The Glory Of Gloria.

IMG-20160805-WA0068

With Gloria Kiconco, in the center, with a strap over her shoulder, when we met.

For Gloria Kiconco, writing is more than simply documenting, or magnifying, or taking responsibility for fixing the problems that diffuse through her society. Apparently, she does not earn enough satisfaction from doing what most writers can ably do. By detailing her thoughts in a language she has mastered, and conflated into the poems that make her collection of aesthetically pleasing zines, which make a project titled SOLD OUT, she eclipses that.

Gloria Kiconco is a young, budding Ugandan born writer who started writing when she was younger, before leaving for the United States, where she spent most of her formative years, and returning to Uganda to be, amongst others, the writer, art critic, and spoken word performer that we know her to be today.

Her work is, she said when we hosted her, as the author of the month, for the Turn The Page book club meeting on August 5, 2016, a body of work about things happening in Uganda, but people do not talk about. Her themes of interest vary, from personal to public explorations of experiences which could best be described as a study of mythology, a topic which helps her relate her story by enabling both a moral take and a supplementation to the same.

Gloria’s work is so engrossing. It does things to you. When she performs it, it makes you want to dance. Some may find it hard to relate to (as she, for example, references seasons beyond our locality, uses words so “big”, and speaks in a foreign accent), but what is there to expect of someone who is a genius? The glory of Gloria is that she is aware of her innate talent, and has harnessed well enough to illustrate her thoughts with an ease not so many can ably appreciate. To that, she comments that she cannot judge for them, and does not care how they appreciate it. All she desires is to see words arranged in a certain, nice way.

Gloria’s work addresses several social and/or topical issues, from patriarchy (in Bloodletting), to feminism (in The —– Unicorn OR A History of Mythical Beasts Long Gone) to love (in Two RE: Dress) to elected migration (in Aspens in Autumn) even though she attempts to abstain from being consumed by them herself. She is an African writer who is worth note.

Gloria’s process of writing starts on a notebook, which she keeps on herself, and results into well packaged pocket size zines that go for the average price of a beer each. Her work is available on the online book store and can be purchased by following this link. She, also, regularly performs at Poetry In Session events which happen in Kampala every after two months.

 

 

 

Activities In August.

Hello, there.

We, at Turn The Page, would like to wish you a wondrous, new month.

During the month of August 2016, we will have two notable events. The first is an author’s appearance, made by Gloria Kiconco, on Friday, August 5, 2016.

P1040188

Gloria Kiconco, who will be making an author’s appearance on Friday, August 5, 2016.

Gloria Kiconco is a phenomenal poet who has authored and had published her poems, which are available to us, the audience, in the form of zines.

You can skim through her work, and, importantly, purchase it by following this link.

You can, also, read the author’s own write-up on the aesthetic impressions that make the artistic designs on her work, by following this link.

Gloria’s work has also been reviewed by Raymond Lule. His review is accessible via this link.

The second will be another book club meeting which will be taking place on Friday, August 19, 2016, for a reading, discussion, and reflection on Nurrudin Farah’s Hiding In Plain Sight, our common text for the month of August.

hiding ft

Nuruddin Farah’s Hiding In Plain Sight, our common text of the Month.

For those who have not read it before, you are encouraged to proceed to get your own copy of the book by following this link in preparation for August 19.

We hope to see you and your friends, and to share on these and more when they both happen.

Best regards.

 

 

SOLD OUT – Gloria Kiconco.

sold-out

Sold Out.

Sold Out, Gloria Kiconco’s collection of poetry zines is a spirited marriage of two complementing art forms, poetry and drawing, in fairly subtle presentation. In a poem like with restless & ungoverned rage, the most immediate role of the keys placed at the bottom of the paper is to set the tone of the sentences, most of which are answers to a question hovering above them. If the drawing is judged as not just an additive to the aesthetic of poetry but as an equally strong entity, would it succeed in telling the story of those poetic lines in their absence? And if the art is to help poetry get understood, does that make the later unconsciously dependent? There’s a likely situation when the poetry is self-sufficient and the drawings on paper desperately cry for recognition: they are left to serve as mere adornments. But maybe it’s just natural for one art form to overshadow another.

