Acan Innocent Immaculate; an interview with the award winning writer.

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The award winning Acan Innocent Immaculate, our book club’s guest for the month of September.

Acan Innocent Immaculate is the winner of the recently organised CACE (Center for African Cultural Experience) organised Writivism Festival 2016’s short story competition. Her gripping story, Sundown, beat several others, written by equally fledgling writers from East and West Africa to earn the coveted prize.

Turn The Page was blessed to share her company when she joined us, as our guest and author of the month of September, for the book club meeting which happened on September 2, 2016. Acan gave a reading of her story to which we reacted and asked a several questions about herself and her award winning story; activities, she said, were her first as she had never ever of the same before.

The following interaction is one made up of answers by her, as given to questions and comments raised by the book club members who were led by Raymond Lule. TTP is an acronym for Turn The Page, whereas AII is Acan Innocent Immaculate in full.

TTP: Who is Acan Innocent Immaculate?

AII: I am Acan Innocent Immaculate. I am studying at Makerere University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Medicine and Surgery. I am in my third year, which has just started. I have two siblings – sisters. I am 5 feet and 2 inches, but I play basketball.

TTP: When did you start writing?

AII: I started with very poorly drawn comics, when I was in P5 (elementary/primary school, level/class 5), before moving to plagiarising stories and trying to make them my own. In High School, I moved on to novels, even though the writing was bad. Right now, I am focusing on short stories. Due to time limits, short stories are easier to write.

TTP: What has your writing experience been like, in your nascent life as a writer?

AII: I feel like I have had a pretty smooth ride. I have sent a story to a magazine, and it has been rejected. That is the worst thing that has happened to me so far. I do not have a struggle story to tell yet.

TTP: What is the story behind your story? What informed the title? What inspired it?

AII: Actually, I feel like people understood the story much better than I did. When I was coming up with the title, it was just a stroke of luck to have that wordplay. Sundown is, really, an evening time. I was looking a t it from the perspective of the world coming to an end. The world is in its evening. Also, the sun is literally down.

I like your (Raymond Lule) interpretation (that the masses have exasperated the gods, who have decided to strike back) too better than mine.

TTP: What inspired you to write Sundown?

AII: To be honest, it was not a movie. I was trying to improve my description in stories. Before that, a friend of mine was telling me that they read stories but they felt that the stories existed in blank space. I was trying to write a story that explores description. I wanted to tweak people’s imagination.

The other things just filtered into the story. Like the albino. There is a misrepresentation of people –people are not represented as much. For example, I do not think I have read a story where the protagonist is an albino. So, I decided to write a story about someone else.

TTP: 2050 AD? What does the timing in your story say about the world, about current situation and what this story might mean if we look at it as futuristic?

AII: There is a theory going around that in about 20 years the effects of global warming will be greater than can support life. I am an environmentalist, and I am aware that we – humanity – are very lazy about taking care f the planet.

Scientists have a rationale that when we go extinct, the planet will restart. They have the mentality that it does not matter what we do, we will leave the planet behind. I was looking at it from the point of “Hey! You are not leaving the planet behind. Take that! What are you going to do about that?”

Yes, it was just a story, but you can consider it somewhat of an advocation for the preservation of the environment.

TTP: While writing this story, one with a concept that has been explored before, what new angle were you examining, besides setting it in Uganda or Africa?

AII: It is not my responsibility to make you not remember other stories. I wanted to look at it from a more personal perspective – for the protagonist. Instead of him thinking about saving the world, he is thinking about himself – especially for an apocalyptic story.

TTP: your story is a conflation of so many foreign ideas. Are you an African writer simply because of your pigment, or you want to portray this kind of story as being from an African perspective?

AII: I like to say that I am a writer who happens to be African. Yes, I want the stories to relate to an African setting. I do not want to tell an American story from an African perspective. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that some things are American and some cannot be African. Snow and spaceships are global elements which are portrayed in an African setting.

Gloria Nanfuka: There is not one African story, one that fits the stereotype. The contemporary African is exposed to a world with spaceships. You can write about a character who travels to the village, sleeps in a manyata and speaks their native language with their grandmother, and then returns to the city to read Wole Soyinka, watch Game of Thrones, and speak slang with their friends.

