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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Funny,bumpy and smooth road journey

TIDE AND TIME. From a funny Kampala bus journey, to a rough ride through Ntungamo to the smooth roll to Mirama Hills. DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA tells of his experience by public means of transport

It had been a while since I travelled upcountry by public means. So at the weekend when I jumped on a bus to Kafunjo Parish in Ntungamo District to attend a friend’s wedding, I had not prepared for the interestingly ‘new developments’ that would be part of my long journey.

The first development was the black kaveera (polythene bag) given to passengers. On such long distances most of them eat all sorts of things along the way, and those with reactive stomachs often puke them back.
I had to applaud the foresightedness of Global Coaches management for introducing the kaveera (never mind that government banned kaveera)and small buckets to protect their buses from the repugnant vomit of passengers. An old man behind me asked the conductor if he could ease himself in one of the buckets, and the bus roared in laughter.
Another ‘development’ that is now ‘officially’ part of such long distances is the sugar-tongued herbal medicine merchant who buys a seat so he can use the journey to hawk his herbs. This time he was selling a powdered concoction that he claimed it gives men “lasting power” in bed. The same powder, he said, is a cure to diabetes, ulcers, varied allergies, syphilis, blood pressure, joint pains and all sorts of maladies that make life unbearable. He made a killing from passengers but I was left wondering who regulates such ‘medics’ and their merchandise.
The sardines
When I reached Mbarara I took a taxi to Ntungamo. We left the park 16 passengers but the driver kept stopping and picking up more passengers until we were packed like sardines, with hardly breathing space.
I could not believe this ‘development’ in the 21st century, moreover in the First Lady’s backyard. It did not help that the driver was driving like a demon. I knelt down and prayed when we reached Ntungamo safely.
Smooth ride
From here, we hired a saloon car and headed to Mirama Hills where the wedding was taking place. The 37km-Ntungamo-Mirama Hills Road is newly upgraded and smooth. This was not the story four years ago; this road used to be so bad leading to several fatal accidents that the villagers had nicknamed it karyabantu (one that devours people). The most dangerous spot was at Omukikoona (the intersection) in Kafunjo where one road goes to Kikagati – connecting to Tanzania, and the other to Mirama border post of Rwanda. This intersection would get waterlogged during the rainy season that vehicles would sink, killing people.
A heavy truck on the Ntungama-Mirama Hill Road
 In 2014, the situation was so dire that the natives went on a rampage and planted banana trees in the middle of the impassable road, and could not be appeased until they had a meeting with Janet Museveni who was the area MP. The government then engaged a Chinese company to upgrade it from murram to bitumen standard.

Today, the work is nearly complete and everyone is happy about the development, from the locals who got manual jobs on the road to the businessmen that use the road to transport produce such as beans and maize and bales of second-hand clothes to Rwanda and from Tanzania.
Now, even buses from Kigali to Kampala and back ply this road which is shorter than Ntungamo-Kabale-Katuna-Kigali route. Whereas it used to take over two hours from Ntungamo to Kigali on this road, now it takes close 30 minutes for big trucks and less than 20 minutes for the small cars.
Before heading back to Kampala, we drove from Ntungamo to Mirama border post in 21 minutes. Our driver sometimes sped but we love our lives more than the adrenaline rush. How long this road will last before it needs to be repaired will confirm whether the Zhongmei road engineers did a good job.
Did you know?
• The Ntungamo–Mirama Hills Road is a road in the Western Region of Uganda, connecting the towns of Ntungamo and Mirama Hills, both in Ntungamo District.
• President Yoweri Museveni officially commissioned the construction of the 37 km Ntungamo-Mirama Hills road.
• TradeMark East Africa and government of Uganda jointly funded construction of the $22 million road
• The Mirama Hills road route offers a shorter and less difficult route to Rwanda than passing through the Katuna/Gatuna border post.

Sunday Monitor, May 21, 2017

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Distinguishing a man from a male

LESSONS. Do you know the difference between a man and a male? Dennis D. Muhumuza explores this.

Did you know that not all males are men? There’s a huge gulf between the two, as I learned at a recent Men’s Conference facilitated by Eric Ssetuba, head of Men’s Ministry Makerere Full Gospel Church. Accordingly, a male is created but a man is made. When a child is born with a penis, he is male but it takes years of training and upbringing and a track record of application for him to be considered a man.

