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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A must-read for every lover of literature

Title: A Woman’s Voice
Authors: Femrite
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza 

There are very few Ugandan anthologies of short stories that provide a rich reading experience and A Woman’s Voice is up there among the best. It was first published by the Uganda Women Writers Association (Femrite) in 1998. Owing to the quality of the stories, the copies were snapped up, forcing a reprint the following year and another in 2002.

It clearly is much more than just a collection of 12 stories about the resilience of the Ugandan woman in the face of suffering and prejudice; these stories illuminate our experience and what defines our existence as a people. Oh, how Dr Susan Kiguli’s Mad Apio stirred my emotions! It’s a rippling story of a peculiar woman and the equally peculiar stories surrounding her life and times.

It’s a story weaved deftly; the author has a striking way she uses words and the tone of voice - every paragraph heightens the anticipation. It’s witty, it’s powerful, it’s special; so special that I can’t even bring myself to touching on the antagonisms that drive its central character for I don’t want to spoil it for you reader. So you have to look up the book and read it yourself.

And if you thought Sr Dominic Dipio has no life beyond her feature films and documentaries, you must read Santus. It’s a story of an exceedingly handsome young man whose clandestine affairs with women starkly conflict with his determination to fulfil his priestly ambitions. The story powerfully mirrors the hypocrisy of men and provokes the mind of a reader to wonder how a man of such moral wickedness can still have the nerve to say that his love for priesthood is still stronger than the love for all the women put together!

Lilliane Barenzi’s distinct style comes out strongly in Behind Closed Doors. It’s about a bunch of campus girls preoccupied with gate-crushing affluent parties thrown by the city’s “Who’s who” and the debauchery and destructiveness associated with such self-indulgences.

With stories from other established authors like Hope Keshubi, Ayeta Anne Wangusa, Violet Birungi, Margaret Ntakarimaze, Regina Amollo, Hilda Twongyeirwe and Gorette Kyomuhendo, A Woman’s Voice is a must read for every lover of literature because it is compelling.

--Sunday Monitor, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

Will Smith Look Alike wins Asiimwe top BBC play prize


After a long lull, Uganda is once again basking in literary glory after our three playwrights scooped the first, second and third prizes in this year’s BBC African Performance Playwriting Competition.
The number one prize was won by Deborah Asiimwe’s Will Smith Look Alike, the second prize was jointly won by Kenneth Bashir Atwine’s Kitu Kidogo and Coffin Factory by Julia Childs and in third place was Angella Emurwon with The Cow Needs A Wife.

Will Smith Look Alike is about an ambitious 17-year-old boy who flies to the United States with his school music group after they won a national competition, and has the belief that his striking resemblance with African-American actor and rapper Will Smith will help him to achieve the American dream. 

“I was ecstatic when the BBC called me up to tell me that my play was the overall winner of the competition,” says Ms. Asiimwe. “I almost couldn’t believe that I was getting a financial award of £1,000 (approximately Shs3,300,000) on top of my play being broadcast on BBC. I’m so thankful because God has caused me to meet amazing people on my journey as a playwright.”

Ms Asiimwe who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Performance, narrates the source of inspiration that led to her winning script:

“In 2008, I had a residency in New York City. There was a character I encountered who had migrated to New York from one of the African countries. My conversation with this character made me think a lot about people who migrate to the US or Europe with grand dreams and how those dreams either come true or turn into nightmares.

“Also, having moved to New York city to take up employment there after my graduation; seeing and talking to so many African immigrants, I got a glimpse into how much the media paints an almost perfect image of the US and the west and how that to a larger extent makes some people believe that by migrating to the west, all of their problems will be solved. That is how Will Smith Look Alike came about.”

Prof. Wole Soyinka who judged this year’s competition called Asiimwe’s writing “very good; I became really caught up with the play wondering what the final end would be. It was convincing.”

