RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Agbada Holds its Own in Nigeria

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

If you've never understood what the cliché "standing out from the crowd" means, tonight you'll understand before I'm done telling you about agbada.

The finest fashion designs from the West, especially tuxedos and other suits, have infiltrated Africa and taken the place of previously respected traditional garments. But in Africa's most populous country with a population of over 150 million people, agbada has refused to back down, and remains a status symbol especially among the Yoruba people of western Nigeria, who comprise 21 percent of its population.

A gushing piece of clothing that goes all the way to the ground, agbada is wide shouldered and comes with a V-neck and arms so long they must be gathered into folds when worn. The usually colorfully embroidered outfit is made, along with a pair of wide-waisted trousers called sokoto, from traditional material of silken texture called sanyan with a round cap, fila, to complete the package.

It can also be made from pure cotton or guinea cloth at its simplest, all the way to complex lacy designs of interwoven shapes, according to Bakare Weate, a popular blog ( The article further notes: "When made of lace, the complex of folds played out across a material complex creates a phenomenal moving sculpture, a meringue of elaborate confectionery, a soft architecture which points the way towards a post-post modern theory of building, taking the fold beyond the fold.

If you want to watch agbadas of all modes, attend any important occasion in Nigeria. Not only does it symbolize power and wealth, it's also said to embody "the unique character of African masculinity."  Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was known to flaunt a new agbada on all state functions, and a typical Nigerian movie (the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, is the world's second largest film industry) would be incomplete without an agbada-clad chief for a protagonist.

"In the olden days, only the rich and powerful could afford the material but times have changed," says Emanuel Idowu Adeniyi, a Yoruba journalist who loves wearing agbada. "Besides the beauty it adds to a person, many wear it as a way of projecting the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba people. There's no way you can show how rich your culture is if you don't portray it through the food you eat, through the language you speak and through the clothes you put on. Agbada to Yoruba people is a way of showing how rich our culture is."

So if you you're a visitor to West Africa, particularly Nigeria, and want to earn favor, friendship or respect; if you want to attract the hottest beauty queen there or you just want "to stand out from the crowd", agbada is the way to go!

--First published on WJI Times Observer online on Saturday January 28, 2012

Finally a show for men

Talking may be a reserve of women, but with a new show airing on NTV finally men can speak their minds on different topics, writes DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

After lots of ads, the new television talk-show, Men, finally debuted on NTV on Wednesday, February 1. It deals with men issues from, cars, finances, to handling women; and generally being the men we are!
The men behind Men
Hosted by Peter Igaga, an effervescent man in specs, the show shot in a presidential suit at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, featured Ransom Mahaka who the show-host described as "the only married guy", Joseph Mukasa who has "a large family of beautiful sisters" and mass com grad Colin Asiimwe who told off the smug marrieds that "it takes so much being a man than being married."

"Guys, I want us to demystify who a man is," began Igaga.

And his panel laughed liked boys.

Easy, Mukasa said, "We are very simple creatures unlike what ladies think" and Asiimwe concurred, saying it would be easier for the ladies to handle men if only they didn't shout at us.

It got hot with the show host defining a man as "somebody who needs SFF –Sex, freedom, food!" To break it down for you ladies, if you give your man good sex, freedom to be with the boys, and a fantastic meal, you'll never worry about him straying! In fact, leaving the housemaid to do all the cooking and serving while wifey sits there watching some Mexican soap was advanced as the leading cause of hanky-panky between the man in the house and the maid – something wives so abhor.

It has been said that boys will always be boys. Indeed they got carried away, with Igaga alleging it has been medically proven that a man thinks about sex seven times a day, and Asiimwe describing great sex as "a woman being on top!" Mukasa was the only voice of reason, chiding his colleagues to stop reducing men to sex maniacs, arguing there’s more to a relationship than just sex.

The show-host steered the show well, and his guests were relaxed; seemingly unconscious of the camera. They were also blunt and articulate with perfect enunciation.Thus the show has all the earmarks of becoming a hit.

However, it should be handled with maturity especially when handling sex subjects because the kids are watching! Plus an expert say religious person or professional counsellor is needed on the team for a soberer perspective.

Catch Men every Wednesday at 9.45pm on NTV.

--Sunday Monitor, February 05, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

142 years after his death, Charles Dickens still fulfils the greatest expectations


True lovers of literature worldwide are rereading and discussing his finest works as part of celebrations to mark his bicentenary which falls on Tuesday next week.

