OBITUARY: Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa.

An endarkened image of Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, during the Turn The Page Africa book club meeting of June 29, 2016, when we had a retrospective reflective on Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu, a title he loved and that we enjoyed conversing about.

 

By the time you read this, you will have probably read much of what several people have written about Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa; about who he was, and what he was capable of doing. It is those same things that made him, if I may, popular; and that drew you towards him.

It is, therefore, rather complex, puzzling and mysterious for me to paint a picture of the life of a man who spent his life painting pictures, one who did not proceed with any piece of writing because, he said to me, he treated it like a painting and did not want to mess up with its composition. He was one who respected every stroke of the brush he made while in the process.

It would, therefore, be a disastrous risk to make a mess of any reflections of a life well painted. It is a daunting task. A scary one. I do not know where to begin or where to end. I will run on and on, because, as Joel taught me, I should never leave anything unfinished.

In my case, I have after days of contemplation and pushing through so much pain on the realization of the impact of the loss, and the imagination of a world without Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa – chosen to remember and celebrate him from two perspectives; as a patient and as a partner; and then from the two, draw lessons which can help inspire us to follow in his lead and be better.

Of Pain, And The Endurance Of It

Joel was a man whose endurance had been tested, tried and found to be as tight as a drum. His life was one of pain, immense pain, whether he was alright or not so. When he was alright, he was worrying. When he was low, he was frightening. On both occasions, he kept cheerful when we talked, and was always hopeful of better days. The bright moments he shared with us could be interpreted as the only alternative he had away from his pain. We are only blessed that he shared that alternative with us.

To me, Joel had traversed the cliché that is the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but he had done it all backward. On realization that his illness – sickle cell anaemia – was terminal, he accepted his fate and lived with the knowledge that it would hurt and that it would, after all the challenges that there are, be the end of his life’s journey.

However, before that, he was also well aware that he had things to achieve, and the ability to achieve them, and that it was all up to him to do so.

When his caretaker, Aunt Monica, his Mother, Mrs. Nyanzi Deborah, and all the people with whom I visited him in hospital were concerned about his dehydration, his weight loss, his poor appetite and more, his mind was always set on returning to the swing of things, to work, to deliver on promises he had made, to have the meetings he had missed, and to beat the deadlines he had set even when it was those same things that brought both him and us back to his sick bed.

To him, and us, his passing on would be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness was a process. And he went through his process, rather quite fearlessly. On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, we laid Joel to rest in his final resting place in Mityana, Uganda, and in doing so, put an end to a life of immeasurable pain.

Of Pain, And The Zeal To Deal With It

Joel was not the easiest of patients to take care of. He scared some of us. I, for one, am not a person who pays attention to sleeping, feeding, eating and resting but seeing Joel choose only a bottle of juice over water or food had me saying things like; “Joel, when it comes to food, eat like you are taking medicine.” I really wanted him to get better, stronger, and healthier. On days when Joel’s situation deteriorated, and his Mother’s blood pressure rose, I was on the hunt for obushera – refreshing millet floor porridge – for its nutritious value. His medicine, I noticed, overwhelmed him. Our kashera could have helped him take in the nutrients he needed to reduce his dizziness. Tusiime Samson and I were considering options for a bone marrow transplant, even when Joel had assured me that he was past the age when he could be eligible for one.

Even in all this effort to get him better, Joel did not mind much about our options. He had already stared pain in the face and, unbeknownst to us, probably said to it; “You cannot touch me, I will beat you however much you try me.”

He, thus, did not want to be felt pity for. He, intriguingly, never gave people enough reasons to feel sad for him, which was admirable. I remember a moment in early 2017; January 2017, after visiting him and realizing that he was not at all well, I returned to his hospital room with the good friend that is Crystal Butungi Rutangye, one of the many I had invited to visit him. It was not her first time to visit/see him in a hospital. He never wanted her to visit in a hospital, she noted. I am not sure – of course, but I was probably right when I told Crystal that Joel did not want us to see him in his moments of weakness.

I feel terrible knowing that for all the times he was in and out of hospital, I was there, be it on a weekdays or weekends, but I was not there on this one day that happened to be his last there. I feel horrible knowing that while he was on his hospital bed, fighting his last fight, I was, in tandem, leaving him messages that he is yet to receive, that he will never receive.

I told Joel whenever he told me that he was too sick to be seen, that he should not tell me that nonsense again for I was going to see him whether he wanted or did not.

I wish that I could rewind the hands of time, so that he could receive my texts, and respond to them with four little words; I am in hospital, the same words he always needed to say for me go share in his company.

Of Pushing Through The Pain, Together

Due to recurring relapses, Joel’s visit to the hospital -Pearl Medical Centre in Kansanga, Kampala, the only hospital he had chosen because of its proximity to home, and because of the decent care they rendered him – I had become friends with some of his nurses – were frequent. His hospital bed was the battlefield on which we made decisions, plotted, made moves, and registered a few successes together.

On his bed – it is not that there were no chairs, but we got used to encroaching on his bed – we all agreed in our lament about hospitals, in general, especially those that pretended to care for sickle cell anaemia patients, like Nsambya and Mulago, which are failures to many who were there in the same boat and on the same ocean as Joel. He could not be served at the former, and he was ignored at the latter. He chose to be administered to at Pearl Medical Centre.

It was in the hospital that we talked a whole lot, as if we had never talked before and were now in a talking competition, about writing, editing, publishing, poetry, prose, art, events, people, girls, moments – isms, family, friends and, most importantly, God.

We, Crystal and I, encouraged him to write a book on more for, at the very least, the sake of immortality. I would keep reminding him, Crystal would help with the editing, and we would all work together in sourcing for a publisher that was good enough and willing to take on the mantle of publishing his works.

By April 2017, Joel mentioned to us that he had hard work he had either finished or was about to and whose manuscripts he was going to share with those concerned in September 2017. I was pleased, immensely, when he made Pumpkin Soup available to the public. It was the beginning of what would be glad tidings.

