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Thursday, March 11, 2010

‘I miss those mosquito-no-pass dances; discos are not interesting anymore’

Oscar Ranzo runs the reading scheme at Lively Minds, a charity that caters for reading needs of children in rural settings. He’s also a published children’s author and owns a clothing store. He told Dennis D. Muhumuza why he would reinvent” squeeze” dance given the opportunity

Ranzo sounds Latino, is that your real name?
Ranzo is actually the mirror image of Oscar, with the image of letter C rotated anticlockwise through ninety degrees to form letter N. I adopted it as my penname because Oscar the writer is a mirror image of the Oscar that most people know.
Was Lively Minds your idea?
Nope. My very good friend, Alison Naftalin, a lawyer for the English Government, while on a visit to Ghana, was shocked to find that children in rural areas were not getting the quality education needed to think creatively. She thus founded Lively Minds with the major goal of helping children achieve their fullest cognitive potential through play and book reading. The charity is now operational in Uganda and Ghana. And one of their programmes is the Story Time Project, a community-run programme designed to nurture the love for reading, imagination and creative thinking.
What inspired your book, Saving Little Viola?
The idea came while watching the movie Saving Private Ryan; at the end, I told myself I was going to write a similar story but featuring African children. At the time, (2005), child sacrifice was not as rampant as today and was only talked about in hushed up conversation. I wanted to create a story which would bring attention to the vice, especially in children.
Do you dress some of the children under Lively Minds in clothes from ‘oscCcar’s?’
Come on! ‘oscCcar’s’ is simply a small men’s clothing store I set up with the major aim of making smartness easy for people who hold down nine to five jobs and hardly have spare time to go shopping, so you can’t find children’s clothing in there.

Which living person do you most admire and why?
Former Chelsea FC coach, Jose Mourinho, for his cocky arrogance, witty intelligence, oratorical skills, dapper sense of style, attention to detail, insatiable hunger for success, charisma, and above all, his capacity to succeed against all odds.
Have you ever said “I love you” and not meant it?
The cardinal rule of writing is Show, Don’t Tell. And it’s this same rule that I’ve always applied in relating with people. Turns out it’s much safer and easier to show people love without telling, especially in situations when you do not want to be eventually held accountable for their unhappiness.
What traits do you dislike in other people?
The aversion to reading, looking down on those beneath one and the pretentious bid to sound politically correct at the expense of one’s beliefs.
If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
“Squeeze”. Remember those days when Ange Noir couldn’t close before playing slows?
I miss those intimate, mosquito-no-pass dances; discos are not interesting anymore.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Feeding people on Red Herrings and inwardly laughing as they greedily devour them.

--Sunday Monitor, March 7, 2010

Learn how to take on the challenges of parenting

The rising cases of child sacrifice, street children, starvation of children and violence in homes have prompted Education Consultant Fagil Mandy to come up with a series of trainings. He told Dennis D. Muhumuza about the causes of this “parenting crisis” and how it can be addressed
Why have you started the Good Parenting trainings?
Because there is a parenting crisis and we cannot afford to have our future generations going without proper tuning and direction. Parents or potential parents, young people and university students, policy implementers or leaders both in the government and private sector or even those interested in learning more about good parenting should attend these fortnightly sessions, code-named “Good Parenting Sessions” which will be taking place at the National Theatre starting March 16, 2010. They are aimed at addressing the challenges of parenting today; we are going to look at the world of work and education; how to train a child to be a worker, thinker, leader. The world is changing so fast that the demands on a child or the growing up generations are so intense and diversified and the parent must be brought along to understand the diversity in the world today.

You talked of a parenting crisis. What really is the problem?
I’ve run workshops and training programmes for parents and young people and have made some discoveries: I’ve found out, particularly, that children from middle class parents have no capacities to deliver, to work, to produce or generate ideas. And today, because most parents are working, the child is largely neglected so there is an increasing mystery or this huge gap between the parents and the children. Also, I’ve met a lot of parents who think that parenting is simply producing a child; most of them think that a child of four or five years doesn’t need any particular guidance and counselling, or driving in a certain direction, so there’s a heavy dose of ignorance. Even more, our education system is not equipping our children with the right attitude, mindset and physical skills to succeed in this tough world.