Born in Portsmouth, England in 1812, Dickens is not only the best British writer of the 19th century, arguably, but is also among the world’s greatest novelists of all time.Besides essays and short stories, he wrote 15 novels most of which have been adapted for radio and television, and whose popularity and relevance have not waned 142 years after his death.

Charles Dickens
This popularity is not just linked to the fact that his novels were first serialised by magazines reaching a larger audience, but to the quality of writing and the resonation with which he examined universal concerns like hunger, poverty, exploitation, cruelty, and classicism.

As Edgar Johnson writes in Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph (1952), Dickens sought to expose “the cruelty of the workhouse and the foundling asylum, the enslavement of human beings in mines and factories, the hideous evil of slums where crime simmered and proliferated, the injustices of the law, and the cynical corruption of the lawmakers...the great evil permeating every field of human endeavor: the entire structure of exploitation on which the social order was founded.”

Dickens achieved this through grave and hilarious characters and powerful imagery. From two of his novels that have been taught widely in Ugandan schools, who can forget Pip’s first meeting with the frightening convict with the huge chain on his ankles or Miss Havisham trapped in time and love in her wedding dress, strewn with cobwebs, as depicted in Great Expectations (1861)? How about the eponymous child hero, Oliver Twist, asking for more gruel to typify the hunger at the orphanage?

“Since we had to read him in school, I had no choice but to be influenced by his writing; his books were like the prototype of the novel,” says writer Doreen Baingana. “This is why students must read Ugandan literature in school; it influences you for life.”

A son of a poor clerk (his father was once arrested for failing to settle a debt), Dickens quit school at the age of 12 and got a job in a shoe-polish factory, and later as an errand boy in a law office. He taught himself short-hand and earned a better job as a court stenographer.

Inspired by courtroom drama, he started reporting for The Mirror of Parliament and the True Sun publications, and also submitted short sketches to obscure magazines. When A Dinner at Poplar Walk was published in The Monthly Magazine in 1833, Dickens cried for joy. Boz, the pen name under which he wrote, soon became famous.

The collected Sketches by Boz (1836) earned Dickens enough money to marry Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of his editor at The Evening Chronicle. But it was the immediate success of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837) that authenticated his reputation.

Dickens loved reading from an early age and was influenced by classic collection Arabian Nights, Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones but it was the stage plays he watched as a boy that fired his imagination most and influenced his knack of combining humour with depth.

“Dickens’s novels rank among the funniest and most gripping ever written, among the most passionate and persuasive on the topic of social justice, and among the most psychologically telling and insightful works of fiction,” writes Prof. Laurie Langbauer. “They are also some of the most masterful works in terms of artistic form, including narrative structure, repeated motifs, consistent imagery, juxtaposition of symbols, stylization of characters and settings, and command of language.”

Nothing captures his mesmerising power as that day close to the end of the serialisation of The Old Curiosity Shop (1840) when a throng of his readers stormed New York to await a ship carrying the paper’s edition containing final part, anxious about the fate of the novel’s child heroine, Nell Trent. Trent’s death remains one of the most remembered scenes in 19th-century fiction.

In spite of his success, Dickens had his foibles. He left his wife of 22 years who had borne him 10 children, for a young actress, Ellen Ternan. But as a writer, he will always be celebrated not only for making the reader empathise with most of his troubled protagonists, but also for the lessons today’s writer can glean from his talent and focus.

“The way he took stock of the prevailing circumstances under which he wrote and tried to pose questions with a view of creating a new dispensation in society is something all writers should take seriously,” says Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi of Makerere University.

Julius Ocwinyo, whose novel, Fate of the Banished, is on the literature syllabus says he has learned two things: “One, a writer can have impact on society. Two, it requires a phenomenal amount of talent, determination and perseverance to achieve as much as Dickens did. Writers can create awareness about injustice - social, economic, political - and trigger reform. You only need to look at what happens in the workhouse to which Oliver Twist is committed for you to be able to understand - and feel - the unfairness that pervaded British society then. This book, as well as some of the others of Dickens’s works, unleashed a public furore that eventually led to social reform.”

“He didn’t have an MFA or any of the literary qualifications that aspiring African writers think they need, but combined his genius with discipline to deliver great novels,” engineer cum novelist, Nick Twinamatsiko says of what he has learned from his icon.