What a male does
A normal male above 18 years or even less can make a woman pregnant but it takes a man to make a father. A male panics and disowns the pregnancy but a man takes responsibility and cares, after birth he raises his child until maturity and independence. He is involved in all the circles of growth of his children and knows how to discipline his sons into manhood, whereas a male leaves all decisions to his wife and when the wife is not there his maid takes her place, including bedroom matters. These are the kind of males who have no self-control so they could rape and defile to satisfy their carnal appetites.

A saying goes, no matter how tall your father is, you must do your own growing. Males grow only in bodies and not in character. What women call the “mama’s boy” falls in this category.

He is a cry-baby who does not know how to assert himself or make manly plans. He runs to his mother for solutions and cries when pushed to the wall by circumstances. A man has the ability to stay calm when the going is tough. He is the problem-solver who keeps his family afloat amid the storms of life. He is the leader and provider and all his moves factor in the wellbeing of his family and dependants. He also prepares for his exit through savings and investments so that when he is gone his family will not suffer.

You have heard of “absentee fathers”. Those are males, not men while a real man creates bonding time for his family no matter how busy he is. He does not bring office work to his home because it is family time. This is when he helps his children to do homework, prays with them and listens to them. He remembers their birthdays and attends school visitations. A male thinks buying toys for his children is enough. Consequently, cartoon characters become the role models of his children and they grow up weak like reeds that are tossed about by the wind.

Make family time
A man does not only work hard but also teaches his children early to embrace hard work and a saving culture. He involves them in budgeting for the family so that they can learn how to spend responsibly. A male on the other hand provides everything children ask for without question. He is the kind who buys a smartphone for his six-year-old son with limitless Internet without activating parental controls. It is also this type of male that forbids his sons from working; everything is done by the maids. In future these children fail to adapt to the hard and often harsh realities of life and turn to drugs and become, in hip-hop parlance, “messed-up hommies.”

Work for survival
Before dawn when the real men are throwing away blankets to go and hustle, that is when the male snuggles further in and snores. When he finally wakes up, his “proggie” is all about going to the nearest sports betting centre hoping for a quick kill and thrill. Such often sponges off his sisters or rich mother to keep going. A man, even when he is not employed starts something or volunteers somewhere because he must earn his bread and be useful in society. Are you a man or merely male? If you are male, start on a new journey to manhood. Bravo to real men!

A man also sets goals and runs after their fulfillment resolutely. Goals about his health, finances, spirituality, morality and security. He knows it is in the fulfillment of these goals that he can contribute to his society because he knows life does not revolve around him alone, so he tries to impact the world in everything he does. Thus he acquires new skills to retain his cutting edge, and surrounds himself with people that bring out the best in him. Males don’t care about legacy; they are the heavy drinkers, chainsmokers and squander their time with loafers and comfort themselves singing the Solomonic song which they sadly get out of context, “enjoy today, for tomorrow you die!” Alas they die with inner regrets, having left no legacy at all except a legacy of careless living.

--Sunday Monitor, August 7, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Every man’s healthy body needs

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

In Uganda, the man is the leader and provider in the home. Even the emancipation of women has not changed that status quo as most men confess they do not know how their working wives spend their salaries.
The women go on the defensive, saying a woman’s money is a woman’s money and the man has no business poking his nose into how she spends it. But that’s a story for another day. For today, the focus is on the healthy choices the man must make to live long and strong to fulfill his roles in society.

Good health and wealth is God’s will for man: “Dear friends, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2).
But how can it be well with your body, soul and mind when you feed poorly, have inadequate rest, and rarely do exercises? And if it’s not well with you in body, soul and mind, how will you be able to lead and provide for your family efficiently and sufficiently?

At a recent Men’s Conference organised by the Men’s Ministry of Makerere Full Gospel Church, the key presenter, Dr Joseph Mwebe, told men that despite advances in research and the glut of accessible information, people are more unwell than before: “Because of poor healthy choices, many men have been hit by an epidemic of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, allergies and asthma, obesity, low immunity, ulcers, infertility, dehydration, stress and other illnesses that could have been prevented with better health choices.”
Dr Mwebe proposed healthy choices that will keep some common diseases at bay, help in better blood circulation, and keep the mind alert, helping the man to stay vibrant physically and mentally.

