities, from nurturing your inner life or raising children to enjoying friendships, from shopping for lightbulbs to reheating dinner, from doing the laundry to saving for a trip — and even given the times when you find yourself caring seriously for the ill, elderly, or young in your life — you know all too well that the rampaging exteriors of the modern world seem intent on smothering the inner life of your poetic self whenever and wherever it can.

Of course it can’t. Your inner life is inextinguishable.

So to become a poet in the modern world is to trust that a poem is one of the essential messages you send right back at modernity. A poem is a means to define modernity. And it’s your poems that remind us not only of our individuated ecstasies and trials but also of the shared and granular images and stories of human experience.

But a very curious battle does take place, no? An ancient and noble battle, yes? We all sense it.

For one thing, accessing your poetic imagination doesn’t require a password — and neither will there be an upgrade next year. For another thing, your inner life subverts the turbulences of modernity, and the open fields of your imagination will not be fenced in by the onslaught of day to day existence.

On the contrary, your poetic imagination represents a compassionate and cultivated defense against the brute forces of modern living. Because, as if on cue, as if also at war with modernity — as if in the very moments that daily life seems most successful at crushing you as a creative individual — some odd aroma will trick your true poet’s self to embrace the imaginary along with the inventive forms and auras of language, of rhythm, of literary echoes, and of patterns and orders of the words and images that comprise your poems.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Nigerian nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, in his capacity as the patron for the Caine Prize for African writing, announced the shortlist for the 2014 Caine Prize. The announcement was made in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Each shortlisted writer will be given £500 in commemoration of 15 years of the Caine Prize.

According to the press release on the Caine Prize website: The Chair of judges, award-winning author Jackie Kay MBE described the shortlist as, “Compelling, lyrical, thought-provoking and engaging. From a daughter’s unusual way of grieving for her father, to a memorable swim with a grandmother, a young boy’s fascination with a gorilla’s conversation, a dramatic faux family meeting, to a woman who is forced to sell her eggs, the subjects are as diverse as they are entertaining.”

She added, “The standard of entries was exceptionally high so much so that it was actually very difficult for the judges to whittle it down to a shortlist of only five stories. We were heartened by how many entrants were drawn to explorations of a gay narrative. What a golden age for the African short story, and how exciting to see real originality – with so many writers bringing something different to the form.”

On the 14th of July, later this year, a winner will be picked at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The winner will be awarded a prize of £10,000.

Here is the list of shortlisted writers.

Diane Awerbuck

Diane Awerbuck is the author of Gardening at Night (2003), which was awarded the Commonwealth Best First Book Award (Africa and the Caribbean) and was shortlisted for the International Dublin IMPAC Award. Her work has been published internationally and translated into a number of languages. Awerbuck develops educational materials, reviews fiction for the South African Sunday Times, and writes for Mail&Guardian’s Thoughtleader. Awerbuck’s collection of short stories, Cabin Fever, was published in 2011. Her most recent full-length work, Home Remedies, was published in 2012. Her doctoral work and non-fiction deal with trauma, narrative and the public sphere.

Efemia Chela

Efemia Chela was born in Chikankata, Zambia in 1991, but grew up in England, Ghana, Botswana and South Africa. She graduated with a BA in French, Politics and Classical Civilisations from Rhodes University. She completed part of her Politics Honours at Institut D’Etudes Politiques in Aix-En-Provence, France.

When she grows up she would like to be a midwife of great literature, a better writer, a translator, subtitler and graphic novelist.

She is married to a film camera. They go everywhere together and have many square children. She gets her thrills from remotely attending international fashion weeks, artistic intertextuality, old black and white movies and tasting new cuisines.

Efemia lives in Cape Town and is currently unemployed which allows her to focus on her writing. “Chicken” was her first published story and it won third place in the Short Story Day Africa 2013 competition, “Feast, Famine and Potluck”.

Tendai Huchu

Tendai Huchu is the author of The Hairdresser of Harare. His short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Warscapes, Wasafiri, The Africa Report, The Zimbabwean, The Open Road Review, Kwani?05, A View from Here and numerous other publications. In 2013 he received a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Sacatar Fellowship. His next novel will be The Maestro, The Magistrate, & The Mathematician.