TTP: What goes into your craft – the writing? Was it taxing or an improvement from an earlier level?

AII: An improvement from an earlier level. My description was lacking, so I was trying to improve that. I did a little research, but it was very low key stuff. Just Google and some article here and there.

TTP: Do you treat your stories like a money lender? When people come to you for short stories, do you have them on hand? Do you fat them when they are required? Or, do you see the events coming up and you build towards the events?

AII: I am in group with five friends. Every week we give each other a writing prompt, and then at the end of the week, each one of us has come up with a story of about 2,500 words. Yes, right now, I am fatting out short stories.

TTP: What more should we expect from you?

AII: Something better. Preferably, another short story. It will not be similar. I struggle with having a consistent style.

TTP: Do you think Ugandans are writing more short stories? There seems to be more poetry.

AII: I cannot give an honest response to that. I have not read enough Ugandan literature. I am put off by the first few that I stumble across. I am trying to rectify that. I feel we are still trying to break free of that stereotypical African story mould, but we are getting there.

TTP: What has the appreciation of your story been, amongst your friends and your peers?

AII: It is surprising. I did not think it was going to be a big deal when I was writing it.

TTP: How did you find the competition, especially with people who come from countries that are quite serious about their literary work?

AII: My first reaction was shock. I did not expect to win. I had spent that week telling people whom I thought was going to win.

The festival was really good. I met so many people who were much better at the craft than I am, people who are more experienced. I learnt so much from talking to those people than I thought I would.

TTP: As an individual, what significant opportunities have you earned from winning the Writivism Festival 2016 short story competition, or any others beyond the festival?

AII: Yes! I have received like a hundred (100) Facebook friend requests from Nigerians.

TTP: As a writer, the expectation is that you are reading a lot to inform your writing. How much and how often do you read, and what do you read?

AII: Every time I get free time. I have e-books on my phone. I can go through a phase where I am reading a novel every two days. Mostly, it is those funny chicly things.

Now, I am trying to improve my reading; War of the Worlds, Art of War and those other fancy things.

I would say that I read once a day. At least, I sit down for about an hour and read before I sleep. Right now, I am reading How To Write Science Fiction.

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Acan Innocent Immaculate’s appreciation, in a tweet.

 

 

          

 

 

Activities In September.

Greetings.

We wish you a beautiful, eventful, happy new month of September, 2016.

Following from where we left off last month, we will continue with our growing tradition of two events per month, but plus one more; two author appearances and readings, and a reflection on the common text of the month.

On September 2, 2016, we will host Acan Innocent Immaculate, a budding Ugandan writer, whose story, Sundown, is the winner of the just ended 2016 Writivism Festival’s Short Story Prize.

Acan Innocent Immaculate, our guest for the #TTPBookMeet on September 2, 2016, will be joining us for an author appearance and reading.

Acan’s Sundown is dark, near-apocalyptical, and eschatological. There is no hope left for and we get to experience that depressing world through the eyes of a disillusioned child. The main character’s situation is as tragic as it can get, as all the earth’s inhabitants, considered as not being part of mankind’s best, are sentenced to die with earth. It is a beautifully written story, whose plot unravels with an awful elegance.

On September 16, 2016, we will meet for a reflection on the common text for the month, which is Boy, Interrupted, a novel by Saah Millimono. Boy, Interrupted is a searing, heartbreaking love story and an insightful and moving debut which captures Liberia’s people, politics and cityscape during its civil war.

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Boy, Interrupted is our common text for the month of September. We will reflect on it in the #TTPBookMeet of September, 16, 2016.

You are encouraged to proceed to purchase your copy by following this link, in preparation for September 16’s book club meeting.

On September 30, 2016, we will meet for another author appearance and reading, where and when we will host a yet to be announced guest.

Our book club meetings still happen in Hive Colab, which is in Kanjokya House, and on Kanjokya Street, and start at 5PM.

We hope to share your and all your friend’s company on the highlighted dates.