Know your health
First, every man who values life should go for a health screening. Test for HIV, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood fats, know your waist circumference, body mass index, do a liver function test especially if you drink alcohol, screen for cancer (testicular and prostate for men) and visit a dentist. Prevention is better than cure and a timely health screening can prevent all sorts of diseases.

Secondly, most men focus on making money at the expense of their health. They often catch a quick late lunch washed down with soda before they rush back to their desks.

But Heather Morgan, a nutrition expert, says, “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding a disease or fighting it.” It is important for men to feed on a balanced diet.

What your body needs
“Ninety per cent of our diet must be based on plant foods because plants have complete protein and more protein per calorie than animals,” says Dr Mwebe, “and 50 per cent of our foods must be eaten raw. Foods must ideally be eaten ‘whole’ - unrefined and unprocessed; preferably with their seeds and skins.”

Health benefits of eating vegetables such as spinach, nakati, dodo, sukamawiki, cabbages, cucumber, carrots, not forgetting tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic are well known. Even the Bible vouches for vegetables. Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego refused King Nebuchadnezzar’s choice delicacies and wine in favour of vegetables and water.

And in 10 days they were healthier than those who were eating the king’s delicacies (Daniel 1:5-16). So forget chips and sausages. According to Dr Mwebe, sausages cause cancer and are as dangerous as cigarettes. Also, ditch red meat in preference to white meat (fish and poultry - preferably local chicken).

It is important to have enough rest to relax the mind and body after a good day’s work. Doctors recommend at least eight hours of sleep for a reason. That is when the body recharges ready to take on another day. A well-rested body and mind can hardly be stressed. MPs doze in parliament because most of them are unfit and rarely have adequate rest. Realise how important sufficient sleep is and do not stay out late with the boys drinking alcohol or watching soccer.

A man who applies the above healthy living principles will live long and strong.

Drinking lots of water is also a great healthy choice because water is the “single most important nutrient for our bodies.” Dr Mwebe says we are 65 per cent water, our brains are 75 per cent water and our lungs 80 per cent water.

Basically we would be doomed without water. So men, we must drink at least two litres of water each day; room temperature - not hot nor cold.

Also, do not drink while eating, rather drink thirty minutes before and two hours after your meals. Some of the signs that you are not drinking enough water include headaches, backache, constipation, joint pains, fatigue, memory loss and weight problems.

To the workaholic men who rarely have time for exercises you’re unknowingly committing suicide. As Dr Mwebe said succinctly, “Money and insurance can’t make us healthy!” So it’s better to rise from that swivel chair and engage in some sweat-breaking physical activity.

Jog, lift weights, punch a sand bag and achieve maximum fitness. Before you know it you’ll be walking as if on springs like Okonkwo and will become superman to your wife and children.

--Sunday Monitor, June 12, 2016

Fifty years of Song of Lawino

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

The year was 1966 when Okot p’Bitek’s lengthy poem, Song of Lawino as published. Fifty years later, it is still recognised as one of the finest piece of literature to come out of East Africa.That’s why on March 18, Makerere University’s department of Literature together with key players from the humanities and writing sector held a day-long symposium to celebrate the work and its author.

“We organised this to recognise and celebrate Ugandan literary icons that have left indelible marks on the East African literary scene and beyond,” said Dr Susan Kiguli, head of Literature department at Makerere. “In doing this we hope not just to stimulate and revisit critical and cultural debates that the publication of p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino provoked, but also revitalise Ugandan writing.”
Jane Okot P’Bitek Langoya, deputy registrar general Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Prof Taban Lo’ Liyong of University of Juba, South Sudan, Prof Dumba Ssentamu, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University and Prof Molara Ogundipe, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, during the launch of Omulanga Gwa Lawino at Makerere University recently. Photo by Alex Esagala
 The leading critic of African literature, Prof Simon Gikandi, in his keynote address, said Song of Lawino became a canonical literary text very early: “In 1972 the school edition was issued. Apart from the fact that students were reading it for exams, it was also read by the general public, using the language and debate in the book to carry out a conversation on cultural change.”