Billy Kahora

Billy Kahora is the managing editor of the Kenyan literary journal Kwani? and the author of The True Story of David Munyakei (2009). His writing has appeared in Granta, Kwani?, Chimurenga and Vanity Fair. His short story ‘Urban Zoning’ was shortlisted in 2012 for the Caine Prize and in 2007 ‘Treadmill Love’, was highly commended by the Caine Prize judges. He is working on a novel titled, The Applications and is writing a book on Juba.

Monday, April 21, 2014


KAMPALA, UGANDA – Award-winning Ugandan poet Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva is dedicated to preserving and advancing Africa’s tradition of oral expression. In addition to writing her own poems, she established the BN Poetry Award to encourage African poets to emerge and flourish.

In an interview with Global Press Journal, Nambozo talks about how poetry empowers readers to transcend suffering, to deepen their capacity to love and to spark social change.

Apophia Agiresaasi: I understand you became interested in poetry early in life. Was there a poet in your family, community or in Uganda who inspired you to start writing poems?

Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva: I was actually a child when I became interested in poetry, or, to be more specific, interested in the musicality of words and the rhythmic ability of prose. There is no poet in my family, but my father was very artistic, being a diplomat who was very well-traveled, and he translated his explorations into the home, which influenced me. My mother and siblings also have creative gifts in various fields.

The schools I attended supported writing and reciting during assembly, in class and even in the dormitories. I often composed raps or poems for my dormitory or class and weaved them into dance routines.

Coincidentally, my husband too is an artist, and so are our children.

AA: Among the poems you have written, which one do you like the most and why?

BN: One of my favorite poems is “At The Graveyard,” first published in my chapbook collection, “Unjumping,” and also in The New Black Magazine. It is about my father’s passing and how his immediate family was affected by his death and started to act so lovingly towards his memories in the hope that he would be able to cherish and take part in their ritual of loss and love.

I read it because memory is what we have when people we love die, and we can re-create these memories to make the loss more bearable and to strengthen ourselves to live large and to love large while we are alive. The poem has taught me that love knows no bounds and the heart is disobedient to rules because, in my own life, I have loved and continue to love in the true belief that light trumps darkness.

AA: Your poetry speaks about a range of issues, from sexual harassment to motherhood. Do you see your poetry as a way of promoting social change?

BN: For me, that is the epitome of writing. If my poetry can inspire, sow a seed, change a thought, and point an idea towards social change, then I will say that I have lived and have left a legacy to my children. Poetry is sacred, and I still believe that it is the highest form of literary art. I highly respect all other forms of literature ­­‒ prose, short stories, plays and novels ‒ but poetry is loudest in its stillness and silence. Poetry takes us to our primal world and our highest intellectual form through its creation and understanding and impact.

I desire my poetry to create discourse that will elevate female prisoners from the bedrooms of their woes, from the homes of their estrangement where their creative expressions have been strangled by traditions that disallow them to speak boldly before their grandfathers and uncles. I want my poetry to teach women to dance until their belly buttons form into lips of praise.

“At the graveyard I sit on my father’s lap. Where we can talk. Of what could have been but was not. Here he has many friends, Even his mother-in-law brings him flowers. Now I understand why he has to write. It keeps him alive. We saved him by killing him. Because now he writes. He recited a poem for me And my mother discovered my frozen tears on my father’s stone ”

AA: Do you write your poetry for a particular audience?

BN: I usually have a handful of people in mind, but after I have performed it or it has been published, I come to the daunting realization that my audiences are as visible as my nose and as obscure as a revolution. They are the invisible power that makes me write. The more I write, the more I don’t know my audience. It is usually when I am not writing that I am conscious of an audience that I imagine is belittling my creative work.

AA: You have mentioned previously that Uganda’s culture is founded on oral expression and that poetry is a way of preserving morals, history and values. Why do you think poetry is a powerful form of oral expression to preserve culture in Uganda?

BN: The reason that poetry is a powerful form of oral expression in preserving culture in Uganda is because our lifestyles are created through the things we observe and the manner in which we speak. As we tell stories, share news and gossip, we are creating a Uganda that we live in, that we have lived in, and that we desire to see. Stories and songs are expressive ways of sharing our deepest knowledge and truths based on morals, celebrations of thanksgiving, mourning [the] death of a loved one and making announcements. It is these oral gifts that bring communities together, and we should never lose that.

