Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Home remains the same. We're the ones that change.

Daddy, Mummy, Two brothers and me

When we say, it’s good to finally be home, what does that mean?

Is it just rhetoric or does the heavily emotional word, finally, precede several dangerous encounters and unpleasant journey memories, increasing the desire for home. When we are faced with the possibility of never returning home, we imagine what we left behind or possibilities of a new future.
Last month, I visited Purley Avenue in Northwest London for the first time after 28 years.
Purley Avenue had been my home for close to six years. I don’t remember the other places we lived in London but I remember Purley Avenue because it was home in the simplest and most important way that a child could understand. There was Daddy, Mummy, two brothers and me. We neither had a pet Alsatian, fox terrier, or cat, like our English friends but we did have a few goldfish. Their aquarium had coloured pebbles underneath and we took turn to feed the fish from breadcrumbs to some weird looking fish food.
Home, also meant owning a bike, roller-skating every summer, going to the cinema, doing well in school, having so much food at every meal that a lot got wasted and knowing that there would always be tomorrow, with Daddy, Mummy, two brothers and me.

I didn’t know what to expect when I took the bus to Golders Green that day. It was a warm spring and I knew, unlike my other recent England trips where I just couldn’t, that this was the day I would visited the first place I remember as home. The bus stopped at Child’s Hill. That’s the name of the school I went to with my brothers before I joined St. Margaret’s Girls’ School. On disembarking, nothing felt familiar until I took a short walk and finally saw the bridge that we used to cross when going to Child’s Hill Park. I crossed it; wondering if it could still carry my weight after twenty-eight years. I felt I was crossing over the bridge that divided my past and present, my anxieties and my indefinable hope, like I was touching this distinguishable place I always yearned.
Crossing over, I looked down at my younger self holding onto my big brother’s hand as we crossed the road, having snowball fights with the Nigerians next door, going to school with our Iranian neighbours and doing all the things that made home, home. I looked at my housemates from Pitts at St. Margaret’s, as we played netball and usually won, at the gym teacher instructing us on how to do one-handed cartwheels and my younger self looked back at me.
A few yards after the bridge was Dersingham Road. That’s where Child’s Hill School was. It has evolved so much with the automatic gates new signage and smaller playing area. My best friend and I used to run across the playground teasing the Indian girls and taking their tangerines. We used to bully the fat girls and make them cry and we hated school lunches. They always gave us this yucky trifle pudding for dessert and it looked like puke. The years I spent at Child’s Hill had been erased and so I gathered the memories, balled them over and flung them across the gate. They would never leave.
Dersingham Road was exactly the same, with the corner shop and all. I even passed the house where the twins stayed, Dennis and Eric, I passed the garage where our neighbours used to park their car. And then I was at Purley Avenue.

Time, to my disappointment, kept on moving and the flowers continued blossoming under the dry sun but it didn’t matter. This street was my home. I grazed my knee here, learnt how to ride a bike, played Knock down ginger, went for birthday parties and rushed home from dreary blizzards. I played hide and seek and walked to church from here. The houses, of course, appeared much smaller than when we lived here, like monopoly houses but the opulence of the past made them larger than the present. The grass around our front garden was gone. There were no tulips or daffodils, only the spot where my dad used to park his car.

It felt good to be back home.

Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva is a Ugandan writer, mother, lover, wife, entrepreneur, blogger.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Review of Daughters Who Walk This Path, novel by Yejide Kilanko

Internet photo

Yejide Kilanko (left) and Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko,  is a book that will easily be celebrated by seekers of justice, because of its direct no-nonsense message.  It’s unapologetic about the oppressors in a woman’s life. The imbalance in power is the main oppressor, followed by guilt, misplaced trust and silence. When Morayo and Morenike are raped by men in positions of trust, Bros T who is  Morayo’s cousin and Chief Komolafe, a respected community leader, it is a shocking reminder of how our trust is replaced by fear, silence and guilt and our worlds cave in.

Morayo, a typical girl whose heart brims with hope, love and ambition is like the girl next door and remains so, even after the brutal rape. Morenike, more assertive, is more upfront, even though it took years, with dealing with the rape, which resulted in a child. They are each others’ pain relievers, which is never enough but their spirit does lend a little light in the depressing times of the novel.
Amidst the over-riding themes, there are delightful episodes of stolen kisses, childhood crushes, marriage between true loves and journeys that bring hearts together. It is this ability to knock down obstacles to true love that are Yejide’s other great gift as a writer.

The novel is arguably littered with clichés but the reason they are clichés is because they work.  A woman’s story can never be told enough, neither will the horrors and survivals after rape, neither will the need for rapists to be apprehended with the full arm of the law. These stories, however many, must be told because every day there is a woman and a man who needs to read about it.
There are rich anecdotes reflecting Nigeria’s varied and complex traditions and histories. The ways in which this affects the contemporary life of a Nigerian girl are quite vivid and telling. Eniayo, Morayo’s albino sister, in the story, is a potentially interesting character, except when life’s gifts somehow fall at her feet. She marries the love of her life who had been pursuing her for ages, she gets great grades and is generally happy from beginning to end. Happiness is not a flaw but rather the plainness behind the happiness. The teasing about her skin condition could have been broadened and even without her, the story could possibly still remain as beautifully told.