Prof Gikandi, who has produced an encyclopaedia on African literature, said in spite of the book being very important, it doesn’t always get taught as world literature in American or European universities because the Western world have a very limited notion of the world. “Song of Lawino speaks about a very specific world and Okot is aware of how that world is connected to the other world and one of the advantages of teaching the book is for it to help us expand the notion of the world.”

Prof Gikandi attributed the book’s lasting appeal to its resonance with the people. “The questions and the issues Okot was asking at the time are questions we still ask ourselves. We are always going through periods of cultural transition.”

The Luganda version
Three years after publishing Song of Lawino in English, Okot p’Bitek released the Acholi version because he wanted his book to be accessed in as many languages as possible.

It has since been translated into more than 30 languages; German, French, Spanish, and Indonesian, among others. And during the symposium, its first Luganda version, Omulanga gwa Lawino by Prof Abasi Kiyimba was launched.

In a country where even people with formal education struggle to express themselves in the English language, having our finest literature translated into local languages is certainly a progressive move. As Austin Bukenya commented: “Song of Lawino is the jewel of East African and Ugandan literature. Its translation and making it available to people who do not necessarily speak English is a very remarkable achievement.”

Joshua Kigongo, a teacher of Luganda at Oxford High School in Kyebando, said the Luganda translation will help his students to “gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the language” and hopefully inspire them to write powerfully in the local language.

Isaac Ssettuba, an expert in Luganda, said Prof Kiyimba struck a good balance between the spirit and the letter although for personal reasons he said he would have preferred the title to have a direct translation, ‘Oluyimba gwa Lawino’ not ‘Omulanga gwa Lawino’. “Omulanga is more serious, it’s a call, appeal.”

Gains from the conference
Jimmy Muhangi, a student of literature at Makerere University, who performed a 14-stanza recital of the ‘Buffalos of Poverty Knocking People Down’ from the Song of Lawino said: “There would be no life without inspiration, and all the speakers and writers at the symposium are faces of inspiration that have left me with a creative longing to work harder and represent the face of literature some day.” Such conferences, said novelist Goretti Kyomuhendo, could provide the spark for a reading and writing renaissance reminiscent of the golden years of Ugandan literature – the 1960s.

“Developments in the sciences are very important but no society can call itself a civilization without a thriving arts and culture industry,” said UPC party president Olara Otunnu.

Prof Mahmood Mamdani talked about “hard power and soft power”. Hard power is wielded by rulers and soft power by common people through their culture. “Culture is what makes us human beings and that’s what Song of Lawino is about.”

“We need more literary conferences because they give us the conviction that we can make it like Okot p’Bitek did,” said Judith Uwimana, a student of literature.

Prof Taban lo Liyong’s word to aspiring writers is to work real hard. “Not everybody who puts pen to paper is a writer,” he said. “Writing is difficult. You’ve to know the language fully enough to express what your thoughts are.”

About Okot p’Bitek
Born June 7,1931, in Gulu, this poet with international acclaim to his name for the famous Song of Lawino died July 20, 1982. He self-translated the English version from which Omulanga gwa Lawino was formed.
He followed Song of Lawino with the pendant Song of Ocol (1970), the husband’s reply, Defence of Lawino, White Teeth and Modern Cookery among other works.

As the legendary poetic work of Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino marks 50 years, the literary fraternity across Uganda met to celebrate it with a translated version Omulanga gwa Lawino. Translated by Prof Abasi Kiyimba, this Luganda text is a successful treatise of an attempt to tell our own stories; by our own people.
Prof Kiyimba paid critical attention to the language in Omulanga Gwa Lawino, staying true to Bitek’s meaning despite the word/lingual changes.

“Much as we are saying he eliminated most words in English, it is still a good text, because there are words you can speak in English but cannot say in your local language,” said Rosemary Nakasolya, a Luganda scholar and teacher at Mityana SS.

Kiyimba cleverly rephrased verses like my husband’s anger is “ like the penis of a bee...” to simply obusungu bwe “tebumanyi Njuki”. In English, that translation would mean my husband’s anger ‘does not compare to a bee”.

Therefore, the aspect of language, culture and representation was a very large part of discussion at the symposium. While he was not present to defend his treatise owing to ailment, a consensus was reached that translating it the way he did was marvellous. Charles Kamulegeya also a Luganda scholar said, “It does not take away from the text with text. Even Bitek must have had trouble translating from Acholi to English but at least he is the original author.”