Warmly,

Turn The Page.

The Glory Of Gloria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Activities In August.

Hello, there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards.

 

 

A retrospective reflection on Binyavanga’s memoir

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Teddy, our compere when we met to discuss Binyavanga Wainana’s memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place.

For matters related to introductions, Teddy, our compere for the book club meeting held on Friday, July 22, 2016, introduced Binyavanga Wainaina, the author of our common text for the month, as an award winning Kenyan author, whose memoir is an illustration of his continued stream of consciousness.

The One Day I Will Write About This Place, Teddy said, is, basically, an autobiography about his life; from childhood, all the way to the time he published How To Write About Africa. A lot of what is going on in it are stories about his family, and a lot of experiences in Kenya, about growing up there, under the Moi regime, experiencing the effects of post colonial British systems that all of have had the benefit of being baptised in.

He added that as soon as you finish reading the book, you realise there is a ghost in the room, especially if you know anything about his life. Binyavanga could have written more, but he purposefully dances around some particular topics in his life. Teddy believes that you can tell that he is not fully ready to talk about some of the topics in his life, as if he was waiting for another book.

When it came to the reading, it was not that easy picking on particular pieces to concentrate on. The writing is an admirable pear within its shell of a paperbound. We decided to read a few random pages and reflect upon them in the greater sense of African stories, starting with Chapter Twelve. We continued to study how narrative can change perception of a place from someone’s perspective. Even when we did, we were careful not to read too long, though. We did not want to spoil.

From that Chapter, Twelve, we touched on several topical issues and themes including on Kenya’s beginnings and its gradual falling apart. It was a time of structural adjustments and their impositions on Kenya and Africa. Kenya was, thanks to institutions like the World Bank, investing, and heavily so, in education, but potential students in its new schools were choosing to go study in countries elsewhere. It was the time of the height of most Africans leaving their home countries for places of presumed better living and opportunities. It was a time of elective migration.

Binyavanga’s style of writing was of interest to us too. He never seems to have a particular though pattern. He always has gazzilion thoughts, too much detail, and a short attention span. He, even in his childhood, is all over the place. He has a problem, we thought, sticking to one particular way of doing things. He always tries to package all of them in an exciting fashion, by describing the entirety of a scene all at once.

We dug deeper into the genesis of his name, his family’s roots on both sides of the border that rubs shoulders with Mount Elgon, and the title of the book. We wondered what could have happened if Binyavanga had chosen to unpack the scenes he writes about and unravel the stories into some sort of Fibonacci sequences which we believed would make it more much more intricate and just good enough to read. We found that his descriptions, of the places he has been to, or comes from, provide fair justice to those places and the virtues that they uphold.

On an inquiry about whether Binyavanga goes on to have a family, we concluded that discussing that before we covered much of the book would amount to a spoiler, and advised the inquirer to “stay tuned for new scenes from our next episode”. Unfortunately for them, we did not have enough time to discuss what got to be known as the book’s lost chapter.

On painting or writing about Africa, our compere, Teddy, highlighted a conversation he had with Binyavanga when they met in London, on the sidelines of the Caine Prize Award ceremony for the year 2009. Binyavanga, Teddy said, was quite particular in advocating for specificity while describing the diversity that makes up Africa. We found that, in One Day I Will Write About This Place, Binyavanga does illustrate his sermon with his picturesque descriptions of places like Togo, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and New York.

We went on to have a lengthy conversation on expression, exertion, sharing and criticising our stories, our inspirations, our influences, our opportunities, and more. We, also, wondered why a book this good is not yet on the school literature curriculum before reading another gripping chapter that most young people, especially those in their turbulent times, and/or times of discovery found relatable.

 

A Conversation With Harriet Anena.

On Friday, July 8, 2016, the book club section of Turn The Page was blessed with the presence of the wonderful Harriet Anena.

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Harriet Anena

Harriet Anena is the Kampala based author of A Nation In Labour, her debut collection of some dark, and others mellow, but all brilliant and rather quite bold, reflective poems about what can generally be considered as the complexities of life – in all its forms.