We should never stop speaking of what we are because if we do, the mouth grabbers will steal our speeches and turn them into their own. I believe that oral forms, if they are strengthened, should blend and become hybrids. Let our words drift into other lands so that they can learn and love us, and let our words mingle with people from far away so that they can blend with theirs and become richer.

AA: You have said that poetry is essential to bind Ugandans together. Do you write poems in local languages to preserve the culture and promote unity among Ugandans?

BN: I write quite a lot of poetry in Luganda, which is my mother’s language. My father was a Mugisu. And traditionally, I come from Sironko in eastern Uganda. I desire to become a perfect wordsmith in Lumasaaba as well. In addition, I am learning to speak Runyankore and Kiswahili to make my poetry richer than it is through the fusion of local languages, whose abilities supersede certain phrases in the English language.

AA: How has poetry defined your life?

BN: The truth is, poetry has been a lifesaver for me. Yes. I have gone through ripples and storms through my interactions with people, and it is only poetry that has brought me calmness as I wallow and weep. Poetry absorbs the tears and turns my self-pity into sweetness. While people take alcohol to rid themselves of misery, I write or read.

The Bible is very poetic, especially the story of Hannah, who was mocked by her co-wife after failure to give birth, but when she did, hers was a child of promise. Her song of thanksgiving is one of my favorite spiritual poems.

We have all been in situations where we are treated so unfairly even though we have loved so dearly. And then the promise we have been waiting for comes its way. We are so filled with gratitude that we can’t even gloat but just rejoice.

AA: You started the BN Poetry Award to promote the genre in Uganda. What has been your most rewarding experience since you started the award?

BN: Being part of a growing revolution. Watching people like Lillian Aujo flourish into award-winning poets. Witnessing strong revolutionary voices like Sophie Alal and Sanyu Kisaka. Being part of a young poet’s dream like Susan Piwang and Rashida Namulondo.

I have also been extremely blessed to find firm friends in the poetry fraternity: well-wishers, literary organizations and international writers who want to be a part of BN. It’s incredible.

AA: What can other poets do to encourage other people to read and write poetry?

BN: We can invite them to our readings; organize reading clubs of poetry; conduct poetry workshops and poetry camps to instill a disciplined and persevering spirit of a poet who reads a lot; and supply them with all types of creative literature.

AA: Where do you see the Ugandan female poet 10 years from now?

BN: That is a lofty task. I hope that my vision is too limited for that. I hope that no one is able to see the Ugandan female poet in 10 years because they will be in a universe that has not yet been created. In 10 years, I am sure when you conduct a similar interview, you will agree.

- See more at:

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Passion. Charisma. Captivation. Vivacity.

These are just a few of the words that can describe Mrs. Beverley Nambozo Nsengyiyunva; a Ugandan writer strongly affiliated with the arts and women’s rights activism.

After her undergraduate stint at the prestigious Makerere University, and further being awarded a distinction in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, Beverley took the world by the horns. Armed with a quill and ambition, she scooped a number of bulbous accolades as she went along. In 2010, she emerged first runner-up in the Erbacce-Press International Poetry Awards, which led to the publication of her first chapbook collection titled ‘Unjumping.’ She went ahead to start the Babishai Niwe (BN) Poetry Foundation, formerly known as the ‘Beverley Namboozo Poetry Award,’ for Ugandan women. In 2013, she was shortlisted for the Poetry Foundation Ghana Prize, and also long listed for the Short Story Day Africa Prize. Her short stories, poetry and articles have graced local and international publications like Drumvoices Revue, Kwani?,Poetry Foundation Ghana 2013 anthology, Reflections, Copperfield Review and Feast Famine and Potluck anthology amongst others. And it is with that that I decided to catch up with this amazing lady so that we could introduce her to all of the ElleAfrique readership.

Who is Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva?

A writer, poet, artivist, actress, world traveler, explorer, teacher, trainer, learner.

When did you first realize that writing was your calling? From a young age as the passion grew, but I seriously called it my vocation when I turned thirty.

From whom or what did you draw your inspiration to write? What motivates you to keep doing it?