“Translation from English to Luganda, pertaining to the differences in Acholi culture to Buganda should have been tricky. But we appreciate what Prof Kiyimba did,” he said. Prof Kiyimba still maintained general themes in the text.

Justice James Ogoola, the guest of honour, launched the book at Makerere University Main hall, hosted by the university’s Literature department. Panel discussions studied the language, thematic concerns like neo colonialism, immorality, culture, the representation of women in the text and Prof Kiyimba’s choice maintain Bitek’s Acholi words as in Song of Lawino.

Saturday Monitor, March 26, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

A long boring wait for men

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

The 2015/2016 season of Barclays Premier League ends today [May 15]  after 10 sizzling months, leaving many Ugandan men wondering how they will be passing their weekend afternoons before the new season kicks off on August 13.

Soccer, women, money and politics are the top interests of men, no doubt, with soccer having an edge over the others. Even deep in my village in western Uganda nine out of every 10 men who have never stepped in class reel off the names of the star players in the premiership.

It is just amazing how English football has stolen the hearts and minds of Ugandan men. Everyone is a pundit; everyone has a jersey of his team, with his name or the name of his favourite player and his jersey number conspicuously emblazoned on its back. As a Gunner, I too have an Arsenal shirt with my name and number [16] of Aaron Ramsey on it.
It is show time every weekend, and our wives and girlfriends suffer unless they pull off great pretense as soccer lovers too; pulling on jerseys of our favourite teams, jumping and shouting with us when our team scores, and commiserating with us when we lose.The women who have failed to train themselves to love football know nothing but misery on weekends because that is when their lovers squander a lot of money on betting and return home too drunk to spend quality time with them.

Why is soccer so obsessive?
Men are natural hunters; they love the challenge, they love the chase, they love the competition, they love risks; any adrenaline-inducing venture and adventure excites them. The English Premiership gives them an opportunity to wind down; a delightful break from the drudgery of life.

Men identify with rivalry, and the fiercest rivalry is served steaming hot in the Premiership. It begins with top managers bullying one another with words and actions; each trying to establish himself as the real bull of the premiership kraal. Tempers flare on the touchline as managers throw tantrums like Arsene Wenger shoved the pugnacious Jose Mourinho who called him a “specialist in failure”. It is funny watching star players pout when a dent in form gets them benched.

One time Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp broke his glasses celebrating a goal while Louis van Gaal dropped his pants to show his critics that he has balls.

The rivalry trickles down to clubs in close proximity, for example, Manchester United calls Manchester City “the noisy neighbours” while Arsenal shares a neighbourhood with Tottenham Hotspurs and for 20 years the latter has been trying to finish above the former in vain.

This extends to fans as we barb one another depending on how our respective teams are performing. The teams attack with a romantic eagerness or defend with extraordinary resoluteness or they are punished. The tempo, the surprises, the howlers, the class acts and the overall intensity and unpredictability leave you drunk with excitement or disappointment as you watch your team shred its opponent. These are moments that make even grey-haired men weep with joy or with pain, shamelessly.

Leicester City gave us the best tension this season. This is how BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine described the Foxes’ performances in February: “You are performing the kind of high-wire act not seen since the French daredevil Philippe Petit strung a cable between the Twin Towers and crossed it without a harness. Every week we expect you to fall…but every week you stay on that cable.”

Leicester City that had gone from last to first in the league in just 12 months went on to win the trophy for the first time in their 132-year history. They did that in style; upsetting the status quo; making the established top teams look like “a bunch of bungling amateurs” as one pundit put it. The underdog had grabbed its chance with aplomb; stirring us with inspiration that we too can make it big time.

In life rarely is the underdog given the chance to prove himself, but in Premier League anyone has his chance. The injury of a big star is an opportunity for an often disregarded player to prove himself as a diamond that was hidden in the rough.

All the above combined is why it will be a tough wait for most men out there before the top English professional football league resumes.