In the duration of two years of working together as colleagues at Turn The Page Africa, Joel had written, and we had published all his eleven book reviews and he had compered several book club meetings, #TTPBookMeet, which was a hash tag he came up with.

He was such a wonderful host that the conversations we had when we met never ended. On several occasions, we had to be chased out of our meeting places, like Kanjokya House, before we took them to other, more accommodating venues like Afri-Art Gallery or onto streets, and in parking lots, until our tongues were too heavy to talk any further.

Joel, The Colleague, And Spring Of Inspiration And Encouragement

Talking, however, was not enough. I involved myself in activities that I thought would be sending rays of hope and of positivity towards Joel. For example, when, as a marathon-tourist, I ran the Kabaka’s Birthday Run 2017, which was themed on the cause that was eliminating sickle cells, I dedicated it to him.

In my post-marathon, reflective blog, I noted, truly, thus;

My run and blog about this year’s Kabaka Birthday Run were/are both dedicated to Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, a.k.a Nevender, a friend of mine who labours under the challenge of this terminal illness, one whom I have grown to call my brother. I pray for him and others like him every other day and hope that they get better. My love for them is timeless.

We were, later, disappointed that the hundreds of millions of shillings which were made by the organizing committee, headed by a one Mr. Kabushenga, did not do anything we could identify for the benefit of sicklers in Uganda. I remember a moment when Joel and I compared notes and argued with a boda boda guy who claimed that the money collected had been put to good use, a claim he posited because one of his relations had benefited from it.  We are yet to see what it really did. I told Joel that all it was an opportunity for the organisers to get a handshake from the Kabaka (King).

Ma’ Man, My Hero!

In January 2017, Joel had spent the previous three months in and out hospital. I had spent the same period deeply depressed. I was totally dormant. I could not deliver on anything, no matter how much I tried. While seating beside him on his hospital bed, I told him about my failures, which provoked him to retort with the question; Why didn’t you tell me? I could have done that for you.

Coming from a person who had spent the same time in and out of hospital I was stunned. There sat a man who was at one of his lowest moments then, being offered help from a man who lay beside him for the reason of being in an even lower moment than the man who sat beside him. It was moments like that that made Joel my man, my hero.

He went on to applaud us (Turn The Page Africa) and to share his appreciation for our efforts. He said, and I paraphrase; the movement you are leading; literature, literature is growing again, like the way it used to be back in the day, because it had totally disappeared. I was and will be always be grateful for that comment (because I understand the nature of the industry that we operate in) and will always remember it as I work on bettering my best.

Joel and I were/are all about progress. We always talked about the next thing, and worked towards getting onto it. All our E-mails, texts, calls, tête-à-tête were characterized by messages laced with a sense of direction that was moving or going only forward and upwards. We did not have time for any other distractions. At another time, one that I recall, I said to him that “We have to move all the time “, and he responded by saying that “We shall”. Joel was my champion, our champion.

Joel and I were/are big dreamers. We had/have big dreams, at least within our shared literacy pursuits. He wanted to be published, and while he was disappointed that his work was rejected by a publisher in Kampala because it had a lot of death in it, we joined his guests of the day in laughing when I told them that my work was rejected by a publisher in Nairobi because it had a lot of love in it.

Joel wanted to be the biggest, best known reviewer of books in Africa. I had started on my nascent idea and dream of being the biggest, best known distributor of books in Africa. We gave him the sign-in credentials to the backend of our website, ttpafrica.com, and our social media accounts so that he could enjoy himself while he did what he loved, while I tried to grow the business prong of the company.

Whenever a new book was made available, especially a work of prose, he was the first person to get a review copy, while Raymond Lule, a gentleman we both respected and talked about as gifted when we recommended him to Crystal, got his share of works of poetry. When he got people inquiring about the availability of books, he shared their contacts with me, and asked me to take care of them.

We would meet, together with other like-minded, and other interested persons to have conversations on books in #TTPBookMeet, the book club meetings. We sure did enjoy every moment we shared.

Of Joel’s Work Ethic

Joel was gifted with a quality that is rather quite rare in these parts, that of work ethic. Whatever it is that he set his sight on or mind to, he did, irrespective of the challenges along his path. You could say that he was bullish or aggressive about his methods of work, but it was all for good. I still do not understand where he found the time or the guts, but he always delivered, and well. He worked so hard, and he complimented his efforts with attention to detail.

I once spent a moment with him at the Pearl Guide offices when Malcolm Bigyemano and I had gone there for a meeting, and observing him perfecting a flyer for an upcoming alcohol related event. I could not understand why he concentrated on it so much yet he did not even drink alcohol. That was Joel for you. He, also, made my life easier whenever he left it up to me to post his reviews. I did not have to edit them. My proof reading was only for purposes of doing my due diligence.

It was by his works that he was known. It was his works that helped him open the windows that he needed to connect to and preach tot both the physical and the virtual worlds, those both here and away.

I have told people who had never met him, and those who did not know him, like Hannah Onoguwe in Yenagoa, Nigeria, Usher Komugisha in Casabalanca, Morocco, Kasichana Riziki Mumba in Nairobi, Kenya, Timothy Kaboya in Kigali, Rwanda, Nimrod Muhumuza in Pretoria, South Africa, and Timothy Masiko in Nottingham, to mention but a few, that I do not know how to respond to their condolence messages, or how to console them but that they can find comfort in keeping the memories they have of him close to heart, and remember him by reading and appreciating every simple message that Joel left us.

It was through his works that Joel left his mark upon every one of us. I have grown to learn and accept that no matter who you are and/or how old you are, God takes us, any and/or every one of us when he is satisfied that we have given or shared with the world (however small or big that world is) whatever small or big things that he put us on earth for.