My father encouraged me to read from a very young age and, being a diplomat who travelled a lot, he brought home experiences of global cultures. I am inspired by deep emotions like betrayal, anger, heated passion, lust, parental love and social change mostly. I keep writing because I believe in writing for social change and that art does create important discourse and debate for shifting policies. I write for the aesthetics too.

Your brainchild, the Babishai Niwe (BN) Poetry Foundation. Tell us a little more about that.

It began in 2008 when I was a young mother and desired to create an impact that was close to giving birth to a child. Making the decision to become a stay at home mother, I invested a lot of time and resources to develop the project, especially since poetry was marginalized, hardly understood and women were constantly on the periphery. For five years, it has been the only poetry award for women in Eastern Africa. From 2014, it has grown to include the entire continent. The winners have performed on stages with world known poets and interacted with some of the finest poetic minds in the universe through festivals, workshops and publications.

A good number of people want to venture into creative writing, but are discouraged by the fact that writers get little pay or recognition for their work. What advice would you give to these people?

I would advise them to venture into it for the aesthetics first, to be drawn by such a hungry passion which alleviates their other causes. By doing so, even as they pursue income in other vocations, they will always come back to writing because that is what drives their creative soul. There will always be a place where they can make time for writing early in the mornings, in between breaks, write stories in their minds first and read a lot.

Do you have any personal projects in the works that you would like us to know about?

Yes, in a few years I would like to start a leadership academy for girls and women aged 15 to 20 years. The goal would be leadership through readership. By focusing on reading, they will build confidence, character and charisma, thus creating a better environment for themselves for personal and global growth.

Recently, in light of the passing of the Anti-Pornography Bill, a young lady was publicly undressed for having been clad in what was deemed as “inappropriate clothing.” Do you think that this new Bill contains a form of bias towards women in this country in any way?

There has always been a bias towards women in varying degrees. If you are exceedingly brilliant, rich, good-looking, industrious or enterprising, sectors will regard you as unmarriageable or too manly, as if marriage is every woman’s goal. Many sectors also despise women who have made personal choices of entrepreneurship or vocation because their empowerment frightens their traditional and conventional ways. The bill is just a reflection of how structures intend to confine women to heinous and tiny constructs that are meant to belittle and torture them psychologically and physically. The bill is also concealing a bigger agenda of the policy makers. Men who are undressing women are just revealing their animalistic capacities which have always been there. The bill is an advancement towards a very unfortunate time when we should be celebrating women’s achievements and working towards improving health and the economy.

What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not indulging in your ‘creative writer juice?’

, dancing, travelling, parenting and reading a lot.

Many African women have looked to their natural side and embraced their ‘nappy,’ or natural hair, and you are one of them. What persuaded you to make that decision? It was more of convenience and experiment. I am blessed with good natural hair which grows fast so the decision was easy. It is also very convenient since I spend a lot of time as a stay at home mother as well.

What is your definition of a true African woman?

To answer that question, I will have to unravel the multiple identities from the continent and that will take more than a life-time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

At 40, I should stop chasing things and things should chase me

Egypt at The Red Sea, pregnant at Sharm-el-Sheikh and outside McDonald's in South Africa.

I am on one of the most rewarding journeys of my life. Last week, I was asked to write poetry which will be part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. This year, I’m working with fifteen fabulous Ugandan poets to participate in Prairie Schooner’s one in a million world-wide poetry projects. Despite the delay, the African poetry anthology, A Thousand Voices Rising, will be launched and excel.

A friend recently offered to support the BN Leadership Academy for women and girls which I am going to run with several partners Africa-wide and I am on a ten day Daniel fast. This outer cleansing is great for inner-cleansing. Also, writing someone’s memoir, someone who studied with Joseph Kony, lived the life of a child-soldier, was gang-raped multipally and now doing magnitudes for girl children in Uganda.

When I am forty years old, I don’t want to chase things . I would rather things chased after me. Not only if those things looked like Tyrese Gibson but I want to attract more good things for myself, my children, grand-children and great grand-children. The Leadership Academy should have begun in Uganda with plans of going country-wide. I should not chase jobs and people at 40 years, no. I have been a stay at home mum for over 5 years now, running an annual poetry award at the mercies of development partners and well-wishers. In between, completed my Masters and now I want to start a Leadership Academy for women and girls. I should not chase after things from the age of 40. Things should chase after me, good things, things with 7 figures and signatures on blank cheques, things with two iron wings flying in the clouds, things with kind faces. Those things. I have made some of the best decisions to his freedom. I let go and my eyes saw clearly. The whining in my ears and the groaning in my head stopped. The callousness of cowards around me vanished.

