Wine And Water – Hannah Onoguwe.

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Ah. Breathtaking.

Turn on your audio player, set it to low, load your favourite romance playlist, pour some wine in a glass and start reading this collection. Pure romance that comes from what we can now call the literary heart of Africa, Nigeria.

Wine And Water is a short story collection by Hannah Onoguwe that is, simply, about love and romance. Love, in Africa. Love, in Nigeria. Urban love stories with little to none of the complications that many African stories are about. It’s not easy finding a concentrated and filling telling of love stories from Africa without the bias of the political, cultural, religious or economic.

Hannah concentrates on love. On the flutters of love, on the discovery of love, on the pursuit of love, on the celebration of love. It is romance through and through.

Twelve stories, let’s call it a love dozen, a love album.

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Hannah has a gift in naming her stories. The titles are short and succinct and each time I finished one, nodded my head in agreement that yes, the title was apt. For instance Live Wire, a tale where a lady moving into a new neighbourhood needs an electrician and unexpectedly finds one in an “electric” man next door.

Or The Unwrapping about a rich girl who knows that all, if not most men interested in her, are after her money and has built up layers around her to protect her from such. How one unexpected man unwraps her fears and layers and opens her up to a sincere pursuit of love.

Or Mad Traffic, where love starts after a traffic jam accident. Or “Friends” where friends unwittingly finding themselves in the friendzone break out of it.

The characters are varied. However, most of the stories are of young love. So you will find many of our characters are either at school or working and finding each other.

There is a strong presence of friendship and family in all the stories. Many of the stories indicate that a good love story has some blessing of kinship/family with it. Brothers and sisters doing favours for their siblings so they can find love; cousins making things easier for their cousins by giving some advice or needed knowledge. Friends giving up some things that their friends can find love. It was peaceable. It was soft on the heart.

Hannah goes to great lengths to purify love in this collection. And not just love. About appealing to general decency and goodness. It is as though it is an appeal to readers that perhaps love can be pure, and guileless. That perhaps people can reach for this goodness.

In one story, Baggage To Love, the pursuer, Lawrence quite unlike any man Amina has met, finds himself falling for someone he’s helping. On one of their first encounters, he finds that she has just quit a bad job and kept her dignity intact but despite it, she’s still jobless. He pledges to help her.

In one of their conversations, simple truths can be learned about decency.

―There was a condition,” she said flatly. She could read from his eyes that he knew what it was even before she went on. ―He wanted an affair and when I refused, he fired me.” Lawrence shook his head slowly. ―They‘re everywhere, aren‘t they? With what I see today, I really admire a girl with ideals like yours, especially when you could have obtained a tertiary education if you‘d given in.”” ―Ideals?” Her voice was strangely sad. ―It‘s not about ideals. I just don‘t think anyone likes being taken advantage of.

I was particularly drawn into a story or two more than I should have because it was close to home. I am predicting when you read you will find some stories that draw you in too close too.

One of them was a love relationship that starts at the end of someone’s life. Aptly titled For the Living.

―I can‘t help thinking…” Her gaze fell from his. ―I feel selfish- crass, somehow- thinking about my love life so soon after…last week.” ―The fact that you‘re thinking of the future doesn‘t mean you loved Kevin any less. Life…is for the living, my dear. You‘ve got to live yours; you have your own part to play.

It draws me in a lot because of this quote but also initially due to the fact that Kevin has Sickle Cell Anaemia. Nigeria and Uganda share as much of the brunt of the terminal illness but little of it comes out in Literature. I appreciate Hannah bringing it into literature, even if the circumstances are anything but pleasant.

Another close to home story can be one we all know of. “Fuck boys” or “Fuck girls”. People who we lose our hearts to without thinking. And regardless all the cautionary advice can’t help it. One such tale is between Ibime and Rekiya. The tale goes a little different this time, in Hannah’s redemptive style. Where, perhaps in that “Fuck boy” or “cheat”, someone did love you.

It is truly romantic, in both meanings of the word, this twelve story collection by Hannah. However it is such beautiful romance. She uses techniques like suspense and misdirection quite well.

