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Friday, August 2, 2013

Literature icon gone


On the morning of July 20, the literature fraternity woke up to the heartrending news of the death of Victor Amos Byabamazima, 71, a man whose contribution to the education sector and publishing industry in East Africa was outstanding.

The late Victor Amos Byabamazima
An affable and loving man with a subtle sense of humour and quick wit that captivated those with whom he interacted, Byabamazima taught English and Literature in Ugandan and Kenyan schools before distinguishing himself as an author and publisher.

“The sun has set over one of the finest minds of his generation. Victor was a teacher and educationist by profession, but over the years, his search for intellect turned him into many other disciplines. “He became an administrator, a novelist, playwright, a literary critic, editor, publisher and consultant. So intellectually active was he that even a few days before he was admitted into the hospital, he was in the final stages of editing a new play, and polishing up a manuscript of Rukiga proverbs and idioms,” said retired ambassador and novelist, Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo who was a close friend of the deceased. “He was also a man whose deep and penetrative intellect ranged freely over many academic disciplines, thus he was at home discussing philosophy, politics, metaphysics, history or literature. He will be greatly missed.”

His contributions
Byabamazima’s writings include English Primer for Beginners (2000) and English: Vital Elements and Skills (2002) – text books for upper primary and secondary school levels respectively, a novel, Shadows of Time ((1999) and three plays: The Interview in Afrikatauni (2001), Roadblock (2006) and The School (1991), a satirical comedy listed in the Heinemann Drama series that enjoyed acclaim and stage performances in Kenya and was reprinted by the East African Educational Publishers in 2011.

“He was one of the pillars responsible for developing the culture of reading, writing and publishing in Uganda. He truly believed in the ideal that for Uganda’s cultural sector to thrive, it was best to create opportunities for indigenous authors and publishers to grow,” said Charles Batambuze, from the National Book Trust of Uganda (Nabotu), an organisation that Byabamazima helped found in 1997. Nabotu is instrumental in inspiring quality through its annual literary awards.
FROM LEFT: The late Victor Byabamazima, myself and Ambassodor Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo
Byabamazima’s publishing firm, VB Services, focused on works of fiction and talent development. Its latest publication is Kalimugogo’s 2012 novel, Escape from Shadows. 

“He introduced me to the world of book publishing and spurred me to aim higher,” said Taddeo Bwambale whose short-story Die, Dear Tofa, won the 2008 Commonwealth Short Story Competition for Africa Region, while journalist and poet Lindah Niwenyesiga who worked under Byabamazima when he was the Publishing Manager at Baroqu
e Publishers (2008-2010) said:  “He was always there to guide me when I was still a novice in editing, and would also encourage young professionals to grow by sending us to attend enriching training outside the company.”

The deceased’s life motto was, “Always learn ahead.” According his brother Prof. Sam Turyamuhika, he even planned ahead his departure from this world by making peace with God.

Accepting Christ
Two years ago, Byabamazima gathered his entire family and told them he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. 

“All of us are in transit and each one of us needs salvation,” Rev. Canon Ben Mugarura, a childhood friend of the late told mourners during the requiem service at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero. “Victor got it. He has even been having a fellowship in his home. We celebrate the fact that Jesus’ invitation to him was accepted and now he is with the Lord.”

When his prostate cancer took a turn for the worst, Byabamazima told his wife that he had reached the end of his short story. But to his five children, the gentle soul will always be remembered as a doting father, and his name will always be valued in East Africa’s education and literature.

--Saturday Monitor, July 27, 2013