I saw the sun. I created more suns around me. I became the sun for those around me and for myself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent, King Nebuchadnezzar and Patriotism

If the rumours of a patriotic bill are true in Uganda, it reminds me of King Nebuchadnezzar who forced all his subjects to worhip a statue made of gold. Those who refused because they only worshipped God, were sent to burnin a furnace.

Daniel 3

New International Version (NIV)

The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

8 At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

From Biblegateway

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lent: learning from Donald Trump and DvN

Lent: Learning from Donald Trump and DvN.

DvN sent an audio link from Donald Trump. Today I listened to it. Today, we are a few days into Lent and this is one of the piths of learning. Listening to Donald Trump.

Stay focused. Keep your momentum going. Have the energy to get the job done. Be thorough. If you lose focus, you lose momentum. This Lent, my prayer is for the BNPA team to never lose focus, always have momentum and for the right leadership for the Babishai Women’s Leadership Academy.

We always have problems but it is important to look at the solution and not the problem. Use what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have. Winners keep on going. NEVER GIVE UP. See yourself as victorious. It will zap all the negativity. See your problems as challenges. Use frustration to go where you want to go, instead of staying where you are.

See an opportunity for what it is. An opportunity. Learn something new everyday and be open to new ideas. Be thorough and learn everything about what you’re doing. Continue to be passionate and love what you’re doing. If success is what you want, be successful and you will be happy, healthy and strong.

For BNPA, what began as a small dream shared amongst a handful of friends, I can only thank God this Lent for enabling m to continue growing strong, choosing the right team and seeing the award grow to Africa. We haven’t stopped growing. Mwebare.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent: Lupita Senorita

Lent: Lupita Senorita

Lupita says that her mother is always telling her that she is beautiful despite growing up with a sense of inferiority over her dark complexion. Her mother. Drove her to confidence. Drove her to an inherent pride because of her dark skin rather than inspite of it. Her mother. Her joy. I wonder what that’s like. To have a mother who, despite weight gain after two babies, tells her daughter she’s extremely beautiful. Friends and acquaintances tell me I’ m beautiful all the time with an exceptional body. It would mean a lot if my mother did too.

Lupita. It’s important that we celebrate her during Lent so that we can thank God for the gifts He gives us and the dominance over our enemies. There are those, who in our careers, plant time bombs, expecting them to go off at the crest of our careers but no, instead the bombs blow off in their faces and we continue to Lupitanise over their insecurities. You will recognize the time bomb when the talking suddenly stops when you enter a room of your friends. They start talking loudly over each other about the apparent drought and dog’s poo. Your friends who you tirelessly wove from muck to meaning, from apathy to affluence.

You will recognize them when they steal your C.V, plant their name over it and get the award meant for you. You don’t gloat because it’s Lent and because it wastes time. You hope that they see that there is room for everyone at the top and they can stop scrambling. They detest you more with every increasing accolade. You pray for them because it’s lent. When Lent is over, you hope that they will stop scrimmaging in the graveyard of the dead sheroes and heroes, stealing their jewellery, hoping in vain that facebook journalists will notice their external loveliness, that no one will perceive that the jewellery they wear is stolen. You think about the relatives of the dead, who buried their loved ones in one last comfort. You want to give these desperate friends of yours some of your own adornments. They prefer the grave to life. They need counseling from Lupita


Lent: One good girl and three bad men

Lent: One good girl and three bad men.

They came and poured themselves into my every space that flowed with goodness. One of them saw my inter-connectedness with writers, publishers and academics and swooped in. When he was done with sucking my blood, the rest hovered above like vultures.

The next, on seeing me wounded, used the opportunity to soothe my pain with health products, after which he said that they will cost 20,000 Kenya Shs but if I registered under his name, I could make that in three weeks. I sold many health products in his name and the money was wired to his account. You can guess what he wires to my account, good experience, opportunity of a life-time and a free T-shirt. That’s the T-shirt I wear to dance zumba in my living room. I can’t afford the gym or health products anymore ever since all the money was wired to his account.