--First published in Sunday Monitor, May 15, 2016


By Dennis D. Muhumuza

“Beauty with a purpose” is a catchphrase vocalised by many national beauty queens but few give it tangible meaning like the reigning Miss Jamaica, Dr. Sanneta Myrie. The 25-year-old is a medical doctor who turned to catwalk not to show off her booty, but to use the limelight to impact the world. That’s why she spent over ten hours airborne from New York to Africa for two weeks of voluntary service that saw her reach out to disadvantaged children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

“I came with a team from Shashamane Sunrise, an international NGO focusing on supporting children’s education in developing countries. I jumped at the invitation to join their efforts because what the organisation does is in line with what I like to do, which is to mentor young children from disadvantaged circumstances.”
It’s easy for Dr. Sanneta’s heart to beat for the underprivileged because she didn’t have a rosy childhood either. She was born in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, to a single mother and a Rastafarian father she has never met. She was later adopted and given an opportunity she maximised to become the woman she is today. 
The writer with Miss Jamaica 2016
“If I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to get quality education I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all that I have achieved. So when it comes to providing good education for children; giving each child equal opportunity to achieve, it’s really something I’m drawn to because we are all capable; it’s just a matter of opportunity.” 

Dr. Sanneta spent five days at St. Theresa Ngora-Okoboi Primary School, in Ngora District, eastern Uganda. She gave out books, pens, pencils, erasers and interacted with the school’s population of 503 learners who she described as “bright-eyed children in worn-out uniforms and tattered shoes and slippers”.
“I got them to tell me their dreams and a lot of them expressed their desire to be like the people they admire in their community: teacher, farmer, doctor, priest. No one said they wanted to be a national beauty queen because the concept of catwalk was alien to them.  

“It was a bit difficult to explain to them where Jamaica is. I told them about Bob Marley and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt who are from my country but they looked at me bewildered because they didn’t know these people. I understood knowing this is a rural setting with no electricity, no TV; no real exposure to the outside world. That’s why it’s important for anyone with a massive platform to use it to reach out to such children; to stimulate them and give them a broader world outlook.” 

Mentoring children
Dr. Sanneta held mentorship workshops; impressing upon the children the importance of working hard and utilizing every opportunity. An accomplished dancer who started dancing at the age of three, she also took them through dancing routines because “dance is a form of healing; medicine heals the mind and body, and dance heals the soul.” 

“I engaged them in some Jamaican dances but the moves proved challenging for them to fully grasp but they tried their best and laughed their way through it,” she said. “It was a fulfilling day of putting smiles across many faces.” 

Away from getting jiggy with the children, the beauty queen rolled her sleeves and got involved in the harder work of renovating the school buildings. She commissioned a group of local masons and as they built the unfinished walls and others put a new roof on some of the buildings, she grabbed a paintbrush and painted a whole wall. 

Before leaving Teso, Dr. Sanneta visited Sipi Falls which she described as a “breathtaking site” and the hike down to the base of these falls was “quite an amazing experience” for her. 

In Kampala, Dr. Sanneta met the reigning Miss Uganda Zahara Nakiyaga.

“I took her to Special Children Special People, a home in Bunga, that helps prepare children with disabilities for formal education,” said Zahara. “She interacted with the children and met their teachers. It was a great experience getting together again and rehashing old memories at Miss World.” 

The Director of that special needs home, Dr. Naboth Colle, said the children had a great experience with Miss Jamaica: “She was interested in their welfare; how they live and cope. She talked to and took pictures with them and we were all honoured by her presence and touched by her compassion.” 

Dr. Sanneta also met Pauline Akurut, the reigning Miss Tourism. 

“Such a world beauty but she is out there working so hard and making a huge difference,” said Pauline, of how the Caribbean queen's work ethic inspired her. “I learnt a lot from her.”  

 Beauty tips
Interestingly, Dr. Sanneta's journey on the runaway started coincidentally. Her one dream was to become a doctor and help the suffering lot. But after completing medical school, her best friend convinced her to enter the Miss Jamaica pageant. She won it and represented her country at the 2015 Miss World beauty contest in China where she finished third runner-up, and won the Miss World Caribbean crown. 

No doubt for our national beauty queens to perform better on the world stage they have to prepare adequately. Dr. Sanneta had to hire a specialist to train her in poise, a dance master to help sharpen her dancing skills, and was coached by public speaking scholars in the art of oratory as part of her preparations for Miss Jamaica and Miss World beauty contests. 