--Saturday Monitor, June 26, 2010

Why Christians keep on sinning

Writing in a simple manner, the author of Notes on Genesis 1 wants Christians to know that unless they let God take full control, they will not find true peace, Dennis D. Muhumuza writes 

For genuine Christians, the journey of spirituality can be daunting. Sin envelops the atmosphere and indwells our hearts so much that we seek to be good by paying tithe, attending church, being generous and doing all those things the world calls ‘noble,’ cannot exonerate man from inherent wickedness.
The issue of that innate evilness in us and the inability of man to attain a level of holiness or goodness on his own that pleases God is what Pastor Ock Soo Park practically examines in his 2008 book, Notes on Genesis 1. 

The author traces our inequity to Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God by partaking of the fruit of good and evil: “From then on, Satan placed various dark and wicked thoughts inside of man. This is why dark thoughts and wickedness continually spring up in man.”

In such a state, he argues, it’s impossible “to do good and live according to God’s Word.” It should shock most of us who think we are holy by being generous, attending church, praying daily and avoiding cussing. Our intentions could be genuine, but Pastor Park says this in itself cannot guarantee us heaven.

“The moon can never radiate light on its own regardless of how badly it wants to, but it automatically emits lights if it is facing the sun,” he writes. Similarly, however much we want to be good and strive to attain righteousness, we remain “dirty and dark.”

The author says hope is in recognising and accepting our helplessness and passionately turning to Jesus Christ –the only light and righteousness of the world.

“We become the light as well without even knowing it when we look to the Lord,” he stresses. “Do not try to do good and be righteous yourselves, but look to the fact that Jesus has given you righteousness and holiness.”

A senior pastor of Good News Gangnam Church in Seoul, Korea, and founder of the Good News Mission, which has affiliates in 80 countries worldwide, Pastor Park who got saved at the age of 18 writes with such simplicity and intersperses his 301-page book with personal stories and testimonies that are as moving as they are spiritually elevating.

He relates a story of a pastor whose son was dying of cancer of the brain.The doctors wanted the guardian to allow them do surgery on the boy even though they knew it would be useless. Realising how powerless he was to help his son at his most hour of need, the pastor fell on his knees and cried out, “God, my son is dying and there’s nothing I can do…God, you be my son’s guardian.” He then abandoned the hospital and went to preach the gospel. To the amazement of all, the boy suddenly improved and got completely healed a few days later.

Park writes: “The moment Pastor Kim’s heart connected with God’s and he thought, ‘I’ve absolutely no power to protect my son; I should not hold on to this, but should leave this to God, God began to work.”

The author also remembers his own spiritual struggles; the more he tried to keep the law and not sin the more he failed: “When I came to distrust myself and step down from the throne in the kingdom of my heart, I was able to receive the Word of God into my heart…Jesus began to work inside of me…it was so amazing to see the light enter my heart and destroy the darkness, to see love enter and destroy hatred, to see hope enter and destroy despair, and to see joy enter and destroy sadness.”

The essence of Notes on Genesis 1 is the reassurance the reader gets from knowing that when we give up on ourselves, realising that we are incapable of doing good, keeping the law, praying and all that, God begins to live and work inside our hearts. It gives us the courage to heed the author’s trumpet call:

“Everyone, make everything that you have done into nothing and believe in Jesus…what we have done is evil” --we are only holy by the grace of the Lord because the Lord has already received double the punishment for the sins we have committed. “So ,all the sinners, but those cleansed by Jesus are righteous.”

Pastor Park is also the author of The Secret of Forgiveness of Sin and Being Born Again which has sold over a million copies and has been translated into 12 languages.

--Sunday Monitor, June 20, 2010

Kenya’s Egerton crowned Zain Africa Challenge winners


The journey of 5,000 questions that started the fourth season of the televised inter-university battle of the brains, Zain Africa Challenge, ended last Sunday with Kenya’s Egerton University being declared winners.

It cannot be said that this team enjoyed top billing for the much of the tournament compared to runners-up, Africa Nazarene University (also from Kenya), or even semi-finalists Makerere University. But Egerton focused on winning the race; never lifting their eyes from the ultimate prize and that made all the difference.

So when a smiling John Sibi-Okumu (the show host) cocked his voice and pronounced the new champions, the winning players became giddy with joy; not only had each bagged the $5,000 (Shs10m) grand prize, plus a $50,000 (Shs100m) grant for their university complete with the silvery trophy, Egerton had also to be envied for winning the championship thrice in four years thereby cementing their standing as Africa’s masters of well-versedness.