The third runs one of the most publicized business shows in East Africa. He asked me to edit his book. We discussed at length what it would take. After two months, I am still waiting for the cheque. I should have fled from this gang-bang when this person told me he wanted to bring Shakira and Beyoncé to perform at a large football stadium. His up market over polished over-sized pointed brown shoes against his purple socks and black tuxedo that Tuesday evening should have been the warning sign. He is wearing shoes too big for him.

The fourth in this hideous gang-bang wanted to see what it would be like with his sister. The one whose organization I have been giving free publicity. My friend told me that I should stop giving people and organizations publicity. Anyway, she came to ex-communicate me, stating that the publicity had given them all the funding they needed. Lent.

I am still doing zumba in my living room.

Lent brings discernment. It opens spirituality and draws us closer to the truth.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I'm letting the Lent in because I'm a reckless lover

I’m letting the Lent in because I’m a reckless lover. I tattooed your name at the bottom of my sole so that I would always walk in your direction. I have a banjo on my knee, a harp in between my toes and a harmonica playing through my ears. You turned me into a musician. I need to let the Lent in so that I can sing to you my last song.

This heavy footed love that thunders through life leaving tellable prints everywhere it goes. You called a meeting and invited all your board members from around the world to discuss how my thoughtless love tore you apart. The 40 days ahead of us will teach me how to unlove you and you will be left with those that don’t care. I apologise for my heart that knows no bounds.

It can’t be by coincidence that this weekend on Women’s Day, my name will once again appear in print. They will write that I have played a huge role in writing in Uganda and elsewhere. You and I know it’s really because my hasty heart has honed hundreds into heroes and sheroes. No more. It excludes me. Loving you excludes me. It discolours my contact lenses so that the colour of your hair is haloed and hallowed. Not this time. I’m letting the Lent in.

I was never a whiner, only a shiner. I was never a victim, only victorious and glorious. Manifestations of this will ripple to you. I promised I would teach you to bungee jump. It’s perilous and requires trust and blind faith. It’s not the bungee jump I’m talking about now.


Round Two goes to my gut

You will know when it’s time to let go. As a woman, we are blest with our deepest gut. It is hardly ever wrong. For me, mine is always right. In December, I met with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years after the office he set up in Kampala folded. He noticed me first, expressed excitement and we shared great ideas. Phone calls followed and he promised to donate a whole lot of money to BN Poetry Award and then some.

We scheduled skype interviews and even though my gut warned me not to pursue this surprise donor after he continuously failed to honour calls, I never let go of my hope and faith. My weakness is that I have faith and hope in people. Then his close friends began dying. After he lost a third friend on the same day, I knew that my gut had been right all along. He took all the business ideas I shared by email and phone and if you ever hear of these ideas. I am sure they are now part of his annual work plan and his profits will rise. I should always listen to my gut. It’s God’s way of letting me know that it’s time to let go.

I hold onto friendships that I know died about twenty emails ago. I hold on because I believe in love eternal, friendship eternal and I have hope and faith in people. People are good. My gut told me that this friendship had ended but I stared my gut in the face and told it within no uncertain terms that its 37 years of experience was no match for my one month of unheeded infatuation and hopelessness. The friendship was over. The other person knew it. Not I.

Here I am. My gut speaks loudly, fondly, wisely. I am standing on the precipice of my dreams. My gut tells me to fly because the wings will grow as I fall. I am flying. My wings are growing. I am learning to soar, to be me.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Call for Participation in Editorial Workshop,June 2014



UGANDA, 16TH -20TH JUNE 2014


African Writers Trust in partnership with Commonwealth Writers will conduct an Editorial Skills Development workshop in Kampala, Uganda, from 16th to 20th June 2014. Led by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, a book editor with over fifteen years experience at Penguin, Random House and Granta in the UK, the training will target editors from the East Africa region: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

This course is meant for mid-level and more experienced book editors and proof readers working as freelance or within publishing houses. This will be a residential workshop. Air travel expenses, accommodation and meals will be provided to successful candidates.