I am confident and will find consolation in knowing that Joel left his mark upon many, and that through his work, his name will not be forgotten. Like Chuma Nwokolo, the author of, inter alia, The Extinction Of Menai, (and one whose work Joel loved and last reviewed) tweeted when he borrowed from the aforementioned title; Joel might be gone, but he is not extinct. God does not take you away until you left your mark.

Of A World Without Joel

I am yet to conceive what a world without Joel looks and feels like, I have failed to imagine it. I do not want to. I do not want to live in a world less cheerful, less comforting, less knowledgeable, less positive, less engaging, less colourful, and less of the virtues and beliefs Joel upheld.

In losing Joel, we have lost a champion for many of us, young and/or old and an angel who walked amongst us. As day comes, and night falls, for the rest of our lives, we will all miss him.

I will forever be glad and satisfied that I met, and worked with and shared a couple of years with Joel, and that nothing kept us at bay whether he was not feeling well or when he was better.

It has been said that I have a big, accommodating heart, but it does not in any way compare to Joel’s. Joel introduced me to, or rather connected me with people I did not know, people that I would have missed, people that, looking back, are now what I consider pieces of the Joel Jigsaw Puzzle, one that is incomplete because he was the first and last piece. I will take it upon myself to stay connected with them and always appreciate them while we remember and celebrate Joel’s life. Certainly, it was not for nothing.

Dude, these might not be the right kind of words to say in this country of ours, but, just like I told you several times before; I love(d) you. Our love is, like I wrote to you, timeless.

May your beautiful soul rest in eternal peace, Ma’ Man!

This writing, by Alexander Twinokwesiga, appears here because Turn The Page Africa would not be much, and would be without much to celebrate if it was not for the contribution of Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa. We are and will forever be sincerely grateful for his efforts, advice, and company.

#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.

Dear-Ph

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.

Flame and Song Cover 2

 

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.

ravens

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.

SUMAYA-LEE2-267x300 THE-STORY-OF-MAHA2-267x300

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.

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.

TTP x Kizikiza (larger)-02

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.

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.

#TTPBookMeet Continues In March With Othuke’s Odufa.

Greetings.

Turn The Page Africa extends an invitation to you, and your friends, to the next #TTPBookMeet, which will take place on Friday, March 10, 2017, in Hive Colab, Kanjokya House, Kanjokya Street, Kampala, Uganda, starting from 17:30.

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We will be having a retrospective conversation about Othuke Ominiabohs’s Odufa: A Lover’s Tale, our common text for the month of March, 2017.

Odufa A Lover's Tale

Ominiabohs, in his debut novel, graphically chronicles the entire the entire gamut of emotional experiences of a tumultuous affair of young lovers. Laying bare each nerve strand in its raw sensitiveness, and cutting open each delicate naked vein bleeding with life, Ominiabohs unfolds with startling, and moving candour, the joy and pains, hopes and longings, sorrow and despair of a fragile love which, against a sea of overwhelming odds, fights for its survival and salvation.

Ominiabohs visited Kampala, Uganda, when his East African tour brought him to these parts of the world. While here, he held a reading, and signing at the Alliance Francaise de Kampala, both events held in proud association with Turn The Page.

Turn The Page has previously reviewed this very title, for the benefit of illustrating, briefly, its concerns of interest. The review, penned by Lynn Turyatemba, can be read here.

Copies of Odufa are available, for purchase, on Turn The Page’s online bookshop, which is currently accessible via books.alextwino.com.

We will be delighted to share your, and your friend’s, ever wonderful company.

#TTPBookMeet Resumes With Homegrown Love

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The cover image of Evelyn Karungi and Elma Asio’s Homegrown Love, #TTPBookMeet’s common text for the month of February.

While we are invested in making books available to readers though our bookshop, we, also, strongly believe that it is necessary to have conversations around and/or about books and more.

Please do join #TTPBookMeet, on Friday, February 10, 2017, as we resume our book club meetings for the year.
We will be joined by Elma Asio and Evelyn Karungi, the authors of Homegrown Love, a recently launched title for an interactive conversation.

We will meet in Hive Colab, which is on the fourth floor of Kanjokya House, and on Kanjokya Street, starting from 17:30.

For better preparation, please buy yourself a copy in anticipation of the meet.

Schedule Of Common Texts For 2017

Greetings.

We hope your holidays went well, and that 2017 has not any pathetic yet.

We, at Turn The Page, are delighted to inform you that the ever so engaging #TTPBookMeet resumes, as hereby scheduled, on Friday, February 10, 2017.

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Some of the titles, from past and forthcoming #TTPBookMeet

For 2017, we have taken advice from some of our members, thought, and planned to proceed as follows;

We will meet once a month, on the second Friday of every month, for a retrospective reflection on the common text for that month. A guest(s), whenever possible, will join us to contribute to and engage us in conversation.

To increase on the number of books that we will have covered and/or read throughout the year, it is worth noting that, beyond the common text for the month, we will couple it with either our own recommendation or the visitor’s or member’s own selection as long as its themes or topics of concern are relatable to the common text of the month and/or the conversation.

The schedule of common texts for the first half of the year is as follows

Date Time Title Author Theme(s) / Genre(s) Coupling Venue
Feb 10 17:30 Homegrown Love Evelyn Karungi & Elma Asio “Immigrant Literature” Gambit, The Thing Around Your Neck Hive Colab
March 10 17:30 Odufa: A Lover’s Tale Othuke Ominiabohs Love The Love Potion Hive Colab
April 14 17:30 The Triangle Nakisanze Segawa DocuFiction Kintu Hive Colab
May 12 17:30 Kizi Kiza Samson “Xenson” Ssenkaba Poetry A Poetic Duet, Poetry In Motion, A Nation In Labour, The Headline That Morning Hive Colab

 

For better preparations, copies of these and more titles are available (for your order, and our delivery of them) on our online bookshop.