All the kissing scenes, are something out of the golden age Hollywood. Innocent. Passionate. So full. You will think about your significant other quite often while you read this book.

Wine And Water is a collection of traditional love stories told in the experiences of characters from urban Nigeria. It is love that happens at the workplace, at school, during traffic, at home, at the wedding etc. It is traditional in that it is love stories told the good old way of lovers pursuing their loved ones. It is traditional in that it is men pursuing the women they love. Some being so cocky, you laugh derisively, some so pure, you awww like a child. Yet it doesn’t make the female characters inert. They are the essence of the stories. Their acceptance, or refusal make the story what it is.

It is a story collection for lovers of love. For those needing a whetting of their romantic, need to read this book.

This review, of Hannah Onoguwe‘s Wine And Water, is written, for Turn The Page Africa, by the eminent Joel Benjamin Nevender.

Wine And Water was published and launched in 2017.

#TTPBookMeet’s Schedule Of Events From July To December 2017

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The most recent #TTPBookMeet, in which we hosted Xenson, for a conversation on his Kizi Kiza.

Hello, there.

Greetings.

We hope that you have been keeping well.

After taking a hiatus during the month of June 2017, to both reflect and prepare better, Turn The Page Africa’s #TTPBookMeet continues this July for its original bimonthly meetings which are made up of interactions with authors making appearances and conversations about common texts for the month.

We have, therefore, detailed a calendar of events for the period July 2017 through December 2017. This calendar is now available readily available on our website. We have, in addition, made the most of Facebook’s events function, just like we have been using our Goodreads group before to make it much more convenient for as many more to discover and RSVP their participation, which is often to any and all.

That calendar is as follows;

JULY

On Friday, July 28, 2017, #TTPBookMeet will meet for a reading, and reflection, on Mugabi Byenkya’s Dear Philomena, his debut novel.

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Dear Philomena is a story of two strokes, one girl, one boy, and a whole lot of magical realism. It captures the ways that people read, live and behave in the new millennium. Byenkya speaks to mental and physical health, love and friendship, support and patience in ways that have yet to be done; all the while creating a uniquely suspenseful and thoughtful piece of literature.

The title is available for sale on our online bookshop and in our points of sale in Kampala, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda. It has also been reviewed, by Laureene Ndagire, for our website.

 AUGUST

#TTPBookMeet will have two meetings in August. The first on August 11, and the second on August 25.

In the first, #TTPBookMeet will host a yet to be announced author, for a conversation and reflection on their work.

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In the second, #TTPBookMeet will meet for a reading and reflection on We Are All Blue, a title, which, for the first time in Botswana’s history, moves drama from the stage to print. We Are All Blue consists of two award-wining plays by Donald Molosi: Blue, Black and White and Motswana: Africa, Dream Again. Quett Masire, Botswana’s second president, contributes the foreword to this unique volume.

Joel Benjamin Nevender has reviewed We Are All Blue before. It is also available for purchase and delivery worldwide on our online bookshop.

SEPTEMBER

It is in September that #TTPBookMeet will meet, first, on September 8, for an author appearance, to be made by a to be announced author for a conversation on their work.

In the second book club meeting, which will be on September 22, for a reading of and reflection on A Poetic Duet.

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Jane Okot p’bitek Langoya and Sophie Nuwagira Bamwoyeraki coauthored A Poetic Duet is an anthology whose poems resonate across ethnic communities and generations. It adds to the growing corpus of poems that have emerged from Uganda over the years.

The title is available in our points of sale in Uganda and Rwanda and on our online bookshop for delivery both locally and worldwide.

OCTOBER

#TTPBookMeet will meet on October 6, and October 20, for an author appearance and a conversation on a common text of the month respectively.

On October 6, #TTPBookMeet will host a to be announced author for an interaction on work which, as it will be Uganda’s independence month, reflects on our odyssey since 1962, and how the literary realm has illustrated it over the years.

On October 20, #TTPBookMeet will confer for a conversation on Flame And Song, the common text of the month.

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Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa’s Flame ANd Song is a soul-warming memoir tells of a life enriched by song, literature, food and spirituality at the heart of a loving family.