Most of the men either play passive roles, oppressive roles or are there to serve the women but then again this could have been deliberate on the author’s part.
Farafina Publishers sought out a lively and dedicated story-teller and readers should look out for more of Yejide’s works. She has a novella, Chasing Butterflies and there is promise of another novel.

Reviewed by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, writer and  of the BN Poetry Foundation.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I want my 2nd December 1995

I want my 2nd December 1995

A view of Makerere College (internet photo)

David Mbati (Deputy headboy 1996), (RIP), Mr. Katongole and Beverley Nambozo (Headgirl 1996) Courtesy photo.

In 1995 in Kampala, most Christians I knew were happy to meet and share testimonies, hug, greet each other with Praise God, say a blessing to shop owners and street children and hardly worry about costume and lighting when on stage. Before a show, they spent at least one hour in prayer. Makerere College School was all that. I was in senior five when a group of about fifteen or more of us, experienced a Saul to Paul moment.
When your mind and hearts have been preparing for something, it will always happen. The frail will always frolic in strength and there will always be enough for everyone.

Because of the flexibility on hostel opening times at Makerere College School (Macos), in our squashed room with six double decker beds, every Saturday and Sunday morning, five of us would rush to bathe at about 3:00am and wait for 4:00am where we would run to the tiny theater room just to pray. It sounds odd when you say it out loud but I don’t remember having such excitement for anything in my life. We were seventeen to nineteen years old, waiting with our torches for 4:00am on a Saturday, to pray. The head girl, Joanne Aniku, would open the hostel gate for us and we would rush with bibles in hand, racing for fellowship. Sometimes, we would hear the boys singing, preparing the place for worship. It was one of the warmest feelings of my life, singing before dawn, praying in earnest, worshipping in joy and sharing love with my friends in Christ.
We were so concerned about one another’s well-being. We were neither allowed to go hungry in the dormitories, nor struggle alone with a difficult subject because we all looked out for each other. It was a fellowship. During break times, we would meet just to share bible verses and testimonies. There was such lightness in our steps and a warm magnetism about us, which even the staff, began to notice.
Steven Kitumba one mid-week fellowship shared from Ezekiel 37, Dry bones, live again. He said that when you feel you’ve reached the end of your rope, God joins another rope to it. We couldn’t speak; only shed tears because of the intensity of his message at that moment, the way we were lifted from one place to another.
Dry bones, live again.  I’ve never heard anyone else share from that chapter since 1995.
The profundity of 1995 was the love we shared for one another, which is what the Lord desires, that we love one another as he has loved us. During one of the 4:00am weekend prayers, someone shared a word that The Holy Spirit would visit us on Saturday 2nd December and that we should prepare for this visit.
 2nd December 1995 needed neither coercion nor advertisements. All we did out of obedience like Noah, was start preparing by scrubbing that theater room which hadn’t been scrubbed in over a year. The windows glistened and people stopped to stare just like they did Noah. And then we posted a plain pencil drawing of a dove on one of the notice-boards and sent out hand-made invitations to staff and students for the Holy Ghost visitation.
Once again, saying it out loud does make me feel like a lunatic.
We dressed in our very best that day, decorated around the room for the Holy Ghost party and waited as people came in from 4:00pm. Singing songs, leading teachers and students alike into the room, we waited. Like Noah, we waited.

It came upon us like a breeze, then a drizzle and then an unmistakable eruption of tongues broke out. It was glorious. It was the after-glow of hysterical laughter. The French teacher was in tears, there was hardly any standing room and students joined hands all the way to the classroom. The singing never stopped. The love grew. There was a makeshift VIP carpet from the door to the stage, for anyone who wanted to speak at the podium. Balloons lifted to the ceiling as blessings came down. It was the perfect blend of an intangible vigor with a tangible stillness.

I want my 2nd December 1995.

Sara Kaweesa, who was part of that fellowship, directs Arocha International Uganda, a Christian conservation organization. Dennis Kasirye began his own church. Macos is extraordinary. Many of its students have verve for life that is astounding. Solome Ndikatuga Basuuta, Helengrace Namulwana, Keith Kibirango, Steven Kitumba, Doris Mitti, Mark Kakitahi, George Matovu, Isabella Kesiime and many others.
I have been part of many enthusiastic groups since 1995 which have made incredible milestones and I’m so grateful. That December was exceptional though, because we can only reach unimaginable proportions when there is a fusion of spiritual energy which outpaces the physical, where there is depth of mutual respect, no feelings of superiority but eagerness to grow as a cell.

Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva studied in Makerere College School from 1995 to 1997. She is the founder of the BN Poetry Foundation and BN Leadership Academy, author, poet, dancer and actress.