If you have not done so yet, please remember to follow our social media accounts, @TTPAfrica, for Twitter and Facebook and @africanpages on Instagram, and, even better, to subscribe to our newsletter for any and all further information and the previews, reviews, and interviews that we will be churning out.

We wish you all the best during the year, a year in which we will continue serving you.

Activities In November. Events In December.

Greetings from Turn The Page.

We hope that the month of November has started off well enough for you and those that you care about.

  1. In November…

Common Text For The Month: Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Oduor.

During November, #TTPBookMeet will continue, as scheduled, with a reading and reflection of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust, our common text for the month. It will be the first of two book club meetings and will meet on November 11, 2016, in Hive Colab, from 5PM.

Dust is a spellbinding novel about a brother and sister who have lost their way; about how myths come to pass, history is written, and war stains us forever. It is a story of power, and deceit, unrequited love, survival and sacrifice.

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The cover image of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s novel Dust.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, its author, was born in Kenya. She is the winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. Hers is a breathtaking new voice.

Copies of Dust are available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copy.

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Author Appearance: Dilman Dila.

For the second #TTPBookMeet in November, which will be held on November 25, 2016, we will be hosting Dilman Dila, the author of A Killing In The Sun, for a reading, conversation and signing.

Dilman Dila is a Ugandan writer who has been recognised in many international prizes including the BBC Radio Playwright Competition, Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and Short Story Day Africa Prize. He is the author of two short books, The Terminal Move and Cranes Crest At Sunset. His films have won critical acclaim, including a nomination for Best First Feature at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.

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Dilman Dila’s A Killing In The Sun

A Killing In The Sun is a deftly crafted collection of speculative fiction from Africa. It draws from the rich oral culture of the author’s childhood to tell a wide variety of stories which run along the thin boundary of speculative and literary genres.

Copies of A Killing In The Sun are available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copy.

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  1. In December…

Book Tour: Othuke Ominiabohs’ East African Tour

TND Press, in collaboration with Fahimta Literary Discourse, will, in association with, amongst others, Turn The Page, bring Othuke Ominiabohs on a book tour of East Africa. Othuke is the Nigerian author of two titles; Odufa: A Lover’s Tale (2015) and A Conspiracy Of Ravens (2016).

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In Kampala, the event, which will include readings, signing, and conversations will be held on December 2, 2016, at Alliance Française de Kampala, and will start at 7PM.

Copies of both Odufa: A Lover’s Tale and A Conspiracy Of Ravens are available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copies of both titles.

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Othuke Ominiabohs’ Odufa: A Lover’s Tale.

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Othuke Ominiabohs’ A Conspiracy Of Ravens.

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Book Launch: Homegrown Love – Evelyn Karungi and Elma Asio.

Evelyn Karungi is a law graduate with a master’s degree in social sciences, and a certificate in United Nations Studies. She’s a go-getter who loves life; a social entrepreneur who enjoys living in both Kampala and New York. When she’s not working or writing, you can find her laughing, dancing, reading, or enjoying her favorite guilty pleasure: Korean dramas. Elma Asio is an accountant with a bachelor’s degree in commerce—but who needs numbers, when you have words? Quirky, loony, and a self-described “lucky bunny,” Elma has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, and is glad to have the opportunity to share some of them in Homegrown Love.

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Evelyn Karungi and Elma Asio’s Homegrown Love.

Homegrown Love is the short story collection you’ve always wanted, a gathering of beautifully observed, richly characterized, deftly plotted gems that focus on the tragedy and transcendence of everyday life. With humor, compassion, and appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit, these tales touch on a broad range of compelling topics, including the importance of holding on to hope and letting go of misguided love, integrating past hurts into a functional life, and how to cope with watching friends disappear as the golden years slip away. With warm and familiar narrative voices as your powerful yet gentle guides, you’ll find space for your own revelations and reflections through reading about experiences that will resonate with your own life. Comforting and inspiring, heart-rending and hilarious, Homegrown Love is a garden of delights where you will want to linger.

In association with Turn The Page, Homegrown Love will be launched in Kampala, at Piato Restaurant, on December 8, 2016, and starting at 6PM.

Copies of Homegrown Love will be made available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copy.

Please follow @TTPBookMeet on Facebook, and Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter for updates in the future.

 

#TTPBookMeet Activities In October

Greetings.

Turn The Page wishes you a happy new month. We hope October has been good enough to you so far.

This month, Turn The Page’s book club meetings will continue as has been the norm, every after a fortnight.

In the last meeting, on September 30, we were honoured to host and interact with the Lantern Meet of Poets. They were kind enough to share with us their history and future plans. Those, and more are detailed in an interview we documented and shared on our site.

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Rachel Kunihira, Elojah B Wojji, and Wobusobozi Kangere, all from the Lantern Meet Of Poets, when they joined #TTPBookMeet on September 30.

For October, we will have two meetings, one on Friday, October 14, when we will meet to have a conversation on, Gambit: Newer African Writing, our common text for the month.

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An image of the cover of Gambit: Newer African Writing.

Gambit: Newer African Writing is a unique collection of nine interviews and original short stories by emerging writers from across Africa. The stories in this anthology reflect the nuances that arise from living in a post-postcolonial Africa, where stereotypes are crumbling and writers are willing to tackle themes that are more social than political. Unlike other anthologies of African writing, Gambit‘s contributors are mostly based in their home countries, putting them closer to the themes they lyrically confront. The interviews provide insight into the writers’ inspirations, fears, hopes, and craft. The short stories reveal a range of experiences that are alive with grace, resilience, and humor. Gambit is one way to rediscover today’s writing from the African continent.

Gambit features the following contemporary African writers, most who have gone on to publish notable long reads or novels of their own: Abdul Adan (Somalia), Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria), Dami Ajayi (Nigeria), Richard Ali (Nigeria), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), Dango Mkandawire (Malawi), Donald Molosi (Botswana), Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Zimbabwe), Suzanne Ushie (Nigeria).

Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, who has preciously reviewed Gambit has promised us his leadership through this conversation.

The book club meeting will take place in Hive Colab, on the 4th Floor of Kanjokya House, on Kanjokya Street. It will be starting at 5PM.

We will be delighted to share your wonderful company.

To better prepare for the meet, it would be more than nice to place an order for your own copy by texting or calling us on +25677010990, or WhatsApp-ing us on +254714306507, or placing an order here.

The second book club meeting will take place in the same venue, at the same time, but on October 28. We will be hosting a notable Ugandan writer whose details will be shared soon.

Please, turn more pages.

 

The Lantern Meet of Poets: The Ultimate #MovingOn Interview

In a special #TTPBookMeet, Turn The Page hosted a team, which included Elijah B Wojji, Wobusobozi Kangere, Rachel Kunihira, and Gloria Nanfuka from The Lantern Meet of Poets, some known and others so “ancient” that they are unknown to some of the younger book club members and other members of the public.

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Some of The Lantern Meet of Poets, including Rachel Kunihira, Elijah B Wojji, Wobusobozi Kangere.

Over the last decade, The Lantern Meet of Poets has churned out a body of good work, both in quality and quantity, totaling up to thirteen recitals; before their very last, the #MovingOn recital which will be held on October 8, 2016. We were delighted to have a conversation with them, as detailed below.

TTP: We have been through names like The Lantern Meet of Poets, The Meet, The Lantern Meet Foundation, and Meet Lounge. What are all these changes insinuating, or illustrating, especially when we consider the very foundations or beginnings of the Lantern Meet of Poets?

LMOP: The group is the Lantern Meet of Poets, and within the Lantern Meet of Poets, we began The Lantern Meet Foundation to help pursue the interests of the Lantern Meet of Poets pushing forward poetry as an integral form of our literature structure. The beginning was, at least for me, an invitation by Jason (Ntaro) – I think. I had left the university, but most of them (The meet) were still there.

The invitation was to the Big Hut, at the National Theatre, where we used to meet. We met without any sense of seriousness attached to it. I went with my poetry, which was in a book. We were few people – five to six, and when done, we would walk back to campus, where we would continue the conversation. It became a family.

As an engineer, I did not have that many outlets for reading books so meeting people who loved reading and writing was a fascinating thing. We got to know each other. We were spending more time together. We were writing more. After about a year, we wanted people to hear our poetry. That was how we conceived holding the first recital in 2008.

TTP: How was the first recital?

LMOP: It was free. We did not expect anyone to come. We begged the National Theatre to let us use the CICP room. We had sodas and samosas on sale. We used the staircase as our stage. We used platforms from downstairs. We had about 30 poems. No microphones. It was amazing the place was pocked really, really packed. People enjoyed it, at least those who heard the poems.

At that time, we had been meeting for more than six months. We sat for weeks, just choosing the poetry. There was no theme we just picked the ones we liked. Only when we saw how other people reacted, was when we realized that it was not just about us.

The Sunday Meets are so serious. Poems take lots of criticisms both mixed and good. After the first recital, lots of people joined. The membership changed and we started becoming more structured.

TTP: When and how did the structures develop?

LMOP: In our second year, 2009, that was when we started discussing the way forward. In the process of discussing the structure, that was when the fellowship of The Meet came up. Guy Mambo became President. It took a lot to get guy out of the Presidency. It nearly broke The Meet. I left the country round about that time – in 2010.

The Meet changed. Our poetry changed. We grew up. Our poetry changed as we grew up. In the beginning, the poetry was about what we went through, saw, our dreams, all the love flowing through our hearts, but as we grew and more people joined, and then the social justice aspect came up. It was then that we began participating in poetry competitions, because around the same time, what is now Babishai Niwe started. Barbishai Niwe was drawn to the female gender. We had a discussion about that, and decided to continue writing because we wanted to be more inclusive.

TTP: If I may, the first recital was untitled, which may mean that there was no formula for doing recitals, and this is the time when you are indeed the very first people doing it, and for the very first time. It could also mean that your concentration was on the writing and maybe sharing it amongst yourselves during the Sunday fellowship. Please tell us about that writing; the experience? Who is writing? What are they writing about? Who has been encouraging them, or it is an innate talent, who is criticizing their work who is recognizing and celebrating them?

LMOP: I cannot speak for the rest, because when I joined I was really just an outsider. Even my invitation came through a friend of a friend. I found people who knew each other I cannot speak for their experiences, because they seemed to spur each other on.

For me; I journal, I read a lot, then I started writing poetry; which was something I used to share with my friends. It was in the talking about my poetry that Jason (Ntaro) got to know about me and invited me to The Meet. It was not until we were in The Meet that we had other writers criticizing our work, by giving us a place where we could learn to be better. I wrote everywhere in a note book, on a taxi, on a flight, and I think they did too.

TTP: You directed the very first recital, in 2008. Now, we are going in for the very last one. Please help us compare and contrast the preparations, organizations, and delivery of the first one, and what we should expect of the last one, or your imagination of it?

LMOP: It is not that we really had no idea about producing a recital, because from high school, most of us had, in one way or another, been involved with theatre. When I was in high school, we were writing plays, we were acting. We used that experience to essentially create the recital.

It was a bit difficult. Not all poems are written for recital. We each recited about three poems. It really was a team effort. We thought of each step as we went along.

TTP: Did you get to a point where you realized that you were writing in the same style, that you were all moving in the same direction?

LMOP: That was the subject of very many arguments in the Sunday Meet. In any group, there are those who are more vocal than others, and when we were criticizing work, we found that when some of the most revered, hyped voices, which thought a like, with a similar outlook on life critiques, we began to notice two things. One, people began to leave, because they were not being heard, or to write what they thought would be acceptable. It was not intentional. It became something that we had to consciously discuss and address. We began rotating the moderation, because the moderator set the tone. That way, more people could be heard. Regardless, as time went on the style sort of became the same:

LMOP: After Broken Voices of the Revolution, there was a change. The style became different. More voices were embraced. Even in a marriage, when two people have been together for so long, they start looking, thinking and behaving the same way.