Ophelia Kemigisha has reviewed Flame And Song for our website. It is available in our points of sale in Uganda and Rwanda and on our online bookshop for delivery both locally and worldwide.

NOVEMBER

#TTPBookMeet will host a to be named author or November 3, and meet, again, for a retrospective reflection on the common text of the month, on November 17.

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On November 17, #TTPBookMeet will meet for a reflection of Othuke Ominiabohs’s A Conspiracy Of Ravens. Othuke Omniabohs’ which is a deftly woven tale of love and hate, patriots and traitors, and of heroes and villians. A tour de force. A thriller.

A Conspiracy Of Ravens has been reviewed, by Rachel Kunihira, for our website.  It is available in our points of sale in Uganda and Rwanda and on our online bookshop for delivery both locally and worldwide.

DECEMBER

#TTPBookMeet will close the year with two meetings in December, the first on December 1, and the last on December 15.

We will let you know which author we will be hosting on December 1.

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For the second and last #TTPBookMeet, there will be a reflection on Sumayya Lee’s two titles The Story Of Maha and Maha Ever After, which, as Ophelia Kemigisha reviewed, Sumayya Lee skilfully highlights serious issues of apartheid, racism, and sexism without moving away from what appears to be the privileged life of Maha – her main character.

The Story Of Maha and Maha Ever After are both available in our points of sale in Uganda and Rwanda and on our online bookshop for delivery both locally and worldwide.

The Audience Must Say Amen – Peter Kagayi.

On Tuesday, June 6, 2017 Peter Kagayi and his friends staged a performance they titled The Audience Must Say Amen. This is Raymond Lule’s impression of the experience.

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I have been present at all of Peter Kagayi’s poetry production The Audience Must Say Amen, from the very first time, at the launch of his debut poetry collection at the National theatre, to the most recent one, at the Goethe Zentrum Kampala. If there’s any I missed, then, I just wasn’t invited. I won’t claim to have been taking keen observation of the changes, if any, in the production since then, but I can identify some of them.

The first time The Audience Must Say Amen was staged at the National theatre, it could easily be called a one-man show. And, that’s exactly what it was. Before this memorable event in the history of poetry in this country, other poets had dared themselves to recite or perform their poems for a period of utmost two hours, and avail a published collection of their work, for those who managed. This happened at the National theatre still, under a poetry platform called The Poetry Shrine. The platform, which got its name “Shrine” because of the hut in which the shows were held, was being managed by Peter Kagayi himself, and a small circle of like-minded friends.

When Kagayi stepped on stage that day of his book launch, he was taking a shot at something he had helped other fellow poets accomplish. This was supposed to be tough, because he had made a name for himself in our small, but growing poetry community as a remarkable performer. But, that was “Kagayi and friends”. He had to do more, to reach for the sun and still stay alive, to go for the peak of poetry performance – the one-man show.

For most of the previous performances, Kagayi did the reciting and the performing, the dramatization of his work. The people who helped him were selected for simple “supporting” roles like dancing behind a projector-screen as the performance for the poem Nightmares, or reading news for the poem The Headline That Morning.

For his most recent show, at the Goethe Zentrum Kampala, however, it felt, sounded, and looked like a completely new piece of work. Despite what has always happened at his – Peter Kagayi’s – previous shows, like the “mandatory” utterance of the word Amen by the audience, what was happening on stage was a reproduction of what most of us had experienced before.
The people Kagayi was performing with mere not mere props but well-built characters with individual powerful stories to tell, and with the ability to have just as much effect on the audience as the main act himself.
The production took a form of a play. Most of the scenes were conversational enough to keep all the characters alive throughout the entire show, and to not bore the audience with the usual uninterrupted recital of poetry.
I believe what set this particular show apart is that us, the audience, could tell that all the performers were enjoying themselves, and not just maintaining a certain posture or movement so they don’t forget the next line they are supposed to say.

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I remember the conversation I had with Alexander Twinokwesiga as we took the same taxi from Kamwokya to the old taxi park. It was about maturity: of the artist, mostly, and then, of course, of the performance of his work. We also shared a couple of bitter words for people not recording videos of such shows for the purposes of better documentation, and archiving for future reference.