What are the major concerns of young people in regard to the way they are brought up?
The last time I carried out a leadership training programme, I asked the children what they would have wished their parents to teach them. Many of them regretted that their parents had not talked to them enough about issues of love, relationships, sexuality and even politics and leadership. Also, most of them complained that their fathers hardly feature in their lives and that they feel not protected or guided by their parents.

Did you also register any complaints by parents about their children?
Of course! Most parents cried out about the cartoons on TV; their children are becoming cartoons themselves; TV has become a preoccupation for young people. And most TV stations screen pornographic material - it is killing children.

But how can children keep themselves occupied meaningfully in a situation where their parents are at work and cannot keep a close eye on them?
But you see, I don’t agree that every parent must work away from home. One of my sons works but his wife is a stay-at-home mother. But most mothers don’t want to first stay home and raise their children because of greed; it’s all primitive accumulation; we think that the wife must produce so much money and the husband so much money but I think someone intelligent enough must sacrifice; why can’t wife and husband organise their activities in such a way that, say, the husband works out and the wife stays at home or looks after a small family business that involves the children too? Parents must involve children in the family business.

In this age of emancipation, women cannot surely be expected to stay home to look after children
Why not? I think, again, it is greed; a lot of women are running around in this so-called economic independence because they want to run wild programmes. I disagree with that sort of thing because every child needs a stay-at-home mother because there is no way you are going to compensate for the emotional dislocation of a child who has not had proper parentage.

What is the true measure of a parent?
First, one must be knowledgeable enough – one is not going to be a parent worth their soul when they are ignorant; a parent must know a bit of everything because they are the encyclopaedia for their child. Secondly, parents must know how to do several things because a child must follow their example; you must be a good reader, be able to clean your own compound, fix a bulb and have a multi-skilled capacity for your child to emulate. Also, you must be healthy; no child likes to grow up with a dying parent; remember, a parent must help the child lead a healthy life and how can you do that if you are not healthy yourself? Then of course, a parent must be able to generate enough income to look after the family and be available to provide the time required for the child. If you are unavailable, don’t produce the child.

--Sunday Monitor, March 7, 2010

Battle of the brains: let's play!


The annual Zain Africa Challenge (ZAC) returned to our small screens last Sunday with no surprising fervour. It is the same affable but sharp-shooting John Sibi-Okumu behind the host’s lectern, same suit and same approach.
This inter-university battle of the brains kicked off with Makerere University knocking down the University of Malawi with 660 points against their opponents 350. It was clear all five of our representatives have to learn to score in the range of 800 points and above to avoid the humiliation of the previous season from the more competitive West Africans and Kenyans.
Uganda is once again represented by Makerere University, Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Christian University, Mbarara University, with Kyambogo University supplanting last year’s Busoga University for the fifth place. It’s a tall order but who knows, Kyambogo could be the latest surprise after new entrants, University of Ibadan yanked the crown from Kenya where it had been for two years.
It’s a little shocking, especially at this time when more girls are accessing university education and beating their male counterparts in UACE examinations, that of the 20 students on the five Ugandan teams, only three are girls. That’s possibly why Alice Dube on last year’s Mbarara team will be difficult to forget.

Anyhow, with $50,000 for the winning university and $5,000 for each of the players on that team at stake, the fourth edition of this 16-game knockout contest promises to be stiffer and even more crackling.
It appears the producers are well aware of this and have this time taken the competition to cyberspace: Facebook and Twitter where enthusiasts can hold discussions about the show and vent if they choose to.
With 32 teams from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia participating, not forgetting that the show will as well telecast on Dstv’s Africa Magic and Africa Magic Plus, viewership is expected to heighten.

Viewers, as usual, get to play the SMS game to win a Nokia Internet-enabled phone and Zain airtime worth Shs100,000 on top of other prizes, and as well vote for their favourite ZAC player who will then earn a medallion and $1,000 from Zain.

Although the kickoff between Makerere and the University of Malawi lacked firepower, the fast-paced 30-minute battles are sure to pick rhythm considering that any little slip by any team could mean goodbye.
Already, it was awesome to watch the late Dr. Mathew Lukwiya’s son, Nyero Simon Peter on the Makerere University team fielding Sibi-Okumi questions with admirable fluidity. In fact, if it wasn’t for him, Makerere would for sure have been in trouble.
Catch the show next Sunday on NTV, 8:30p.m. as the University of Ghana tussles it out with Tanzania’s University of Arusha.