The first time I freed one of the zines from its polythene sack, I unfolded the paper to its initial size, and subsequently realised I couldn’t find the poem’s starting point. I wondered at the lines staring at me from an upside down position, and the general usage of paper was befuddlingly fascinating. It took the maker’s guidance for me to get there. However, performing a complete unfold before reading enables one acknowledge the layout of a particular poem (arrangement of lines) and the process of incising a part of the paper and the spreading of the respective illustrations.

Sold Out is generally a collection of poems on wheels. It’s characterised by movement in and out of the body, into a loss or gain of self, crawling into the heart for solace, rummaging for a relatable meaning of life, futile journeys towards dreams(guided by Aspens in Autumn), and a raged exploration of a writer’s life. The most notable voice in all the poems is a profound void. In Forget (Arua) Remember (Packwach), emptiness has influenced the need to leave the city for a while in pursuit for what Packwach might add to the traveler’s well being. It feels like the vacuum is biggest in such a poem where the poet asks you to:

Forget that your life has been capsized

and re-sized to compartments

and capsules and containers

You swallow them, they swallow you. You

are the ability

to fit one container into another.

You can save space. You

are not filling anything. You

are to be filled

The use of the words capsules and space indicates a means to try and get rid of a vacuum by letting oneself take in something – a capsule. Presumably, capsules represents all that’s fed to the body to induce betterment in spirit. But sadly, the betterment is not achieved. The swallower is only capable of, sarcastically, saving space. Space has been personified, and the presence of someone in which it can perfectly fit is satisfying. I think of this relationship as being symbiotic; the container or capsule gets a free pouch, and you – the reader, the loner, the writer, are feeling good about yourself for being the carrier of this thing, even when you know it’s nothing.

Further, the personification takes a more thoughtful approach in the poem with restless & ungoverned rage. The first stanza poses a question that could be mistaken for rhetoric.

How deep into a word

can you go?

In this case, the power is in the hands of the word and not the person who “dives into it”. Depth is a matter of surrendering. To a writer like Gloria Kiconco, depth determines the effectiveness of a creative piece of work. It also suggests a state of mental freedom (“bright lights”) supplemented by curiosity (“cannot be contained”). Maybe a word is an amorphous body of unknown substance one can “look into” and go to another world. The possibilities are infinite.  To think of a word as the smallest unit of a writer’s life, you wonder if other writers apart from Gloria have ruminated on the depth question. One word can be used in many varying ways, depending on a particular writer and what they intend to achieve. However, Kiconco also warns of a danger in going too deep into a word. And this is when word becomes ambigous; it can mean emotional attachment outside a literary vocation, drug addiction, Internet or social media obsession, religious adherence, or anything else that makes one unable to “live without it”. By imparting that,

“Just as I am free,

I belong to you,”

Gloria accepts her literary responsibilities to both the word and the audience. But in doing so, she transmits the pains of being property from her own self to the demanding recipients of her wordily creations. The use of “Just” as a way of showing humility makes “belong” in the next line reverberate beyond this small publication and the reader’s prior knowledge of their position in that “love-triangle”. And it also puts readers in the same basket with word; they seem to influence the writer’s final product.

Gloria Kiconco’s poetry is charged with lucid imagery and a courage to prick at the seemingly harmless aspects of our unsteady lives. In The Commuters for example, she’s not afraid to assert that our “Hello and excuse me” are “feigned politeness”. How true is it? I had to think of times I’ve used those phrases simply because it’s what normal people do. In some cases you catch a fellow passenger looking at you and you feel like you owe them a “Hello”. It does not come from a special place. It’s self-assurance that one is not a container, even when they know they are. To most of us, these places we frequent are ladders to get us somewhere else. There’s hardly any emotional connection. While reading most of the poems, lines are strings and we, the readers, puppets. It’s a dystopian kind of environment we are incapable of running from. We have re-programmed ourselves. We are going nowhere. It’s hence out of Kiconco’s observations that I cannot blame her for suggesting that:

Don’t give them heart

they want

cheap and violent fiction.

Congratulations. Now we are living.

 

 

 

 

 

On the design of the SOLD OUT series – Gloria Kiconco.

All these zines were created using the one-sheet comic technique, which is achieved by cutting and folding a single A4 sheet into a booklet of 8 pages including the back and front cover. I took on this project for a number of reasons, but one outstanding reason was to find another way to interact with poetry. This method may not be anywhere near traditional, but it allows for freedom and for intimacy with one poem at a time. Only a few of the designs were premeditated. Most of them were spontaneous designs inspired through experimentation.

 

  1. Aspens in Autumn

This poem uses a lot of natural imagery, so I wanted to achieve a “rustic” look for the zine. I kept to neutral tones and created the original out of brown paper and canvas. I typed on the canvas and stripped the edges to give it a clean and frayed look.

 

aspens-in-autumn

Aspens In Autum

  1. The —– Unicorn OR A History of Mythical Beasts Long Gone

The text in chapbooks (in the 1600s) used to be accompanied by images made from woodcuts. I represented this with illustrations that look like mythical symbols but don’t really represent anything more than what the reader sees in them. The illustrations are the only element I didn’t create myself, they were done by Ugandan artist, Charity Atukunda.

Black-unicorn

The —– Unicorn OR A History of Mythical Beasts Long Gone.

 

  1. Bloodletting

The design for Bloodletting was very spontaneous, created simply out of red ink that I distributed by blowing on the ink. The intensity of red on black reflects the intense and abstract text of the poem.

Bloodletting

Bloodletting.

 

 

  1. Forget (Arua) Remeber (Pakwach).

While most zines were written using a typewriter, this was created entirely on a computer. I used an old painting of mine inside but muted it so as not to distract from the text. The poem is heavy in content and did not need a complicated design.

Forget-Remember

Forget (Arua) Remember (Pakwach).

 

  1. Heart of the City

Heart of the City is one of my earliest poems and when I read it, I recall a simpler time in my life. It was a time of discovery and I took to the use of line and colour to express the vibrancy of the time as well as the never-ending nature of discovery.

Heart-of-the-City

Heart Of The City

 

  1. Little Deaths

I wanted to play with the idea of containing colour and forcing it to a pattern. Although the book itself looks very playful, it embodies the everyday death of being forced into a pattern or into social norms. Some of the tiles are faded to remind me how easy it is to fade within the confines of society.

little-deaths

Little Deaths.

 

  1. Two RE: Dress

This zine is the second in a series addressing love. I created it to compliment the first in the series which also had natural tones. I used wood shavings to give it a unique texture and a thin paper background.

Redress

Two RE: Dress.

 

  1. SOLD OUT

The entire series of zines was titled after this poem so I wanted it to stand out. I mimicked the stamp that is used on poster when shows are sold out and selected a bold pink. I needed it to stay simple but memorable.

sold-out

SOLD OUT.

 

  1. The Commuters

This is another of my older poems. I selected yellow lines simply to represent movement. It recalls the movement of trains and of the light through the windows.

The-commuters

The Commuters OR Containers: A Story of passage.

 

  1. The Icarus Sequence

This design of this zine was also created with ink. I lay down blue and black ink and distributed it using the same technique of blowing on the ink. I also used brushstrokes to define parts of the designs. In an abstract way it illustrates the water into which the mythical Icarus would have fallen.

The-Icarus-Sequence

The Icarus Sequence.

 

  1. The Suicide Ward

The design of this zine is meant to recall a hospital ward with its stark lighting and geometric shapes. In a way, it should feel uncomfortable. I selected fluorescent colours in order to juxtapose them against the dark topic.

the-suicide-ward

The Suicide Ward.

 

  1. with restless & ungoverned rage

This was by far the most experimental of the zines. The title is taken from a very old hymn. I recreated sheet music at the bottom and used punctuation instead of musical notes. I separated the text into red and black to create rhythm in reading, like a song sung in rounds.

With-restless-and-ungoverned-rage

with restless & ungoverned rage.