“When you are in a competition like Miss World, you look in front there are beautiful girls, you look behind there are beautiful women, you look aside there are beautiful women; so you have to be versatile,” she said. “You have to have something that sets you apart, and that is what comes from the inside. You have to have exceptional self-belief because it helps you to perform without pressure.” 

To somebody aspiring to be a strong woman, Dr Sanneta shares the importance of value system: “You have to know what you stand for because if you stand for nothing you fall for everything. Also you have to know that you have a lot to offer the world and the determination to commit yourself to a task in line with with your passion. That makes it easier for you to shine.” 

Shining is what Dr. Sanneta does, giving concrete meaning to her name which loosely translates to “shining sun.” 

She stays in shape by having enough sleep, drinking lots of water which “helps the skin” and staying active by running more, dancing, connecting with friends, helping the less privileged; generally doing things that help “the body, mind and spirit.” 

Dr. Sanneta is dating and hopes to get married at the right time. But her focus currently is to complete her reigns as Miss World Caribbean and Miss Jamaica positively. “Then I’ll return to my regular life and practice medicine,” she says with a smile.

The interview ends with a sermon on togetherness and industriousness: “Love and unity is something I always preach; we need to unify as Africans; those abroad and those at home, and continue to work and make a better world for our children."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time to tell our stories


Could it be that the main reason many influential Ugandans and Africans generally are reluctant about telling and having their stories published is because they have many skeletons in their closets that would come tumbling out? At least that was Prof. Zakes Mda's fear. It's also the fear of many because the process of writing the life story of oneself is equally the process of coming to terms with his past, which often is mix of the beautiful and the ugly. 

Prof. Mda with some of the participants
Prof. Mda who delivered the keynote address at the second edition of the Uganda International Writers Conference, an initiative of the African Writers Trust (AWT), finally overcame his fear and in 2012 published his first creative non-fiction book titled Sometimes there is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider.

"In this memoir, Mda tells the story of a life that intersects with the political life of his country but at its heart is the classic adventure story of an artist, lover, father and teacher," notes AWT Director Goretti Kyomuhendo. "There's no denying the raw honesty and inspiring penmanship of this work of note, especially in relevance to our conference theme - 'Memoir and Truth.'" 

Prof. Mda who teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University believes it's important for the African to tell his story; not the peculiar narrative that reinforces the stereotype of African suffering, but a narrative of an African rising; a narrative of how a poor African child can beat the odds and make it, a genuine portrait of who we are against misrepresentation by outsiders. Writing would also "preserve our disappearing world".

The South African practices what he preaches. He has published over 21 books, ten of which are novels. The rest are collections of poetry and plays, and a monograph, When People Play People, on how theatre can be used to develop a people. 

Even more interesting is that since 2000, Prof. Mda has been running a beekeeping project with the rural women in Eastern Cape. His wealth of experience and knowledge as an all-round author, teacher, Pan Africanist, well-travelled man, former exilee and beekeeper made him the perfect choice to discuss the Conference's  theme of 'Memoir and Truth.' 

The five-day event which started on Sunday afternoon but was officially opened on Tuesday at Fairway Hotel, brought together nearly 30 African writers of note and supporters of the art from Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Cameroon, Somalia, US, and UK, including our own Daniel Kalinaki who is basking in critical acclaim for his recent biography of Dr. Kizza Besigye, Jennifer Makumbi, UK-based poet Mildred Barya Kiconco and Dr. Susan Kiguli, among others.

Prof. Mda lauded Uganda's literary heritage, citing John Ruganda and Okot p'Bitek among authors who greatly influenced him. He worked with Ruganda and learned a lot from him about theatre while from p'Bitek "I learnt how to write poems and plays drawing from the rich idioms of my indigenous languages." 

The participants looked into successful literary initiatives, talked about space and identity in African writing, discussed the rise of digital literature and the need to embrace it. But the focus remained on the shift to non-fiction, with Prof. Mda articulating the distinctions between memoir and biography - two genres through which the story of African people would be accurately chronicled while remaining faithful to the emotional truth that would help the critic to understand us better. 

The whole point being that there is a whole lot to gain from telling our stories. After all, if we don't write our story, the outsider who will truly never be close to our reality will tell it...superficially.