Like Rachel said it was addressed. Recently, someone wrote a very disturbing poem, about cannibalism. Back then, it could not have even been read.

TTP: When you compare and contrast 2008 and 2016 what kind of effort goes into preparing for a recital? We are impressed by the fact that some of the performers are not the writers especially in a city that doesn’t have that many people trained as curators, directors, or writers.

LMOP: l have never been a mother, or ever will be, but I try to imagine what it would be like to give birth just as it is with a recital. The emotions are so intense. You approach both the same way – I believe.

LMOP: Between 2008 and 2016, there has been a greater degree of professionalism. I would say you have to factor in a couple of things to appreciate that. When we came in, there was no training. It was merely experimental.  In 2008, all we had in mind was; “put poems on the stage, and that’s it”.

In 2016 there is a pattern. There are certain steps we must go through; there is the selection of the poetry, the arrangement of that poetry, so that it is telling a coherent story, then there is the rehearsing of that poetry. What has changed is that there has been different performers, different producers, each introducing a different dynamic. The recital is a collective product. Everybody who is involved contributes something. We have tried to standardize some of the processes, but it is still a “creation in motion” activity.

TTP: It so happens that, today, there are several entities which are heavily invested in poetry, thus the description that Kampala is bound to become the poetry capital of Africa. There is a lot of good work out there, and an equally good number of people interested in sharing it. We now have poets like Wake, sharing their poems as rap songs on websites like thetribeug.com. When you consider that, and the fact that there was essentially nothing when you started out, that all these people have come because you showed them the way. What are your reflections on that?

LMOP: One, I am very proud to be part of the Lantern Meet story from the very start. Two, I do not think we showed the way in the sense; “guys come and do this!” What happened was the fact that when we did it, and succeeded, it showed others that it is possible and that unleashed many of the platforms.

Contrary to popular opinion, I have always maintained that the more platforms we have, the memories each is catering to a different kind of taste that one platform may not be able to cater to otherwise why would someone want to start it up in the first place.

When we started out, what brought us together was the void. There was nothing. We asked ourselves how we would make people like poetry, and we went into that. If doing that gave people the inspiration to get started, then I am proud of that, but I think that it is a very good thing for the poetry community to have many platforms.

TTP: How have these different entities helped one another? Do you feel there is nurturing or encouragement of one another across the board?

LMOP: For the large part, you are going to get the sense that they share the same poems, the same content. Also, you are going to find, behind the scenes, that the same people are behind the different spaces.

We are not yet at the level where we are organized well enough to have formal relations. Are there some rivalries? That is true. We are human beings, even siblings from the same womb rival. Thankfully, we have greater degree of cooperation than I have seen before.

TTP: Indeed. Now, there are names; Guy Mambo, Rachel Kunihira, Pearl Mugala, Kagayi Peter, Emmanuel Ngabire, Philip Njagala, Lenny Busingye and more. Starting with Rachel, who is here with us, I noticed that a gentleman like David Kangye, who is well, you know, well read, did not know who she was when they met today. Myself I do not know who some of these people are. Who and where are they?

LMOP: The Lantern Meet Of Poets are, how can I put it? Well, I like to think of the Lantern Meet of Poets in two phases; before 2012 and after 2012.

Before 2012, there was a huge majority of us, who were either students, or in the early years of our careers. After 2012, most people were absorbed into the job market and responsibilities like family. Thus, the interaction reduced.

For many of us, the interaction was personal, and it continued that way, but not at an institutional level. That is why it is easy for a David not to have met a Rachel, because the way The Meet is structured, is that it is loose, it is free. People come in and go out as they please.

There have been over 300 poets that have gone through the Lantern Meet of Poets circles. Not all of them have had their poetry performed at a recital. Not all of them have had their poetry published in an anthology by the Lantern Meet of Poets.

Largely, it is a thing of passion. They came together to meet the needs of their passion. And when the exigencies of existence took over, they went on. One of the things we want to address going forward is that; to make sure that the poetry we have written over the last decade can get out in a more sustainable form than a recital which only a few hundred people get to watch.

LMOP: To add to that, the recital caters to poetry that can be recited. If a poem did not lend itself well to the stage, it was not performed. Not necessarily because it was not a good poem, but because it was not suitable for performance.

There is a lot of poetry in the Lantern Meet of Poets archives that is exactly that. Publishing addresses that, and it will.

LMOP: For example, Broken Voices of the revolution had a lot of poetry that was collected, and Winston Churchill was one of the poems that everybody loved, but it did not lend itself well to the performance. We added it because of its importance to the themes; its significance to the themes it touched.

TTP: Broken Voices of the Revolution was the first body of work that you outed in a sustainable manner. Did it scare or worry you before then that some or most of your work would be lost especially to people beyond yourselves? What made the decision to have that anthology?

LMOP: One, we were not scared because the archives are there, the poetry is there, at least in the large part. We have poetry, all the way from 2007. Perhaps it is only fire we should be worried about, and in sha Allah, nobody is going to direct it our way.

Broken Voices was really momentous. It was bigger than us. The country was celebrating fifty years of independence. As a group of poets, as a generation that had spent the bulk of, the fifty percent of that time, we did not feel the promise of independence had been realized. This was not something that one demagogue to convince people about. It was a feeling that was expressed throughout. Whoever you met was articulating the same ideas. We have not had that much involvement as we did with Broken Voice, because the discussions that led to that anthology took over six months. They were heated, intense discussions of people who were discussing and writing.