She joined us for an author appearance following an invitation extended to her as our writer of interest for the month of July, 2016.

Anena took us through her career by responding to posed questions. That, she revealed, started with her experiences from growing up in Northern Uganda. Writing, she said, provided her with the therapeutic release she needed to escape from the traumatic times of the day. Her break came when, after five years of working with Daily Monitor, a leading local daily, and, later, after meeting other creative people in entities like FEMRITE and Writivism, she decided to invest in self-publishing her work in 2015. The rest, like they say, is history. A Nation In Labour was well received, both locally and beyond. It was launched in Nairobi, where she also had four interactive sessions at the Story Moja festival there, and was also profiled on BBC’s Focus on Africa.

We had readings of several of our and her favourite poems as taken from A Nation In Labour and reflected upon each one of them in an engaging discussion that went on till we were asked to leave the premises.
On April 26, 2016, Anena put up a beautiful show, at the Uganda National Cultural Centre, of a political erotica that was aptly dubbed I Bow For My Boobs – one of the poems from her book. It was her first performance. She relayed to us, when we met, that the same will be rerun during the Writivism Festival in August, 2016.

Harriet Anena’s A Nation In Labour has been reviewed by Raymond Lule, who writes for the reviews section of Turn The Page. Her book is also available for purchase on the bookstore section.

We are sincerely grateful to those who shared their company, and those who followed the conversation remotely by way of our #TTPBookMeet Twitter medium, and continue to encourage both seasoned readers and budding ones to join us for our forthcoming meetings. As per schedule, the next one will take place on July 22, for an interactive reading and discussion of Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place.

On the count of three…

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Some of our members taking a reading from Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu. (Photo: Comfort E’bong)

Turn The Page is more than just an online bookstore. It is a community, one that engages writers and their audience in interactive forums dedicated to discussing their work in our book club meetings, and, also, churns out reviews aimed at interesting both a sceptical and a zealous readership in contemporary works of African literature.

The Turn The Page book club is an open and all embracing bowl of enthusiastic, wonderful people who meet every fortnight to confer upon a scheduled text or book. Our meetings happen every after two weeks in Hive Colab, which is in Kanjokya House and on Kanjokya Street.

The book club is not an exclusive club an elite class of people or any other classification of any sort. Everybody is welcome, irrespective of their distinction is welcome.

Our activities range from book discussions, to interviews of or engagements with invited authors, book swaps, and book sales. We hope to create the perfect opportunity for book launches as well.

Our interactions are broadcast to those far away by way of a hash tag, #TTPBookMeet, which relays live tweets from the venue for those who, for any unavoidable reasons, are not able to share their company.

Following our detailed, year-long schedule, the book club has had three engagements so far. In the first meeting, we had an enriching discussion on How To Write About Africa, by Binyavanga Wainaina. In the second, we hosted, interviewed and reflected upon The Headline That Morning, a new collection of the poems of Peter Kagayi. The third had everybody sharing about Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu, which was our common text for the month of June.

Our next two meetings, for the month of July, will take place on July 8 and on July 22. On July 8, we will have an interview and interactive discussion with Harriet Anena, the author of A Nation In Labour. Then on July 22, we will meet to confer upon One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wianaina, which is our common text for the month of July.

We will always be immensely delighted to welcome you, and your friends.

Obituary: Juliet Tumwesigye Birungi

This piece of writing appears here because, amongst all the families that she belonged to, Julie chose to spend what would, unfortunately for many, be her last moments with the Turn The Page one.

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Juliet Tumwesigye Birungi, an astro-travelling explosion of awesomeness, died on Friday, June 10, 2016.

Julie’s well stocked mind, infectious laughter, and her effectively able self are tools that she carried with her, in her wonderful bowl of positive vibes wherever she went.

Workaholic.

When she had an important message to put across, at least to me, she always took up her favourite seat in the foyer of her offices, the one next to the entrance, and sat across me to deliver, in detail, the nature of and the effects of all matters taxation, accounting, records – the keeping of, auditing and more of the same, all done with comparative examples from the informal, foreign, and start-ups worlds.

