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.