I must admit that as the Lantern Meet, we have a particular attitude which sometimes works against us, to say that we have a particular standard of poetry which we want to present to the public and in many cases, we do not feel that we have reached that level. During that season, those qualifications went inside. We agreed that whether the work is there or not, there are important things that people want to say, and that have to be preserved for prosperity.

TTP: When you say that you tend to define the poetry that you intend to share with the public, it means that you are quite particular about influences and their impact on creating of classic work. I have read, in the Broken Voices of the Revolution, talked to some of you, about for example, the music you listen to; Bob Dylan, D’Angelo, Sade, Fela Kuti, The Roots, Jazz, Geoffrey Oryema, Rachel Magoola, Suzzana Owiyo, and not so many people listen to this. I do not know what you are reading, but it must be some equally classic readings, plus the knowledge that the founding members were ladies and gentlemen from either Namagunga or Namilyango. When you consider all this, don’t you think it alienates a lot of people?

LMOP: Well, not really. I for one was not from Namagunga or Namilyango, but I have been there since 2007, from the very beginning.

As we all think or begin; let us consider the world business or startups, for example. You are going to start either as friends or with your family or with your colleagues. Your first clients are going to be your friends or your OBs. So, it is a natural thing. That association and relationship was close and it provided that the initial impetus. It was a case of using the networks that we had.

When it comes to tasks and preferences, I can assure you that there is no place that you are going to find as diverse a group of influence as the Lantern Meet of Poets. We read completely different material. The one thing we agreed on is this; poetry must be able to move the reader or the listener. Secondly, does the poem meet the taste of the language that we call poetry? Use of language? Aspects of identity that Ugandans can be able to identify? Thirdly, there is also the aspect of the essentials; imagery, style, and more which separate poetry from ordinary writing, the kind that separates Broken Voices from a report on bees or pollination.

TTP: Your influence, as the Lantern Meet Of Poets, on yourselves, other poets, other writers, on students, and the audience, both local and foreign, has been phenomenal. How, specifically, has it influenced them?

LMOP: Let me take quick stab at that one. One of the most fundamental principles in the Lantern Meet Of Poets circles is free thought, and free thought is not just having the right to an opinion, it is about having the right to an educated opinion. [Elijah is correcting me that it is in fumed, but I will insist on educated]. Educated meaning that there is got to be a body of work that you refer to. There is got to be a body of work that you refer to. There is got to be a coherence in your ideology. For example, we have people who are anti-religious and who are atheists. They read different works. You have to look at people from their different perspectives. We have people from a feminist perspective, those from a Pan-Africa perspective, those from an evangelical, born again persuasion and from a Roman Catholic one. Everybody brings in their own persuasion.

What we always try to do is challenge the stereotypical thinking; you know, “accept this because it’s your teacher said, or accept this because it is your pastor said, or accept this because it is your elder brother said”. Wherever we go, we try to encourage free thought and to interrogate what they know.

In one of the schools we went to, the teachers told the administrators to warn us to calm down. The students wanted to throw out the syllabus because it was colonial. In another one, which is a Muslim founded school, the discussions on religion were so extreme that they created rifts within some families. They challenged the authority of sacred text when juxtaposed with the contemporary texts that challenged religious- narrative.

We managed to give people the freedom to challenge ideas, to think critically, and then the chicken came home to roost; they began to challenge us on our own philosophies. One of my proudest moments is meeting your former students challenging the way you think, and forcing you to broaden the way you think. We created the intellectual freedom where people can engage and interact in un orthodox forms. That was how Open Mic, one the first poetry nights came up. It was started by Mark Gordon and Nora Byaruhanga. The spirit of intellectual freedom that we espoused has managed to impact many of the students we worked with as they have gone on to start their own entities.

TTP: You have said that the poetry you write has to be moving, but then I feel that some of it, like The Country You Would Rather not Know About, by Peter Kagayi does not really seem to care about the audience.

LMOP: I think there are two perspectives to it. One it being in the Broken Voices, and the other the general feel of the theme of the recital. It is likely to speak about topics that most people are not happy about. I write because I am a writer, and if I did not write, I would not be true to myself. I gravitate towards other writers because I want to better my writing, but that doesn’t mean I do not see other situations, or that I don’t ask myself if what my audience would prefer. Some people will read it like a mirror, while others will not find the point. I will not speak for The Meet, but I have shared similar sentiments.

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Gloria Nanfuka, from the Lantern Meet of Poets.

TTP: Even by the mere tittles of your recitals, particularly: The Awakening, The Man-You-Script and Broken Voices of the Revolution, you have left a reputation, an impression that you are documenting your thoughts on our society. Aren’t recitals – the end of them, depriving us of this?

LMOP: First of all, according to our view, that is the primary objective as a society of poets. It is also one of the things we have been criticized about because we have not talked about the beauty of flowers, and the wonderfulness of the weather. As I said before, we discuss a lot. We probably talk more than we write. In that talking emerges a collectiveness of ideas. Like Rachel said, there are strong personalities in The Meet. People don’t just do things because so and so has said.

TTP: We are here in Kampala, but outside Kampala, you will meet people who say that we should not be writing because it’s not our duty to write, that it is a white man’s responsibility to write. Don’t you believe we are going to miss out on people like you who have been exploring more as you document?

LMOP: We are not going to stop writing. We will not stop getting our work out there. Will the recital be missed? Naturally. Anything at the end is missed. Even a mad man who dies is missed. That is not in dispute. Our position is that it is not leaving a void. The space for oral poetry, for performance poetry is there, vibrant and active.

There are certain spaces which for us, as a body of people whose concern is writing and the advancement of literature, are unoccupied, that need to be occupied, that need to be developed. For us, it is all about the growth of the industry. We want to get to a point where it is possible for someone to have a career as a poet, and not part-time hustler, part-time engineer or all that.