In fact, on telling anyone who did not attend, about how the show was, we both agreed that pictorial evidence would not be enough to tell the story as it was. Here we were, two poetry lovers, going back to our homes with all the courage to say, even if nobody asks, that the poetry in our own country has grown. We were proud. We were satisfied. We said Amen with all our hearts.

Dear Philomena – Mugabi Byenkya.

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Dear Philomena is a story of pain, suffering, torment, brokenness, stepping into a dark pit of the unknown, and, just as you are about to disappear, someone pulls you back. This someone doesn’t just appear out of the blue, they were there with you all the time. Through the pain and suffering, they held your hand, and their presence detected your final steps into that dark pit of unknowns and they were on hand to pull you back.

Imagine going through something that you are almost unable to explain, or, imagine you seeing dead people (literally). You try to explain to those around you, but either; (a) they think you have finally lost your marbles, (b) they pretend for a while that they see them too, just to humour you perhaps till they get wary of the ghost stories, (c) they hang around long enough to prove to you that you need help (except they won’t be the ones to offer you the help, but know a doctor friend of a cousin married to a sister of a guy you met 5years ago on an international flight, whose card you might or might not have but will check), (d) there at the brave ones who tell you straight away there are no such things as ghosts. But, there is that one person, she hangs around long enough to almost take on your pain, they see the dead people with you, or, for the sake of your mentality, they accept that indeed there are dead people right there in front of you and they see them too.

Dear Philomena is a testament of friendship through the good and really ugly, the sort of ugly some wish on their worst enemies. The good is there, but overshadowed by the plain ugly. You may be led to believe it is the story of a boy and a girl (we love these kinds of stories), except, it is not about that kind of boy or that kind of girl.

One could choose to read Dear Philomena from the point of the relationship between Mugabi and Philo as I fondly came to name her while reading the book. It is a long-distance relationship, the kind that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have over the phone, in Sleepless In Seattle, but without the mushy stuff. If you were to take away Mugabi’s pain, the endless visits to doctors, the frustrations, the anger, pain, behind it you witness a beautiful long-distance friendship. Though at one point you may choose to see it as a relationship, because you want to believe these two will end up together or were together at some point and one had to move away.

Through the excruciating pain, Philomena is at Mugabi’s side, though not physically, but she is there in spirit. He cannot explain his condition and neither can the doctors, but it stems from a childhood stroke he had, coupled, perhaps, with the trauma of losing his father. The strokes keep coming, he goes on a pillage (pilgrimage of all sorts of medications, traditional and conventional), through all sorts of therapy, trial experiments, sleepless nights. He, at one point, is rendered disable which surprise doctors cannot explain. He has the kind of friends who think he is making it up (including doctors), they diagnose it as being “in his head”, and recommend therapy, the list of friends dwindles down, he is not “fun” to have out with because of his phantom illness, they too grow wary.

He has those who stick around, the ones who say I am with you, I sympathise with you, I am here if you need anything. And then there is Philomena. She almost wears his pain, across the distance, she takes on a second skin, Mugabi’s skin, so she can be there with him to almost carry this cross with him, though it’s not possible.

Reading Dear Philomena, I am reminded of the value of family, and relationships that go with it, relationships with our siblings. Mugabi is living away from his native Uganda, his father is gone, his mother is back “home” and he is living in a different country with his siblings. Some people going through this might choose to return “home”, get treated by family or even taken to a pastor to pray healing into you!

Mugabi stays in the US, his siblings rally around him, especially his sister. She almost takes on the mother role, she attends the doctors’ appointments, monitors his medication, that one point she is able to advise of a medication that had previously had negative effects on her brother. While we don’t read much about Mugabi’s sister, we are left to imagine this bond held between the siblings, they lean on each other.

Reading Dear Philomena in a way makes one feel like they are doing “lugambo”, which in Luganda translates into gossip. We are in essence listening in or rather reading in on these conversations between Mugabi and Philomena, we are eavesdropping in on their communications and during the moments that we are not, the phone calls that we are only told the duration of, even these phone calls, we try to string together and let our imagination run wild. What did they talk about, are their calls interrupted, and who in this day and age has hour long conversations – think of the phone bill (regardless of the popularity of the paaka paaka or tokota business), and, seriously, didn’t we stop having these long calls back in high school?