Her work was a serious affair for and to her, one she attended to with all keenness, and paid a respectable amount of attention to detail while at it. She delivered results worth note and to do that, she had to create the time where it was not. On one weekend, a Saturday afternoon, and after a day’s trip to the Ssezibwa Falls with a couple of friends, she told us, and insisted that her weary self would be going to work that very night as she had reports to complete and hand in with immediate effect. Irrespective of the fact that she claimed that she was working for a person she described as a workaholic, her guts to proceed, especially when some of the folks in the car we were in had passed out in sleep was admirable. On another day, I had to wait for three to four hours past a normal working day’s get off time just for her to personally see to it that everyone under her ambit was sufficiently compensated for their services. In a community of generally lax people, Julie put in more effort than most people ever will.

Social scene.

An event with Julie and another without her could easily be distinguished. The one without her was not worth the while. When she walked into a place, or positively responded to an invitation – as effectively as she always did – she never did it alone. She always brought along with her someone, especially a new one amongst the already familiar ones.

She was coolly tolerant with everybody, and blended well with them. She had little time for the inconsistencies, insensitivities, and insecurities of the nasty world we live in. She was well aware that so many people were a big part of her life, and that she was a potential or a crystallized friend to and every one of them. Still, she was not immune to distress, especially that created by some to negatively affect the innately freely given lives of people she considered friends or family. She, for example, skipped a day at work and spent it live tweeting attempts and alarms to free Danny T from the unfathomable chains of laughable government agencies.

Her voice and its influence as relayed on her pages on the contemporary social networks was efficient at rallying people to a certain or any cause that she believed in or wanted us to draw our attention to. Julie found it hard to shake the feeling that our country and its government’s priorities had disappointingly gone awry. When she attended an African Movie Night showing of a movie about Patrice Lumumba, she said that it was awesome, and wondered why Uganda would be paying UGX 5 Billion for worldwide PR when it could just set up cinematography grants so that we can tell our stories properly.

When she finally figured out how Twitter works – she had forgotten her first password and used to tweet in French to her five followers then, who included JP, or John Paul Asiimwe – and found her online voice, she became a darling of many whom she kept engaged in conversations about a range of topics. One way or another, she appeared in your or your friends circles, and left an impression with her memorable memes and good goofs.

Team Uganda.

Both privately – she once painted her nails and her cheeks in the Uganda flag colours – and publicly, there are not so many people who made up and/or supported what could collectively be termed as Team Uganda like Julie did. We – Joryne Arigye, Marion Kyanzi, Mandela Nelson – danced together on a wet field and walked with – Brian Kyeyune, Annet Twinokwesiga and I – a couple of friends in support of Ruyonga’s rolling out. We – Julie, Patra Kigula and I – had tumblers of coffee lattes and shared platters of The Sound Cup food when Abaasa released The Rukungiri Mixtape. We braced the heat and crowds to join her Mary Hill High School girlfriends, known to each other as the squad, to celebrate Kampala in the Kampala Festival. Through her, we became friends with notable DJs like Twonjex. Through her, we started listening to and appreciating budding artists like Gravity Omutujju. Through her, we finally appreciated A-pass. Thanks to her, we had a good laugh at The Mith’s expert taxi fare haggling skills.

She appreciated local art – by attending events pertaining to and purchasing all forms of artistic expression – and made attempts at creating her own. Some of us discovered Maria Nakato’s Otakan Designs through her. We encouraged her to continue making more of her own accessories which included necklaces, chokers, bangles, and earrings. She, too, was a work of art, as was well illustrated by a painting of her by an immensely talented friend of hers Jessy Muyonjo.

Books, and foods and tales and more.

Whatever it is was that Julie chose to do or chased, she did with all the love and passion she could master and put thought into it. Her passions ranged. Notable ones rotated around taste and expression. Her tastes, in music, art, literature, and destinations were eccentric. Her expressions, in dressing, making up, hair styling, speech and its tonality and more were exquisite.

In a folder she shared with me, one containing all her music, movies, photos, documents, and more, I have learnt that she tried to fill any gaps and limits she encountered in her tastes by embracing contemporary sources and knowledge of other cultures, from learning the Spanish language to trying out Haiku Poetry to finding the love of Atesot and Kenyan men.