For Rogers Atukunda, a short story writer and emerging novelist, Dickens reminds him of Uganda’s Julius Ocwinyo: “Both writers have inspired me to write simple but evaluative stories about childhood and facing the woes of growing up in a hostile environment…they have taught me that a writer must discover and expose the ills in society, ridicule the perpetrators and educate the masses to give them hope and avenues for molding a better world.”

Saturday Monitor, February 4, 2012

The literary giant intrigued by medicine


The life of Goretti Kyomuhendo is a story of discovery, sheer determination, commitment and relentless love. She was first introduced to the art of storytelling by her grandmother, but it was Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) that made her fall helplessly in love with reading and writing.

“It created in me a sublime feeling of what it means to be an African,” she says. “Most crucially, it inspired me to start writing my own stories.”

Ms. Goretti Kyomuhendo
Without the benefits of either a first degree or any formal training in writing, Kyomuhendo relied on sheer determination to produce her first novel, The First Daughter, released in 1996 when she was just a Diploma holder in Business Studies.

She was one of the founding members of the Uganda Women Writers Association (Femrite), serving as its Programmes Coordinator (1997-2007) and becoming the first Ugandan woman writer to be awarded the International Writing Programme Fellowship at the University of Iowa (1997).

The First Daughter, which is still among the few well-known works here, blazed the trail for Ugandan female writers, and its good reception inspired Kyomuhendo to write more. She followed it with Secrets No More (1999) which won the National Book Trust of Uganda literary award for Best Novel of the Year.

Always on the lookout for opportunities, Kyomuhendo landed a scholarship to study for a degree in English Studies in South Africa, and followed it with a Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2005).
It is during this time that she embarked on her fourth novel, Waiting, published in 2007 by the Feminist Press of New York. This short novel about the effects of war on the rural people is Kyomuhendo’s most critically reviewed book internationally.

“Already, about four academic papers have been published in books and journals on Waiting,” she reveals, “and it is now taught, and, or, used for research by a number of PhD students in America, Germany, Netherlands, UK and others.”

A short, motherly figure with a warm disposition, Kyomuhendo was born and raised in Hoima District, which explains why most of her works have rural settings, and are inspired by real life events, with women protagonists that endure many hardships on their road to achievement.

She has also written prolifically for children, but her greatest achievement, arguably, is establishing the London-based African Writers Trust (AWT), in 2009, purposely to create space and opportunities for African writers in the Diaspora and on the continent, to interact, share resources and experiences, and enhance learning.

It preoccupies her; she travels a lot; organising literary workshops and writing whenever she can. She just completed a Writers Manual for African Writers, and is soon completing her fifth novel, based on immigrant experiences of Ugandans, and other Africans in the Diaspora.

It is because of her contribution to the literary world that in 2009 she was nominated by the U.S.-based UTNE Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”.

“It was humbling, really, and totally unexpected especially considering the other Visionaries I shared the space with that year, such as The Dalai Lama,” she says modestly.

But it has not been easy. She has had her fair share of rejections from publishers but that has not daunted her spirits. She says as long as she has issues that bother her; things that lie deep in her heart, she will always write, inviting and persuading others to view every world she creates with her pen.

The 46-year-old advises budding writers to strive for stories that speak to readers profoundly; that stick with them long after they have finished reading them and that make you cry or laugh.

When the interview drifts to Uganda’s poor reading culture, Kyomuhendo readily relays an antidote -we must socialise the reading activity, hold more public events where the writers get to read with the readers, and share and talk about their works.

“I dream of the moment when we shall regain our rightful position in the literary world as the producers of some of the best writing, and writers, from the continent,” she says longingly. “You know, the days of Song of Lawino, or when Uganda was the hub of literary activities on the continent, like when we used to host Transition magazine in the 1960s, when we hosted ACLAS (Association for Commonwealth Language and English Studies) gathering of writers and scholars in 1972, and the African Writers Talking Conference of 1962, and when Makerere was home to some of the leading African writers of today…”

But to get there, she adds quickly, “We need to create supportive structures such as grants and fellowships for our writers, we need to build and develop further our publishing infrastructures. We also need support and encouragement from our government when it comes to home-grown literature.”

Kyomuhendo cherishes privacy only revealing that she is married with children that are not “keen on literature –they are more into sciences.”

I wonder out aloud if she, too, has some science blood flowing through her veins. She laughs softly: “I sure would be a doctor if I had had the brains for it,” she says with more mirth in her eyes. “Medicine really intrigues me!”

Sunday Monitor, January 29, 2012