Kizi Kiza – Samson “Xenson” Ssenkaba.

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The cover image of Samson “Xenson” Ssenkaba’s collection of both Luganda and English written poems; KiziKiza.

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:

 

Obudde buzibye

enjuba egenze

Enzikiza ekutte

Mubanga lyensi

 

English translation:

 

Night is here

The sun has fled

the world

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:

 

Fumitiriza omuntu

eyatusooka Kintu

singa Kintu

addamu ofuuka omuntu

n’atuuka mu katundu

wakati mu city

nga bamukwata mmundu

ne baton mu taano

city bagyetolodde

babunye buli kanyomero.

 

English translation:

 

Let’s assume Kintu

the first man came

to life once more and

suddenly appeared

in the heart of the

city and he found

policemen at all

corners holding

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.

KiziKiza is self-published, by Samson Senkaba a.k.a Xenson. Copies are available for purchase, and delivery worldwide, via Turn The Page’s online bookshop.

This review is written, for Turn The Page, by Raymond Lule.

Flame And Song – Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa.

Flame and Song Cover 2

The cover image of Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa’s Flame And Song.

Reading Flame And Song is an emotional experience, and I found myself hooting with laughter, before wiping away unbidden tears. The author writes in a way that draws you in, and demands that you feel the way she feels, every step of the way. I had a difficult time putting it down, even when I had so many other things to do. Rather than a mere recount of a life, it is a history book as seen through the eyes of a real person, one who lived between the pages.

The author, having been born soon after Uganda attained her independence, brings to life the experiences of Uganda. First, there is the calm before the storm – soon after independence, the quiet organized life of a civil servant’s young family. This soon escalates into the chaos of the Idi Amin days. You will find that her apprehension fills your gut as you read about the close calls they had with the mercurial and brutal authorities. When the family flees into exile, you will have the privilege of moving with the author to different foreign lands, and, later, experience the sweet euphoria of coming home. The chapter about loss will, sadly, leave you heartbroken, having a hard time saying goodbye to the people that have now become loved characters.

I loved the book for its intricate weaving of sweet poetry with simple flowing prose. In some ways, it is an anthology with long explanatory notes. In others, it is a group of stories that transitions into poems when the emotion gets visceral. I had high expectations when I discovered that the author was born to Henry Barlow, the poet known most for “Building the Nation”. After reading this book, Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa is, indeed, her father’s daughter, despite the surname difference.

Even more profound, is the “child-like” manner in which the story is told. It is evident that the author maintains her memories in pristine form, the years of hardships unable to wipe away the happy times. So, you will find yourself growing with her from the protected and loved child to the woman she later becomes.

In many ways, the book is political: showing the lived experiences of ordinary people living through the changing times. As a memoir, it has the power of truth behind it to pass across important messages like care for the disabled and the debilitating state of healthcare in Uganda.

I would highly recommend this book, and I think it is all the encouragement we need to immortalize our own stories by writing them down.

This review of Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa’s Flame And Song is prepared by Ophelia Kemigisha for Turn The Page. Flame And Song is a 2017 publication, by Sooo Many Stories. It is available on Turn The Page’s online bookshop for distribution and delivery worldwide.

A Year In Service, And April 2017.

 
A YEAR IN SERVICE.
 
It is now a few days past a year since we started out with what was the challenge that became the consuming thrill of contributing to the endeavour of making African Literature more accessible, more available, and more affordable for, first, Ugandans, and, now, readers from the rest of the world whom we have ably served. It has been a pleasure stocking up, reviewing, and having conversations about African Literature.
 
 
PARTNERSHIPS AND NETWORKS
 
In the period of a year, we have successfully sought, and made possible mutually benefiting partnerships with, for example, Writivism Literary Initiative (as their trading partners), Bookpoint Uganda (for the purpose of bettering availability of African Literature), a network of 35 public libraries and secondary, English and African Literature teaching schools (for the purpose of growing a network, one aimed at making African Literature more accessible) and Orangepine Reading Space, which is in Kamwokya, Kampala, right opposite the Uganda Museum/British Council/DAKS Toyota (which is one of our physical, points of sale in Uganda.) We have opened up Rwanda, as forthcoming details will illustrate.
 
Beyond Uganda, we have entered partnerships with, for example, Roving Heights, which is a Nigeria based book distributor. Such partnerships are aimed at availing, in Eastern Africa, books, from Western Africa, we previously could not find, and, in Western Africa, books, they previously could not find.
 
As such, we are now able to serve orders for books coming in from local, Ugandan towns that were never on the reading radar like Ishaka, Jinja, and Kitgum and those from countries both near and far like Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, Austria and Switzerland, to mention but a few of our most recent deliveries. 
Our shipping policy is, currently, a standard of 24 hours within Kampala, 48-72 hours within East Africa, and 5 – 7 working days worldwide. We are fast turning into what we have positioned ourselves to be; a local company, but with a global perspective.
 
Please note that a detail of all our partners is to be illustrated on our website which is being redesigned to make it more beautiful, much easier to navigate, and will be shared in due course.
We hope for more mutually benefiting, beautiful partnerships in the future.
 
BOOK REVIEWS
 
Our book reviews, made possible by a passionate team of reviewers, those which were previously available online – on our website – and shareable via social mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, are now published, on Mondays, in The Daily Monitor, a leading local independent daily newspaper for reading by a much wider audience. The first result of this partnership is Esther Mirembe Astar‘s review of Panashe Chigumadzi‘s Sweet Medicine, which was published, in the Daily Monitor, on Monday, March 26, 2017.
 
 
BOOK CLUB – #TTPBookMeet
 
Our book club meetings, which are targeted at having more people having conversations about works of African Literature have happened, consistently, on a fortnight basis, in 2016, and on a monthly basis, in 2017. We have read, and shared, and passionately so, on various, scheduled common texts of the month, and interacted with several authors who have graced us with their appearances.
 
The very next #TTPBookMeet will be held on April 7, in Hive Colab, Kampala, Uganda. We will be hosting Nakisanze Segawa, for an interactive, retrospective reflection of her debut novel, The Triangle. You are invited to join us physically, or, latently, by following the hast tag #TTPBookMeet, and interacting with us online as we live tweet these events.
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