If you want to be considered for this training, please send a Letter of Motivation not exceeding 1,000 words to and stating:

1. Name, nationality and gender

2. Contact information: Email address and telephone number

3. How long you have been working as an editor/proof reader

4. What you find most challenging in your work as a book editor/proof reader

5. What you hope to achieve from participating in the workshop

The deadline for receiving applications is 4th April, 2014. Applications received after this date will not be considered.

Only successful applicants will be notified by 30th April 2014.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Michael Onsando visits Kampala

Photo credits: All photos of Femrite members in discussion with Michael Onsando, photos by Dilman Dila.

Photos of Tom Forrest, Michael Onsando and scenic views from Buziga, photos by BNN

A photo gallery will appear soon of the event.

BN Poetry Foundation recently partnered with Femrite, Transcultural Academy and Poetry-in-session to bring Kenyan poet and blogger, Michael Onsando to Kampala. The fully packed literary itinerary included a very late night bus ride, dinner at Wandegeya’s finest, a heavy Q and A at Femrite Author of the Month session, relaxed evening at Poetry in session and a day out at Tom Forrest’s house with an unbeatable view of Kampala. Delightful. Yes, indeed.

Michael is the first of several other East African poets who will be travelling to Kampala in the next couple of years for cultural exchange visits which are sponsored, authored and managed by Africans and Afrocentric non-Africans.

On arriving close to 11:00pm on 26 January when the rest of Uganda had long slept after celebrating, or not, the 28th anniversary of the ruling National Resistance Movement, the first part of this extraordinary visit was to Wandegeya. It was the only suitable place for fine food at such a fine hour. Wandegeya is adjacent to Makerere university and caters for all student needs. Michael, coming from Western Kenya, adores matooke and binyeebwa, which made my life so much easier. His guest house in Ntinda was not far off in the traffic less city, close to midnight.

During the day of 27th, he toured a little and chanced upon Afriart gallery which true to its name, held fine art exhibitions and craft, which raised our guest’s expectations of Kampala’s art. Afriart gallery, managed by Daudi Karungi, runs exhibitions every month of both new and older artists inthe industry. They are painters, sculptors, artists who use recycled material to make social statements and those who communicate with barkcloth.

Femrite’s evening session of Author of the month occurs every last Monday. This was the first serious literary space that Michael entered and was nothing short of spectacular. Having followed his blog at, there were a number of questions I had, given his vulnerability and social awareness, reflected off these pages. Eager participants also filled the discussion with many questions of their own.

Q: On your blog, you mention how you were incapable of celebrating Kenya at 50 in 2013. This is in reference to the 50th anniversary independence from British rule. Why weren’t you able to celebrate with the rest of the nation?

A: Why should I celebrate when there is so much injustice. For example, an open air market was razed for having been built on illegal ground but Westgate Mall was also built on illegal ground and never razed.

Q: You have been told that being a poet is not aspiration enough. If you were a decamillionaire, do you think their views would change?

A: Yes, because money has now become an end and not a means to an end.M.p<

Q: What is your view on literary prizes?

A: A number of people have been given a platform. Prizes do not validate the work and they are only as good as the judges. They are also mainly of value to those giving them and not to those receiving them. They are a grey area and have done more harm than good in my opinion. In Africa especially, writers are only validated by prizes and yet even without a prize, writers still remain excellent at their craft.

Q: Does everyone have talent?

A: Yes, we all have talent. We must not believe that all talent has to be artistic though.

Q: But as a teacher, I have had to let down some of my children who have no talent in poetry by telling them to try another specialty.

A: As a teacher though, it is your duty to encourage that child no matter what to pursue poetry, if it is in her/his interest.

Q: When writing a poem, do you pay attention to particular rules?

A: For a long time, I paid attention to rules and metre but even though everything is new, we must still be deliberate and not just let things happen.

Q: Uganda is a literary drought. What can we do to change this and market ourselves as well as Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o?

A: Who and what are you reading? Uganda and East Africa at large are far from literary droughts. There is a lot of work coming out for example, Dust, by Yvonne Adhiambo Oduor, which I recommend all to read.

Q: Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o did not remain on the continent to and take part in the real struggle? What do you make of this?

A: Look at the circumstances that make them go away. Ngugi was in a very precarious political and personal state. After his first return, his wife was raped brutally and there were many other political repercussions.

