As a new writer on the scene, I have been quite fortunate to attend a few literature festivals in the past years. Every time I hear of a new festival, my heart skips a beat as I wonder how to get myself invited. I cherish these opportunities to meet with like-minded individuals, expand one’s networks in the writing world and get to discover really amazing books that I might otherwise not have come across. Of course it goes without saying that also the opportunity to get signed copies of books from amazing authors I have only seen on TV or read about in magazines and newspapers is an obvious bonus to the whole experience.
While I still need to write lots more about my time at Writivism Uganda a few years back, here are some few highlights:
Room 124, Minister’s village: The Kenyan in me ended up having a room party the first night in Kampala – and most other nights. I recall looking around my tiny room at one point and seeing Mukoma wa Ngugi, Pa Ikhide, Renee Edwige Dro and Donald Molosi. I remember thinking how happy I was to be in such great company. What had started as a tiny room party with Moses Kilolo and Ndinda Kioko had morphed to become a party with great literary giants of the continent – all in my tiny room – 124.
Re-enactment of Jennifer Makumbi’s commonwealth prize winning short story “Let’s tell this story properly” by high school students: I get very flattered when someone quotes a line from my novel “Of goats and poisoned oranges.” I could only imagine what was going through Jennifer Makumbi’s mind as high school students got on stage at the Kampala national theater to dramatize her most famous short story. It was beautiful to see contemporary African literature being brought to life by high school students in the country of her birth – Uganda
Today it’s me – a Motswana playwright and director bringing to life the story of Ugandan musician and HIV/AIDS activist Philly Lutaaya: If someone told you that an actor and playwright from Botswana spent 4 years writing a play about a very beloved and tragic figure from Uganda, learnt to sing all his songs in Luganda, picked up a Ugandan accent, spent time with his family to fully understand the man that was Philly Lutaaya – what would you do? You would likely want to see this play. Watching an African honor another African from a different country in such a respectful manner, telling his story with an African voice was simply inspiring. Be warned though – when you plan to watch Donald Molosi’s play “Today it’s me,” carry lots of tissue with you.
Sessions under trees at Maeesha gardens and at Makerere university: While Maeesha gardens was extremely hard to find, having sessions on Afrofuturism under an open sky (Renee Edwige Dro, Rachel Zadok, Ikhide Ikheloa, Moses Kilolo), blogging masterclasses (James Murua, Nyana Kakoma). The sessions at Makerere held historical significance given this was the exact same venue where Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Bloke Modisane, Robert Serumaga and other greats attended the first conference of Anglophone African writers. Sitting in the same venues where these literary giants sat and having sessions such as “From the bedrooms of African Women” by Nana Darkoa, “What do oil resources mean to African writers” by Richard Ali, Writing an African historical novel by Jennifer Makumbi – was simply surreal.
A night of intense debates at 822 Terrace: I will always laugh when I recall this night. They switched off the lights and we never left. They stopped selling drinks and that did not chase us away. When writers talk, we talk and talk. Sometimes it gets heated, but as long as the group is respectful, everyone leaves as friends even if they don’t share the same opinion on various topics.