Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire continues his Letters to Jennifer. Here, he speaks of the weekend and compares the 2015 Writivism Literary festival to the1962 conference of African Writers. Read:
Without the pleasantries and all, I will pick up from where I left off in my previous letter.
Most of the weekend events were scheduled to take place simultaneously to give a variety of choices to the public and guests coming through. Most of the events were free anyway. We had made it a point that where there was a paid event, there were various options of free events happening at the same time. We are nice people, aren’t we? Okay, we put in some thought into this thing. Aren’t you impressed? I want to hear you say you are. Alright, fine, let me go on. I’m sure you will be impressed at the end.
Saturday started with students of St. Kizito SS Bugolobi mesmerizing us with their dance, music, drama, poetry and spoken word performances created as an interpretation of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s prose while Dami Ajayi and Chijioke Amu-nnadi taught a master class on poetry. Sara Bruya, Transition Magazine managing editor taught another on Editing and answered questions about opportunities at the Magazine while Harriet Anena’s A Nation in Labour poetry collection was being launched. Jagero Oduor, Laban Erapu, Richard Ali and Rachel Zadok were present to participate in the conversation during the launch. Have I said that at this very time, another event, dubbed Ubuntu Conversations featuring Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga was taking place? These conversations are something we have decided to do every year, since 2014. We get intellectual voices that bring an Africanist tinge to things and seated in a circle, have conversations about their ideas. We also do these conversations outside the festival, actually.
Further in the afternoon, Edwige Dro, Ndinda Kioko and Aaron Bady talked about Breaking down the Francophone and Anglophone walls, and at the same time, the Nigerian Literature Conversation was happening, featuring Richard Ali, Saddiq Dzukogi, Michael Afenfia and Onyeka Nwelue. I wonder what event you would have attended, of the two. Do not ask me which one I went for. The hope was that staff bloggers, whom Mary Ajayi supervised, were attending these events, later to write about them for those who missed to attend thus. *Sets phone reminder, to send an email to Mary and the bloggers to work on uploading posts about the specific events.
Soon after, we were launching Crossroads: a Ugandan Women Writers Anthology. We had readings by some of the contributors with Josephine Karungi of NTV Uganda as the emcee and Tsitsi Dangarembga as the chief guest. The auditorium was almost full. Have I told you about Nakisanze Segawa’s magic when she is reciting Luganda poetry? She was one of the contributors and her voice makes people want to speak Luganda. And Nyana Kakoma was simply magical in putting together that launch, you have no idea. Before the launch ended, other conversations about selling self-published fiction books were taking place. Then Onyeka Nwelue’s reading from his Hip Hop is not for Children and conversation with Dami Ajayi and finally a repeat of Donald Molosi’s Today It’s Me play.
Sunday. I see you are getting tired. Yes, we were also getting tired by this point. The guests too, I imagine. The day started with a master class on Short Fiction facilitated by Ukamaka Olisakwe. The Ubuntu Conversations featured Prof. Mukasa Luutu Babuuzibwa, the Vice Chancellor of Marcus Garvey Pan Afrikan University where African indigenous knowledge is not only prioritized but is the only material the institution is interested in, and so works with communities to create and package this information. We also had Nakisanze Segawa, Saddiq Dzukogi and Adeola Opeyemi talking about the Ebedi Residency Opportunity, on assignment by Wale Okediran, who sadly could not make it.
RELATED: BN Poetry Longlist
In the early afternoon, the four 2015 Writivism prize shortlisted writers, Dayo Ntwari, Pemi Aguda, Adeola Opeyemi, and Jane Kalu read from their work, with Moses Kilolo moderating a conversation with them, while Aaron Bady taught a master class on Literary Criticism. There was also a talk on the possibilities of social media in shaping journalism, specifically photojournalism while a hot panel discussion on how African Erotica and Romance looks like was happening, featuring Stella Nyanzi, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, Zukiswa Wanner and Moses Kilolo. Imagine the mood in the auditorium as Stella Nyanzi asked if she could show the audience her elongated labia. Nana’s energy is contagious. The audience was giggling all through the discussion, in case you want to legitimately accuse me of being biased. I wonder if you would have giggled along, or looked on wondering why the panelists were talking more about sex than about writing sex, as some indeed wondered. I enjoyed the session shya! Even worries that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity minister could come and stop the festival because of that session vanished.