Onsando also believes that we are fundamentally gifted by largely one specific thing be it poetry, carpentry, archery. A number of participants at the session disagreed. This rose from the fact that many writers and artists take on several other roles to sustain them financially. He also reads a lot.

After reading three memorable poems namely Whispers, Unlearning Death and Maktub, the evening ended with lack of time for the remaining questions, which could only be concluded at another forum. It was an impressive, reflective and energetic evening at Femrite.

Tuesday’s Poetry in session was more relaxed. With a few regulars at the evening and some new faces, Roshan Karmali, the host and founder, allowed each poet a maximum of 3 poems and to engage the audience more. This was a fantastic way to begin the new year as she led us to a theme of breaking new as opposed to finding ourselves in 2013. It was a night of pleasant surprises, concluded by the gifted Bosco and his guitar. Singing some of my favourite songs like, How does it feel to be the on that I love?”

After the previous late nights, Wednesday was a day of rest at Tom Forrest’s exquisite house on top of Buziga Hill, overlooking the extraordinary Kampala city. At his place which is spruced up with an enchanting mix of flowers, shrubs, old trees, roots, guava trees, trees hanging with leaves commonly called Old Man’s Beard, hibiscuses of all shades and rare cacti, we allowed ourselves to seep in the new and the fresh.

Tom Forrest is a distinguished Biritish academic who hoards literature, mainly poetry. Fascinating. A welcome alternative from the engaging previous two nights. Visiting with Femrite members Jackee Batanda and Sophie Alal who also write, create and diversify in entrepreneurial work, Tom was only too delighted to host an East African writer at his premises.

Michael’s wish is to return to Kampala as soon as possible. Many thanks to sponsors and friends who made this visit possible, the first of many.

By Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Monday, January 20, 2014


Applicants are invited to participate in a full day Focus group discussion and evaluation entitled:

BN Poetry Award, 2009-2013.

The aim of the evaluation is to assess the impact of the award since its inception in 2009, to analyse the strengths and challenges and create opportunities for the next 5 to 10 years. Successful candidates will be notified by mid-February. Facilitation will be provided.


• between 18 and 90 years of age by the time of submitting the application

• knowledgeable of BNPA

• time-conscious, creative and insightful

Interested applicants are invited to submit their C.V and a 200 -300 word brief essay on why they are most suitable. Kindly submit this to by 30 January 2014, midnight, Uganda Time.

Thank you. Nambozo Nsengiyunva.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Soon to be Slender, by BNN

I want to lose 20kg within a few months.

I am going to lose 20kg within a few months.

Last year, I began an intense exercise routine which was interrupted by natural frustration at the lack of evidence from the hard work and bouts of irregular motivation. For the past seven days from 26th December, I have engaged in a 1 hour daily workout. This includes episodes of Insanity season 2, brisk 30 min walks and kick-ass maximum interval home cardio and hip-hop, mixed with Zumba. It’s exhilarating.

There are people I meet who make boorish remarks about my weight. One of them is my grandfather’s former driver who in Luganda, loudly for all to hear, expressed his displeasure at my weight during what was otherwise an excellent New year’s Family Day. As a former Gayaza girl, I kept quiet and way-laid him as he parked cars of the various owners. I told him in no unabashed terms that my weight had nothing to do with him and there was no reason for him to be so discourteous since I’ve always been civil to him. He apologized, only because he was shocked at the reproach.

Other people who have transitioned from good friends to acquaintances, often jog my memory by reminding me how small I was ten years ago. I also jog their memory with stories of my two children and how women’s bodies undergo alterations after 35 years. Besides, if all factors were constant and the x- axis of low weight transformed with the y- axis of gorgeousness, they should be riding high in the looks department. Those factors are never constant.

I have more endurance than many people who are 30 kg lighter than I am and this is because I have been exercising for a year now. Combined with juices, consistence and overdoses of spiritual food, I’m well on my way this year to my 20kg weight loss. Thanks to my Super Budz fitness group, Lamwaka, Ibrahim, Twongyeiyerwe, Tabaro, Nsengiyunva, Nakayenga, Grace and a few others who lift me up constantly in this tedious yet fulfilling ride.

Happy New Year.

By Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva