Kizikiza: Darkness. Kizikiza: Doom. Kizikiza: Dystopia. Kizikiza: Barbarism.
The Ganda people of Uganda normally approach kizikiza (darkness/night) with fear and caution. Obudde nga buvuddeko ensonyi is when burglars, murderers, wizards, apparitions, and many others roam about all corners of the quiet world looking for victims or making their presence known.
Night, is also a time when a man’s innermost pains are closest to the heart. It’s a time of thoughtful reflection or fiery merriment. In religious context, darkness breeds sin since it creates a delusion of not being watched by a god, a time of freedom that ought to be relished. Now, think of unending darkness.
Here is what the foreword has to say about the shift from daytime to night-time, and how it’s related to the poems in this collection:
Night is here
The sun has fled
Darkness rules now
The first poem in the collection, Laddu (thunder), uses the striking nature of thunder itself to tell how darkness “stalks” a being until it seizes them at the last strike. There are two situations when thunder strikes: before the rain falls, and/or after. If we think of it striking after a rainfall, then the rain is like a warning before the actual warning (the initial strike of thunder), like the look an elder gives you when they know you are aware of the danger you are putting yourself into but are choosing to be obstinate.
What Samson Ssenkaba does in his poetry collection, Kizikiza, is to stand under a spotlight and talk to people he does not see. He hopes to refract the light to the audience, except that there’s no instant connection between them, like a street preacher and aloof passengers. But, that is not his concern.
He feels, in poems, such as Mpandule (should I spit? – a verse or a rhyme) and Obalabye (Have you seen them?), like he’s having a conversation with them, and he’s enjoying it. Obalabye (which is rhetorical) as a word is disapproving. It’s often used during condemnation of a shameless act. When used, it (sarcastically) pokes fun at the listener’s “blindness”. And the person who says it is not in a safe place either. Here, the poet, the speaker of Obalabye, is at the centre of the oblivion that question comes with.
In the poem, Kintu, for example, the sudden resurrection of Kintu (the first Ganda man) is seen as a moment of self-examination, a restoration of light to the world. Kintu plays his role as a character capable of triggering emotion, as a man of reverence, a saviour, and as a point for reference for morality and good conduct. Good conduct, yes. I like to think that the poet hopes Kintu would not be enraged by the scene he finds (of bamukwata mmundu / ne baton mu taano / city bagyetolodde / babunye buli kanyomero). He hopes he would not throw himself into a frenzy because his safety is not guaranteed. The guns aren’t protecting the people. Rather creating fear.
Half of the first stanza of Kintu goes like:
addamu ofuuka omuntu
n’atuuka mu katundu
wakati mu city
nga bamukwata mmundu
ne baton mu taano
babunye buli kanyomero.
Let’s assume Kintu
the first man came
to life once more and
in the heart of the
city and he found
policemen at all
guns and batons
In Bulo (blow), which was released as a rap song in the early 2000s, the common man cannot be satisfied with justice unless he’s the one who gives it. He should, as the writer implies, “take the law in his own hands.” And there’s joy in doing so. The rhythmic “Muwe Bulo, dish dish / Mwongele Bulo, dish dish / Omuwe Bulo, dish dish” is both inciting and invigorating, like a slogan chanted by a posse comitatus during an uprising or any other march against oppression.
Kizikiza, the last poem in the collection, and the one that shares a name with the collection, is also the longest, covering five pages. Its character, Zzirya, “touches” multiple subjects like one who’s fumbling (in kizikiza). Although he starts by praising himself for being the voice of the timid, he
quickly moves on to exploring darkness as being a hotbed for poverty, disease, corruption, murder, and others. However, the lament isn’t just lashing out at society. It also gives advice on proper living. At one point, he’s telling the underage to stay away from sexual intercourse, and another he’s reminding married men to stick to their wives.
Away from the dark poems are those like Mumbejja and Kafuluness that touch aspects like love (of a Princess and of oneself).
One of the failures of Kizikiza as a collection are its inability to trace out (on paper) the trail of the vices it strongly denounces. If the society was to fix the glitches in its present make up, I believe it would have to revisit the past somehow. The other problem is letting the collection infect the public with the malady of poorly written Luganda. It’s an inexcusable crime.
This review is written, for Turn The Page, by Raymond Lule.