Nevertheless, these conversations give us a further glimpse into the relationship of Philo and Mugabi, how intertwined their lives are. We are invited into their past, their history and their present, of Philomena’s journey through nursing school to qualifying. At a point, they appear to be having brother and sister conversations, this shifts to what could be perceived as “lovers in conversation”, and then friends. They fill each other in on their days, their lives, milestones, and even love lives, at least Philomena’s love life. She shares with us (with Mugabi) the dates she goes on, and her crushes. We almost want that she goes on these dates with Mugabi and not other guys because clearly they are both just meant to be. But, he never asks her, although he remains supportive. He remains a true friend ready to hear about her dating life and offer advice. We never quite know if Mugabi eventually gets the help he needs, if he gets better or is eventually put on a treatment regime that will see him get better.

The book just ends abruptly, though if it were to continue, I am not sure how the story would unfold. Would Mugabi return to Uganda to seek “alternative” treatment, would he move to the same state as Philomena, return to school, or would the doctors find out what’s “wrong” with him? A very interesting read, highly recommended.

Dear Philomena is written by Mugabi Byenkya, and published, in 2017, by Discovery Diversity Publishing. This review of it is written for Turn The Page by Laureene Ndagire. The title is available for ordering and delivery on our online bookshop and in all our points of sale in Kampala (Orangepine Reading Space and Bookpoint Uganda) for pick up.

Season Of Crimson Blossoms – Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Associations. When I put the book down, a little of Oedipus Rex came to mind, a little of Romeo and Juliet, a little of A Thousand Splendid Suns. However despite all the remembrances, the book was a new shocking but captivating story that explored the associations of ethnicity, religion, politics and sexuality.

The story’s movement is always in the background of Northern Nigeria even though it is mainly centred in central Nigeria where you are brought into the intersection of the lives of Binta Zubairu and Hassan aka ‘Reza’, an uncanny association seeing as the latter is a street thug thirty years the junior of the former, a widow of fifteen years.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s introduction, even while itself speaking of a puddle, introduces you into the puddle of politics, religion and love in Northern Nigeria. It’s an unfortunate history, that of the endless variance between Nigeria’s two foremost religions Christianity and Islam and this book shows you the likeness of its effects on the people who live in its hot zones – Maiduguri but most importantly, Jos.

The violence and loss that Binta and her family experience in Jos is what leads her to the fringes of Abuja- Mararaba, to be exact. There, for a while of about 15 years, she settles with her niece Fai’za and granddaughter Ummi with occasional visits from her remaining children who include, Hureira, the hot tempered and Munkaila the well to-do.

The best thing about this book to me is the synchronous growth of the characters with the history of the country and how each individual character tries to deal with all these forces placed on them.

Binta and Reza’s story are the limelight. Their relationship riding on the fact that each of them had troublesome relationships with their corresponding relations – Binta and her strained relationship with Yaro, her first son whose name tradition could not let her speak, Reza, whose mother was a prostitute working in Jeddah.

Somehow fate works to bring them together to fill the roles of the people they needed most. At the beginning when I spoke of Oedipus, it kept ringing at the back of my mind. What if the Binta just wanted her first son back? What if Reza simply wanted his mother? The circumstances that bring them together create an unusual relationship which is consummated.

Yet those are not the only things affecting these two characters. There is that Mallam Haruna fellow who because of some unusual attraction to the widow uncannily calls curtains on the whole affair. The manner that Abubakar presents Haruna makes you loathe him. You wonder what his mission in life is.

Yet he’s not the only one that affects the relationship between Binta and Reza. There is the issue of the politicians, pulling the strings, using and disposing of people as they please. Like the Senator boss. When you read this story and look at this man, you somewhat feel helpless as a normal citizen. If the works are being controlled by a few older, well connected, well sourced people, what hope is there for the younger and the poorer not connected to them?

