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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Taking literature back home

Through the Writers’ Caravan, organisers hope to inspire potential writers by taking established writers as living testimonies to the communities, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza.

“Taking writers back to their communities” as the literary journey is dubbed, will see 10 of the country’s best writers tour the country for 11 days, engaging in literary activities. Some of these activities will include public readings in schools and universities, poetry recitals and performances, community discussions, visiting public libraries and writers’ groups, and crown it with an event back in Kampala with a public reading at the Uganda Museum on February 17.
Some of the caravan writers before set-off

These writers will travel from Kampala to Wakiso, Luwero, Gulu, Oyam, Lira, Ngora, Kapchorwa, Mbale and Jinja where they are sure to relive several memories as they share their stories and interact with their communities.

“The aim of the Caravan is to create a shared space for conversation between writers and their communities,” says Femrite coordinator Hilda Twongyeirwe.

She is validated by Glaydah Namukasa who, when she gets to her home area in Wakiso, will not only talk about how her writing is connected to the community but hopes to get “known in my community as a writer, and inspire students in the school I went to that they too can make it.”

Julius Ocwinyo, who will be the headliner in Lango where he is born, says there is more to gain for the literary industry when its writers get to meet the wanainchi, some of whom have heard about these writers but are clueless about the relevance of what they write: “It’s all about establishing that link with writers and the community. We are saying, ‘Look this is the relevance of what we do as writers; we draw inspiration from here, and by giving out books we are growing their literacy and raising awareness.”

It will also be a time to show the communities that these writers have never lost touch with what culturally distinguishes them. For example, Nakisanze Segawa will perform a Luganda poem, Zibogola (a poem about the African drum and how it communicates) at her former school, Mwerere Secondary School in Luwero. It will be her way of telling her audience that you can earn a living through writing and performing traditionally-inspired poetry.
Beyond talking about her writing, Beatrice Lamwaka will give out books to students of Sacred Heart Secondary School and Gulu High School near her rural home as a way of celebrating Ugandan writers and motivating them to dream more.

Funded by Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, and in partnership with Kampala Capital City Authority, the project is hoped to raise awareness about Ugandan literature and deepen its reception by the communities.

“It is hoped that at the end of the Caravan, the writers will be inspired to write short stories or poems, which will be translated in their local languages,” says Twongyeirwe. “These will be published by Femrite in a multi-lingual anthology that will be distributed back to the communities that will be visited.”

The writers
Prof Timothy Wangusa. Poet and novelist
Beatrice Lamwaka. 2011 Caine Prize finalist
Julius Ocwinyo. Author: Fate of the Banished.
Glaydah Namukasa. Femrite Chairperson
Austin Bukenya. Critic, dramatist
Laury Ocen. Author: Alien Woman.
Peter Kagayi. Literature teacher/poet
Nakisanze Segawa. Poet
Simon Peter Ongodi.Multi-lingual writer
Betty Kitiyu. Poet.

--Saturday Monitor, February 15, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Writing to transform society


Just where does she get the time? It was the question on the lips of many when Gender, Labour and Social Development minister and Bushenyi District Woman MP, Mary Karooro Okurut, launched yet another novel, in Kampala, at the weekend.
Mary 'Mother-Hen' Karooro Okurut
To this, she answered simply, “I love telling stories, and it’s not difficult to find time to tell stories.”
Potiphar’s Granddaughter, published by Totem Publishers, is her latest story; summed up as “a tale of love, forgiveness, and resilience amidst the pain that follows betrayal and suffering”.

The writer assured guests that “once you take this book into your hands, it’s difficult to put it down!” Only those who have read the 271-page volume have the right to question the veracity of her claim.
But jab Karooro with a needle, words are bound to pop out instead of blood.

Before she linked up with Goretti Kyomuhendo to found the Uganda Female Writers Association (Femrite), Karooro was already an accepted and admired author of The Official Wife (1994), The Invisible Weevil (1994) and the play: The Curse of the Sacred Cow (1994). She has also authored short stories, children’s fiction and newspaper articles to cement her position as one of Uganda’s most prolific women writers.

No man has a better grasp of her obsession with literature than John Nagenda, an enviable wordsmith himself. At the launch of Potiphar’s Granddaughter where Nagenda was chief guest, he revealed that when President Museveni first sought his advice on appointing Karooro Presidential Press Secretary, Nagenda opposed the move, afraid that politics would keep Karooro away fro
m writing. He was wrong.

“Mother Hen,” as she’s fondly labelled by Femrites, kept writing, and has more eggs to hatch. In fact, Potiphar’s Granddaughter will be followed by The Switch, which will be about female genital mutilation, and The Man with the Olive Branch, which draws from the life and times of President Museveni.

Why she writes
Karooro writes to “change our realities into a better reality and for the generations to come. She is also inspired by Uganda’s dismal reading culture and wants to create relevant reading material that would impel school-goers and other Ugandans to read ravenously.

“We (writers) act as cultural ambassadors; we tell our story,” she says.

According to John Nagenda, there is everything to love about words. “God is a very wise creator; it’s a miracle to me that people can speak, and writing is so fantastic,” he said. “When you get to a point when people are writing exciting stuff, then you know you are in the presence of beauty!”

He advised up-and-coming writers to read widely and measure themselves against the best writers.

--Saturday Monitor, February 1, 2014