The final event of the action-packed and laborious five-day festival was the Awards Night with Music and Poetry. Peter Kagayi performed his moving poetry, Tsitsi Dangarembga read from her work, Afrie Nassanga performed her beautiful music, Chijoke Amu-nnadi recited his poetry, Rachel Zadok talked about judging the 2015 Writivism short story prize, and Mathilda Edwards announced the winner. Zukiswa Wanner was the emcee for the event. I do not know if you know about Zukiswa’s legendary humour. I was on some plane going to Nairobi to sit an interview at the African Leadership Centre but videos were created so we can catch up on events we miss, you know.
I have forgotten about Bloke Modisane’s voice. Forgive me ooo. We did not have a Christopher Okigbo-type, the eccentric Nigerian poet who refused to read his poems on the ground that he never read to non-poets in 1962, at Writivism2015. We did not have conversations as who is an African writer, or I missed them, because it is over fifty years since this question surfaced. We reflected on Negritude though, as Nagenda took us back to 1962. Like the 1962 conference, if I may say so myself, the real excitement of the 2015 Writivism festival was the bringing together of writers, publishers, academics, bloggers, editors, etc. who have known one another online for a while, only as names on the cold screens of laptops and smart phones.
RELATED: Babishai Niwe Poetry Award
Think of Tsitsi Dangarembga, filmmaker and writer, Ikhide Ikheloa, the social media towncrier, Paula Akugizibwe of Chimurenga, Rachel Zadok of the amazing Short Story Day Africa, Edwige Dro, the translation maestro from Ivory Coast, Ndinda Kioko, the Miles Morland scholar and Okwiri Oduor, 2014 Caine Prize winner. So many Africa39 laureates were in Kampala.
Think of Mukoma wa Ngugi, the accomplished academic and crime writer, Richard Ali of Paressia, Moses Kilolo of Jalada, Jennifer Makumbi of the Kintu fame, Aaron Bady of The New Inquiry, of course James Murua of The Star and many other things including always telling me not to worry, Sara Bruya of Transition Magazine, Michela Wrong of the It’s Our Turn To Eat fame, the pan African Zukiswa Wanner who has written four novels and counting, my dear Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah of Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, Dami Ajayi of Saraba, my pan Africanist and feminist sister Ukamaka Olisakwe, Donald Molosi, the star telling African stories, the irreverent Oduor Jagero and the soft spoken Louise Umutoni, and Karen Mukwasi. Breathe.
There was the man himself, Onyeka Nwelue, the Nigerians Chijioke amu nnadi, Saddiq Dzukogi and Michael Afenfia and the strong presence of Ugandan writers, journalists and academics, Stella Nyanzi, Daniel Kalinaki, Nyana Kakoma, Bernard Tabaire, Lydia Namubiru, Harriet Anena, Nakisanze Segawa, Angelo Izama, Joe Oloka Onyango, Sylvia Tamale, Aida Mbowa, Hilda Twongyeirwe, I can go on and on and never finish and yet I want to leave you with some energy to forgive me for contemplating the idea of sending you more letters about the festival. Okay, only one more.
The 2015 Writivism festival was not the 1962 conference of African Writers but it was, if you look at the pleasant rivalries and riotous merriment that has followed the event itself, sometimes unnecessarily because one may be left wondering if the festival was a show of the best city transport systems or the best foods than the brilliant themes and topics at key note addresses and panel discussions and readings and book launches and conversations and master classes and Jennifer, let me not kill you with details. The next letter I promise is coming soonest and beyond the hints I have already given should take you by surprise. But why am I ruining the surprise now? Please tell me that you will still be surprised? At least promise to fake it.
Read Bwesigye’s first letter to Jennifer here.