--Saturday Monitor, March 6, 2010

‘I was so enraged when I was cheated of Shs300 by a taxi conductor’

Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva is a published poet, a blogger and the founder of the Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award. She told Dennis D. Muhumuza that her guiltest pleasure is R-rated

What have you been up to since the first Beverley Poetry Awards last year?
I have been working on my second manuscript of poetry and also planning for the next poetry awards for this year. The theme this time round is “Money and Culture”. I have also launched the poetry project in schools. I have created an award for students in both primary and secondary schools to submit poetry under the theme “money”.
First it was teaching, and then radio and now poetry awards, so what will it be next for you?
After radio (Power FM), I went to work at EASSI, a sub-regional women’s organisation. I was in charge of communication and also the young women’s leadership programme. Next on my mind is the first ever street bash of poetry in Uganda. It’s going to be called The Poet’s Bait. I am planning this for the end of the year.
Your blog is called ‘The Exodus of Whatever’ …doesn’t that sound purposeless?
It actually sounds more purposeless when you say it very fast backwards!
I remember reading somewhere that you were working on your first novel. How far?
From now on, I am going to stop talking about this novel until it is published.
Do you dislike anything about your appearance?
You are joking, right?
Do you get many men complimenting the gap in your teeth or it’s partly why your husband fell for you?
My husband fell for me for countless reasons. Men give me many compliments and hardly any of them have to do with the gap in my teeth.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I admire any writer who is always writing and always improving on their writing.
When were you happiest?
Dennis, I can’t share that with the public. It’s an R-rated experience.
What’s your favourite scent anyway?
When I am pregnant, it is mint. On other days, I like lavender, chocolate cake, roast…
What’s the most expensive buy you ever made?
A Toyota Rav 4.

When did you last cry and why?
I was so enraged when I was cheated of Shs300 by a taxi conductor.
What traits do you deplore most in others?
Plagiarism, judgment based on appearance and money, mistreating little children.
What would you bring back to life if you could help it?
All my bank accounts and also my gift of dancing. I have not danced in five years and I need this part of my life back so badly.
Have you ever said I love you to someone and not meant it?
Yes, especially on birthday and office cards.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My family and in-laws scattered all over the globe. Also, Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), Cuba Gooding Jr, Chandra Wilson and Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy), Wole Soyinka, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Routledge (Keeping up Appearances). out of a whole lot of money.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
God and my family.

--Sunday Monitor, February 28, 2010

‘Short men don’t easily fall down, because we have a good relationship with the law of gravity’

Robert Bake is the founder of World of Inspiration, which organises the monthly Authors’ Forum sessions. He’s also a published author and motivational speaker. Dennis D. Muhumuza caught up with him.

Your name Bake sounds exotic for a Mukiga man
These days abbreviating and “acronyming” is the thing. Heard of Leokardia calling herself LK? Bake is short for Bakeshabira Ruhanga Aheiguru Bererize Emikono Bafukami Ahansi Bagaruka Bamusima!

What a mouthful! So how would you describe yourself in a few lines?
A young author determined to transform society. A God-loving man that wouldn’t trade his faith for anything. A Mukiga that won’t allow anything to stand in his way of success. A sociable and fun-loving husband-to-be, ha ha ha!

What’s your fascination with inspirational things?
When I am inspired I can do in one hour what I wouldn’t accomplish in two days when not inspired.

What’s the most inspirational quote you’ve ever come across?
“If you cannot fly, run. If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, crawl. By all means keep moving,” by Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr.

Which living person do you admire most and why?
Barack Obama. He challenged history and proved that nothing is impossible under the sun.

And who in your opinion is the best Ugandan motivational speaker?
Patrick Bitature. He’s mastered the art of bringing out simple principles that many people take for granted and yet are crucial for our success.

What’s the most fascinating thing about the Authors’ Forum?
The fact that it’s where nation-changers meet. Imagine the interaction amongst Uganda’s top authors, motivational speakers, artistes, media personnel and business people. It’s a whole package of real inspiration, empowerment and entertainment.

Do you get comments from ladies about you being a short man?
I haven’t but I if I got one I’d say, “Short men don’t easily fall down, because we have a good relationship with the law of gravity. Besides by being closer, we always know better what’s on the ground!”

Do you dislike anything about your appearance?
Nothing! I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. I wish my fiancée was here to tell you!