Fai’za’s story speaks to a lot of things. The one particular thing that spoke to me was the pervasion of homegrown art and literature in Nigeria. Her crush on Nigerian star actor Ali Nuhu, her consumption of Soyayya novels which are steadily delivered by her friends showcase this and in a small way show us why Nigeria’s art is big on the continent.

The sadder part of Fai’za’s story is her “sepia dreams”. The ethnic politics of the country led to her loss of a beloved brother Munkaila, whose face, as time goes on, she forgets and is drawn into near madness. A budding artist who uses art to vent, forgetting Munkaila’s face becomes problematic.

There are noble characters in the book, such as Ustaz Nura whose approach to religion is that of a continual cleansing such that there is little room for condemnation or judgement. There is a deeply engaging part of this book as regards religion/spirituality.

At the beginning of the tale, Az Zahabi’s “The Major Sins” is a highlight on Binta’s table but her indiscretions somehow lead to a time when it’s at the bottom of a pile of books. Binta is religious but struggles deeply with this attraction to Reza. It’s unwitting that all the while even in her sin, her consciousness of sin but her helplessness to prevent it is present.

The book is quite a journey. The characters are deeply human and are deeply present with you. Doesn’t matter whether you’re in the gang controlled San Siro, or the Senator’s plush residence drinking tea just for the fun of it. You realise humanity is both wicked and desperately trying to be righteous. Questions posed are whether we become who we are because of our circumstances and this book pretty much agrees to this, for very few of the characters are driven by a pure need to be good.

There’s so much to chew on this volume. So much to say yet inexhaustible but for sure, it does give me a clearer picture of Nigeria and makes me sad about the intricacies of life and makes me wonder, that stranger you passed by today, do you even have a clue how complex their life could be, beyond that smile or that hijab or that key swinging?

It was a compelling read.

This paperback version of Season Of Crimsom Blossoms is published, in April 2017, by Cassava Republic. The image is a Google one. The title is not yet avaibale on our online bookshop, but copies of it can be ordered for by contacting us by way of e-mail (turnthepageafrica@gmail.com), or through our social media channels (@TTPAfrica).

Activities In May: A Moment With Xenson, And A Home In Orangepine.

Greetings.

We are hoping that you have kept yourself well enough.

#TTPBookMeet
Our book club meetings, which you have interacted with before, especially by way of our social media networks as #TTPBookMeet, continue this May.

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A Moment With Xenson
We will be meeting on Friday, May 5, 2017, for a reading of, an interaction on, and a performance of the writing and/or poetry that makes Kizi Kiza, our common text for the month.

We will be joined by legendary artist, rapper, and writer, Samson “Xenson” Ssenkaba, the author of Kizi Kiza, who will grace us with his appearance, for a moment starting from 5:30 and ending at 7:00 PM.

In preparation for this #TTPBookMeet, you might want to read Raymond Lule’s review of Kizi Kiza.

A Home In Orangepine Reading Space
We have moved our Kampala book club meetings to Orangepine Reading Space, our new physical, brick and mortar home.

Within Orangepine Reading Space, we have set up a point of sale, for the benefit of those who live in the surburbs of Makerere, Wandegeya, Namugongo, Nalya, Kira, Kiwatule, Najera, Ntinda, Bukoto, and Kamwokya.

Orangepine Reading Space is on the 4th Floor of Singapore Business Centre, the higher orange building on Katego Road, and right opposite DAKS/Toyota and Seascallop Restaurant. It can be accessed via the route opposite the British Council or that goes up past Arcadia Suites. Do pay them a visit. They are open all day, and every day of the week.

Other Points Of Sale
Be remined and/or informed that our other physical, brick and mortar point of sale in Kampala exits in partnership with Bookpoint Uganda, which is housed in Village Mall, Bugolobi, and for the purpose of serving readers who reside in the areas of Namuwongo, Kireka, Bweyogerere, and, of course, Bugolobi.

Online Bookstore
Our online bookstore is, also, always open, and delivering, for those within Kampala, East Africa, and the rest of the world. The reviews keep coming, too.

Always remember to stay in the loop with us, and to keep reading more African Literature.

Be and stay well.

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.
CONNECT WITH US.
 