She loved books so much that when, on her birthday, I bought and delivered to her a cake, she threw a fit and asked me why I had not brought her a book in its stead. She always carried more than a copy for book swaps, some of which happened at Rugby events, and was the first Ugandan to contribute to the Mathare Slum’s Book Drive, a project run by friends in Nairobi, Kenya. She looked out for and shared news for book sales, and marked as to read those she saw with us and felt she wanted to.

Towards the end of 2015, when Turn The Page was taking shape, she laughed at me when I asked her if she was up to joining a WhatsApp chat group dedicated to our cause, and, when she did, came along with six like thinking members we had not anticipated, including one, Penny Mapula, from Botswana. Her last formal, so to say, event or public engagement was our book club meeting.

Julie and good food were best friends. She knew where to find the best, and recommended it to the interested. Our and her very last moment was shared over generous platters of Wandegeya’s TV Chicken which we – Conrad Kuzooka, Marvin Tumwine, Annet Twinokwesiga, Julie and I – commented should have made it to the ongoing Kampala’s Restaurant Week. On the way there, she had asked Lillian Opio, who had been sickly, to not worry about the chicken and “just take tabs”, before supplanting it with; “that is like living the moment today”. That is who Julie was. She did not compromise when it came to food. Sometime in 2014, she shared with an idea of a majorly fresh fruits canteen she had brand named Katunda Bar. I encouraged her to proceed with it. I hope that, someday, we will construct it in her memory.

Her love for good food was informed by contemporary sources as well. She had collected, and probably got excited by simply reading recipes for salads, soups, pizzeria, Mexican, Italian, and better foods and cook books from the Food And Cooking Network.

On Thursday, June 2, 2016, Julie and I shared a seat in a taxi bound to Kisementi. We had just finished with a meeting which had been held in her offices on Kampala Road. In the traffic jam, we talked, slept, and failed to agree, from a range of pictures she had in her phone, on a dress she wanted for a forthcoming party, and whether to proceed to Yasigi’s for the Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour or Iguana to meet up with Mashoo Aichi and Sharon Kukunda. We eventually chose Iguana because she felt that she was not ready to mingle and confer with renowned bloggers as she had most of her writings, including all the tales I had persistently asked her to share, in draft form. In 2014, her and I shared more about the same over a lunch of what she was later to term as “dry Sound Cup rolexes”. She wanted to write and more often than not ran her drafts by me. I encouraged her, and tried all my best to raise her confidence. I am certain that she has gone away with several undocumented moments which, to borrow from the link to her blog, had not yet screamed out.

The Queen.

One of Julie’s favourite quotations about family was an unaccredited one which read; “Family isn’t always blood. It is the people in your life who want you in their; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.” Julie was one of the scanty few people who lived life as opposed to being alive. Her passing lessens that number. She lived by every word in that quotation. She was a member of many families.

As the black shirts which have been prepared to remind us her will reveal, Julie will be remembered by some as a rasta who signed out of Iguana’s Jamrock Thursdays by saying the words; “it was real”.  She will also be remembered by members of her rap duo, which included Prize Joy Magezi, as a rapper, who made part of the group named The Antibiotics.

However, one of the families that Julie belonged to was what would rather pass as goons worth nothing better than scorning. On the path to her residence was a group of ever irie Rastafarians. To her, they meant no harm, as they had both – Julie and the gang – recognised each other by a style of hair dressing which they both agreed upon.

Whenever she approached them, irrespective of the time of the day or night, all she had to do was bow her chin, and place it on her fastened fists while saying the words “big up ‘pon yaself” or “large up ‘pon yaself”. On hearing those words, they would put on hold whatever it is that they were doing, and line up behind her to escort her all the way to her final destination, and keeping her safe from any possible danger. That is a family that will most certainly miss her. All they knew her as was as their Queen.