What do you consider the measure of man?
What society gains from him during his lifetime and after he’s gone.

When were you happiest?
When someone rung from Eastern Europe to tell me my book, Tapping God’s Blessings: Keys to Open Doors of Success in Your Life, had made him reverse his decision to commit suicide.

What’s your greatest fear?
Parenting my children in this dot com era.

What traits do you deplore most in others?
I hate laziness, drunkenness, homosexuality, corruption, and self-pity – they are all anti-progress.

What would you bring back to life if you could help it?
I’d raise Shakespeare and Dr Martin Luther King Jr, so I could enjoy the story of Romeo and Juliet and the speech I have a Dream, respectively, from the horse’s mouth.

When did you last cry and why?
A few minutes ago; I was crying to God to save this nation from child-sacrifice.

What’s your favourite scent?
Ask the people of Zanzi or Hakuna Matata; they’ll tell you.

Which song would you have played at your burial?
Basiima Ogenze by Dr Chameleone!

And how would your epitaph read?
Here lies a man that stamped the footprints of God in human hearts using his pen.

To whom would you most likely say sorry and why?
My fiancée – for taking so long to find her!

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Maybe sleep, ha ha!

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Pablo, so he could kill my guests with laughter!

What has been your biggest disappointment?
In S.1 when my head teacher wrote on my report: “Your academic performance is far below standard...!” But that disappointment turned into an appointment for bigger things!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Publishing three books before the age of 30.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I’d cut out and throw into the recycle bin the time I wasted looking for a job instead of creating jobs for myself and others.

What is the greatest love of your life?
Definitely God. Then some African queen that I won’t unveil now.

Finally, tell us something funny for the road
Kampala is the only place in Uganda where drivers don’t keep left; they keep on what’s left after the potholes!

--Sunday Monitor, February 21, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Infidelities so alarming

Title: Black Mamba
Author: John Ruganda
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza
Available: At all leading bookstores in town

Namuddu: Here we are dear husband, Shs100 for us. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he gave it to me. Barewa: Good God! That wasn’t as bad as you thought, was it? Going to bed with the professor and earning your first treat. I knew you’d make it. Why the devil didn’t I think of this before…?

Well, when desperation or exorbitant greed drives a man to fix his wife with another man for money, it says much about the force with which decadence and moral degeneration have infiltrated society.
Yet this is one of the most disturbing realities in the late Prof. John Ruganda’s famous play - Black Mamba (1973). In this drama, as in some of his other plays such as The Burdens (1972) and The Floods (1982), the gripping style with which he tackles social concerns such as prostitution, corruption, domestic violence, hypocrisy, adultery and exploitation is arguably unmatched in this country.

But it’s the clever use of symbolism and the eloquence of his characters that makes Black Mamba unforgettable; no wonder it’s a set book on the O’ Level Literature Syllabus. The symbolic title itself is action-packed and should prepare you for a rollercoaster reading experience, particularly if you are a Christian and know that the snake is the most cunning, dangerous creature in the Bible. Indeed, all the characters in this 70-page play are black mambas in one way or another; no one is to be trusted, as is difficult to simply confide in anyone today.

As Odiambo laments, “I’m ashamed of my own country; I’ve lost confidence in the individual.” The play’s central figure, Professor Coarx, betrays his wife by shamelessly sleeping with Namuddu, his houseboy’s wife. She’s herself a snake and the Prof. doesn’t know her true colours; he’s clueless that she’s Berewa’s wife. When he turns against her, it’s her turn to spew poison back in his face, calling him an “infernal devil” who shouldn’t live with snakes without expecting them to bite him.

The professor’s infidelities are so alarming that in a self-aloud, he asks what it is that enslaves a man to a woman. Sex is his guiltiest pleasure; he has resigned to his own fate saying “the shimmering thighs of a woman” would make any man fall. His sexual sins are symbolised by innumerable black mambas, which Berewa says “keep on popping out” of his house “at odd hours now and again” as if “it was a zoo.”

Overall, Black Mamba is a hilarious illumination of the evils that suffocate society, society so rotten to the core and the people at the helm who should be helping change the contemptible situation are perpetrating it instead. But there is a hint of hope at the end to the effect that despite the hardships and disagreeable state of affairs, love can help people go through it all as Berewa and Namuddu come clean and embrace in true love.

--Sunday Monitor, February 21, 2010