Our belief is that where everybody is running to, the Diaspora, with thoughts of getting their work to UK or America, there are certain people who made the sacrifice to create the industry there so that we can run there. From a nativist point of view, we believe that we need to create our opportunities for ourselves. If we do not benefit, at least our children or those who come after us will.

I must state categorically, The Lantern Meet is not closing. The recital is not going to be our exit. We might even appear on some stages.

TTP: Your concentration is poetry, but when you realize, most of the work, by Ugandan writers has been collected in form of short story anthologies. Well, save for three tittles; Poetry in Iotion by Ivan Mulumba, A Nation in Labor by Harriet Anena and the headline that Morning by Peter Kagayi, all from the most recent time. Should we presume that your concentration will be on outing more poetry publications?

LMOP: True our concentration will be on publishing.

TTP: How will you reconcile that with the fact that we are still considered as people who do not read books?

LMOP: When we started the recital, we did not know how many people would come. Even my own siblings who were made sick by the slightest idea of anything artsy came.

That is the challenge we are embracing right now. We need to look into the question of reading. I cannot tell you here and now that we have a strategy that will go like this or that, but it’s a gap we have identified and it is taking us where our energy needs to go – putting books into people’s hands.

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Boyd Migisha, a member of #TTPBookMeet, with a copy of Broken Voices of the Revolution, the Lantern Meet of Poems’ inaugural anthology.

TTP: I understand that most of the work you recite goes through the Sunday Meet, where it is put under scrutiny and people can critique it without being biased. I wonder if, at some point in time, it forms an invisible hedge where people, who are expressing out of that, are pushed back in or out by the style of critique.

LMOP: One of the beautiful things about the Lantern Meet of Poets is that people are so different. The beauty that makes the Lantern Meet of Poets the Lantern Meet of Poets is the uniqueness. There are poems which will not be appreciated by one of us, but will be by another. It is a challenge to the writer, but also, it encourages them to be open minded.

When you are engaging a poem it is like when you are meeting someone for the very first time. They can either challenge you, or otherwise. True, the hedge existed, but it was broken by the efforts of our differences.

LMOP: Because we spend more time together, it would be disastrous to stick to what we believe. We resolve that bringing on board new, different people who challenge our beliefs helps us improve our quality by asking us to examine ourselves in ways we had not imagined before.

TTP: I must applaud you for maintaining an identical style over the years.

LMOP: I must say that, that was luck and providence. We do believe a lot in continuity in everything we do, and as was set by Rachel. The style in which we do things, perform, direct, and handle several aspects of the process have had an impact on creating that standard. Whoever has come has inherited that standard and added their own personality. The Lantern Meet of Poets approach to performing poetry is more about presenting the character in the poem and not the character of the performer.

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Annet, a member of #TTPBookMeet

TTP: That reminds me, I believe that in all the other art forms, if curiosity is a byproduct of what happens, even at the Lantern Meet of Poets, is that something that you would be satisfied with?

LMOP: We prefer more diversity. Where we require uniformity is with the attitude, so that whoever is doing a poem takes it seriously. The performer has the ultimate responsibility to interpret the poem, reimagine the character, and then to create the performance that people want. It is inclusive.

TTP: On documenting society, one of your new poems, Dizzying Heights, which is an amazing, is a wonderful reflection of the history of Buganda, Uganda and its developments, and Greek mythology. Would you please be kind enough to recite or read it out to us?

LMOP: *Recites it*.

TTP: Hear! Typical Lantern Meet of Poets recital!

LMOP: Is it the structure, or style? I feel like it is those evangelical pastors who always maintain a particular style of preaching. You listen to one, and you want to sound like them.

LMOP: I cannot contest that. I would like to think that when you have a group. Which has lived together for a while, like a family, they tend to sound alike. It is something about human nature that we cannot explain. They develop a collective mind and style, with the aspect of the rhythm and breathe control, and all of those are controlled by the need to make it easy for the audience to listen and follow but at the same time not making it too slow. There are very many differences. Every individual has their own.

LMOP: When you read a poem, the story or style should harmonize because of the rhymes and energies; every style has its own rhythm. For me that has to come through. That’s is why you can identify an OJ (Ojakol Omerio) poem from a Guy (Guy Mambo) poem. Guy’s poems are more language. He does not have that strong of a style, one similar to many. When you hear his poetry, you will hear that kind of a sing song style, and that is what I wanted the listeners to get from the very beginning. OJ’s poems are more of energy. The words he uses. Naturally, that is what came out. What matters is how you punctuating it. There should not be a full stop where it should not.

TTP: As we conclude, how many shows do you have on the 8th of October?

LMOP: Only one.

TTP: I understand that this is the last but we need to have an encore. It does not make any sense to simply say we are going. Just one last one, and not in October, or on that is available on other media, like recordings.

TTP: How are we ever going to find all this body of work, work which is not readily available?

LMOP: Right now that is our main focus. To find ways to make our work available and accessible. It is our biggest priority. About the encore, I cannot promise, but there will be a recording made available and accessible to as many people as possible.

The Sunday meets are the life of the Lantern Meet of Poets. That is one thing that cannot go away. That is where all the writing gets done.

TTP: If you feel like doing what our President has done, it is OK. We are used.

TTP: I am not convinced. There is no moving on.

TTP: Is there anything that you can tell us, that you have not told any other people about the October 8th?

LMOP: We always have this thing about doing a surprise, about the audience coming to see things for the first time. What we can tell you is that there is going to be something different, I hope you will see it, some of you will miss it. We have attempted to incorporate the elements of performance from all the recitals. In some, a few sketches are repeated, in other cases, particular performance styles are repeated. We will be doing some things which in earlier recitals were not successfully attempted. It being the last show, statically, we want it to be representative of everything that we have done from the beginning. It is going to be a mixture of concepts. If you see it, you might recognize a performance from an old recital, unless it is your first recital.

TTP: Thank you for joining us, and sharing your company with our book club.

LMOP: You are welcome.