It’s one of those things that defy logic as to what happened to the Nazarenes, particularly Sammy Kitonyi Mwaniki who had given his past opponents bloody noses with his shrewdness at the buzzer and adroitness. On Sunday, he was a shadow of his former self as he faltered on several questions and chose a tricky category in the nail-biting Ultimate Challenge to seal his team’s demise.

The opponent took advantage and in the end earned a sound win of 740 points, a cool 230 points ahead of Nazarene. Egerton’s Philip Chwanya, Ralph “Bonaparte” Obure and George Ralak all wear glasses and looked like young professors. But it was “Bonaparte”—the shortest of all—that stood out with his conquering spirit and visible hunger for gold. His showmanship and the special edition that beamed the most dramatic bits reignited memories of how exhilarating and informative the quiz show has been to players and viewers alike.

For Makerere’s Lamech Mbangaye, it was “incredibly fun and intensively competitive” and Chwanya was delighted to learn that his brain can hold much more information than he has been giving it credit for.

But what struck most is the realisation that success is not so much about how informed one is but largely about the resolve to win and mastering the rules and strategies of the game, team coordination and buzzer skills. As Sibi-Okumu said, “If you don’t buzz in you don’t give an answer” unless the other team fails and the question is turned over to you.

And just in case you have forgotten, this season was recorded in Kampala; all the 32 teams were staying in a hotel and got to mingle, interact and generally have fun together. With them was a 152 TV crew from Africa, Europe and the United States to bring us the viewing experience.

It’s because Uganda was the host nation that the honour of presenting the prestigious Zain Scholars Trophy to the winners fell on the Chairman Zain Uganda, Mr James Mulwana. He congratulated the winners and thanked them for inspiring many Ugandans and making Africa proud.
Congratulations Egerton University.

--Saturday Monitor, June 12, 2010.

The day of reckoning


After 14 gruelling but highly exciting Sundays, that day of reckoning has come; tomorrow night is that day – the grand finale of the fourth edition of the Zain Africa Challenge!

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything, and this has been a season for Kenya to shine; knocked down and out opponent after opponent, ending up with three teams in the quarterfinals and making the finals an all-Kenyan affair.

The mighty Egerton University which won the inaugural Zain Scholars Trophy in 2007 and successfully defended it in 2008 will be locking horns with first-timers –the suave Africa Nazarene University. It’ll be a night to witness pedigree versus flair, experience versus inexperience and women against men!

Egerton's Phillip Chwanya, George Ralak and Ralph Obure have told show host John Sibi-Okumu and reiterated their ambition to accomplish the mission of recouping the cup and affirm that they are no flukes and that the first two times they won it were not accidental. So they will enter the ring purposely to seal their reputation as Africa’s undisputed brain superpower!

But the adorable Nazarenes don’t want to know; they are focused on making history as the first team in the history of the tournament to have two girls on the team going for gold in a contest that has for three years been a domain of men. The visualisation of Jane Ndung’u with her rare but alluring smile and unrivalled composure lifting up the prestigious trophy and her little hands counting the $5,000 dollars while the cameras flash with fervour is what her innumerable male fans are looking forward to witnessing.

The show’s Facebook page is vibrating with comments that reveal that anticipation has reached seismic proportions. The situation is not helped by the fact that either team knows its game and wants the victory badly.

I’m tempted to rate Egerton a notch stronger considering that they overshadowed Jomo Kenyatta University last Sunday with 775 points against the latter’s 540 thereby cruising into the finals five points ahead of what Nazarene trounced Makerere with a week before.

But then Nazarene has been captivating way of playing and even overcame Mak, one of the best teams in the academic quiz when Egerton has been facing-off with what can arguably be classified as weak opponents. So it's very hard to predict a contest like this but I have my money on Nazarene.

As it is, there’ll be two shows; the grand final will this time around will be televised at 6:30 p.m., and 8:30p.m. will be left for the wrap-up, showcasing the hilarious and dramatic moments that have characterised this year’s inter-university battle of the brains. Catch it all on NTV

--Saturday Monitor, June 5, 2010