If you have not done so yet, please do connect to stay in the loop with us through our social media platforms. We are on Twitter as @TTPAfrica, on Facebook as Turn The Page (@TTPAfrica), on Instagram as @africanpages, on Goodreads as a group named Turn The Page, and on the web, or, rather, online via the link books.alextwino.com.
 
You can, also, subscribe to our newsletter by inputting your details into the newsletter button at the bottom of our website.
 
We will always be ready, and delighted to serve you and all your friends.

The Love Potion – Poetry Potion.

A love potion is termed as a substance (a brew or one close to alcohol) which when taken causes infatuation or obsession towards the person from whom it was received. In worse cases, a love potion is likened to an aphrodisiac, a substance made with or containing ingredients that intensify or arouse sexual desire.

poetry-potion2

The cover image of The Love Potion.

In the first poem in the collection, Hand in Hand, Charl Landsberg to the side of the world where a certain kind of love is abominable. Landsberg is passionate about LGTBQI issues, as stated in his biography. The two people (whose gender isn’t clear) in the poem are involved in a relationship that makes them liable to a haul of slurs, “judging glares”, or even worse, a lynching. The play, drama, movie, dance, or whatever had taken people to the theater, despite not being mentioned by the poet, could be responsible for influencing the views of the majority.

I think that, sometimes, the pleasures art gives aren’t because of its truthfulness or marvelous conveyance of spirit but because of how it justifies the ways of those who find it emotionally satiating. If we try to estimate the time between “we arrived quite early for the show” and “we walked through that crowded theater hall” we can get closer to understanding the fate of the couple in the poem, and the moral stand of the society. The word “quite” is like a halt, an indication of fear, the body’s way of saying no.

Most of the poems that come after Hand In Hand deal with a tormenting inability to move on from being the bearer of feelings.

In Life, Motena Tintswalo writes;

I guess what we have is a love-hate relationship.
Sometimes I wish I could close my eyes and never see you again.

When we think of a love potion, we think of it as “induced blindness” (taken from the phrase love is blind). But here, the act of closing one´s eyes, if it weren´t merely a lingering wish, would mean suicide to one´s own body and hence death to love feelings too. It seems as though love and death go together; that in some instances one has to first die to understand the pains of love. This reminds me of Men Die When They Fall in Love, a poem I wrote a few years ago.

Ravona writes in her poem Love Hurts that:

What knows a bleeding heart
than to love.
All I know is your love made my nose run red and my body dead.

Then there are other poems where love and its pain lead to adaption or the evolution of a new being like in Analgesia by Ashraf Booley:

Pain numbs pain;
razor-blades and minora blades
bandage bleak memories
etched across blood-blotched skin-
where sagacity has gone astray.

Two poems in the collection are concerned with the unannounced “departure” of love and the judgment of its lifespan, as a living thing or “being”.

Menzi Maseko´s On My Own tells of a time when love´s charm outlives the mortality of a people´s beloved. The How Can Love Be Dead? that seems to give birth to the whole poem is directed towards Love itself and the person who asks it. Ameer Shaikh´s poem Can A Poem Ever Die? on the other hand is about a different possibility. Here, “poem” takes the place of “love”. It breathes the air of words and celebrates the scent of ink. But unlike humans, where death is inevitable, the creation of a poem isn´t effective at making this fact of life known from the beginning.

Poems, like love and humans thrive because of different reasons. Some, if not most thrive because of the questions they engender, and not those they answer. One of the questions that come from Ameer´s poem is: What makes a poem special? Special in a way that in wondering about its susceptibility to death the adverb “ever” is used. A poem lives such a beautiful life that one never expects it to die. What is the “death” of a poem anyway? To Ameer, “a poem dies when it loses meaning”. Doesn’t love too?

The poems in the collection fail by being lopsided in their exploration of the effects of love and its charms. I’d expect some merriment in one being crazy over another. Perhaps?

The Love Potion is a print quarterly publication by Poetry Potion.

Love poems, poetry about love. Love for country, lover, friend, family, self, life, nature, freedom, truth…and so much more are things that this edition explores.

Copies of this title and more are available for purchase and delivery worldwide on our online bookshop, and in our points of sale in Kampala, Uganda, and in Kigali, Rwanda.