By extension, Iguana, which hosts a reggae theme night that Julie attended religiously, should get a Julie hologram to help enliven the inevitable somberness in the future. On realising that it is a hologram, it would not be a bad option to turn to it to say “large up ‘pon yaself” or “big up ‘pon yaself” in honour of the Queen. At the very least, they can hang – and never remove or replace – a large painting or picture of Julie on one of their walls.

Of unending conclusions and painful goodbyes.

There are not enough apt words that can describe how much anyone who discovered Julie will miss her. The loss of Julie should anger everybody. Not just her family – who has lost someone so young, someone of a tender age, someone who was in the prime of their life, but individuals she met and influenced – for they have lost a bond that no one will ever provide or replace; and institutions – like the police, which, apparently, did not offer the best of responses and her workmates who have lost a selfless, resourceful, and hardworking person who was by no means a spoke in the wheel of their day to day operations. The death of Julie is the kind that should start revolutions anywhere and everywhere. What form those will take, I know not, but I am certain at least something positive, something that can help stop robbing us of our dear ones will be done frequently in honour of Julie.

Julie was well aware that life moves on after your or anyone’s death. She acknowledged that it was sad thing. Her death has taught us that it takes a genuinely happy person like herself to cause so much unbearable sadness.

It is our fervent hope that Julie’s family, and especially her Mother, will find more of God, that their pain will gradually ease, and that they will be comforted by knowing that they sired, nurtured, and shared one of the best people ever with the world. It is rather quite unfortunate that someone who was full of life suddenly has none left in them. She stopped when she still had a long way to go. She meant so much to so many of us. We will never be the same without her. We will always miss and celebrate her.

 

 

 

Book club rules? No! But, guidelines for engagement

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A picture from our inaugural meeting, on Friday, May 27, 2016.

  1. Besides turning up for meetings and keeping time, which happen every fortnight, and between 5:30PM and 7PM respectively, there are, really, no rules. We believe in freedom, in all definitions of the word.

 

  1. Members can raise objections and/or suggestions for amendments to the books highlighted for/in the schedule, and ask that necessary changes be made.

 

  • Those suggestions, for example, pertaining to availability of the book scheduled as a common book for the month, can be raised at least two weeks before the following month so as to allow all members to prepare accordingly.

 

  1. The first meeting is organised in a unique way, one that provides invited local – Ugandan – writers with a platform to interact with their and new readers, engage them, and encourage them to both criticise and purchase their work.

 

  1. The first meeting concentrates, and importantly so, on what can be described as simple, easy to consume or appreciate works that may include a poem or story or more that make up part of what has been published as an anthology that they contributed to.

 

  1. The second meeting, and final meeting of the month, is dedicated to the text or common book for the month which is a longer read and is selected, for various reasons, from different parts of the continent.

 

  • For the purposes of comparison and inclusion, the first meeting may schedule a local work which is coupled together with a notable, alternative work from another region of the continent with the intent of comparing how our literature matches up with the rest of the world that we live in.

 

  • Meeting dates may change, but only due to conflicting events, or unforeseen inconveniences beyond our control. In any circumstance, prior communication will be made.
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    Our common text for the month of May, 2016.

 

  1. Suggestions for new books for the bookstore and alternative books for the book club are always welcome.

 

 

 

Schedule of common texts for the rest of the 2016.

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A picture from our inaugural meeting, on Friday, May 27, 2016.

June, 2016.

First meeting – June 10:

The Headline That Morning, by Peter Kagayi. (Uganda)

Second Meeting – June 24:

Kintu, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. (Uganda)

July, 2016.

First Meeting – July 8:

  1. A Nation In Labour, by Harriet Anena. (Uganda)
  2. Musings Of A Tangled Tongue, by Yemi Adesanya. (Nigeria)

Second Meeting – July 22:

One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina. (Kenya)

August, 2016.

First Meeting – August 5:

Broken Voices Of The Revolution, by The Lantern Meet of Poets. (Uganda).

Second Meeting – August 19.

Hiding In Plain Sight, by Nuruddin Farah. (Somalia)

September, 2016.

First Meeting – September 2.

  1. Akello, by Abigail Arunga. (Kenya).
  2. Picture Frames, The Writivism Anthology 2013, by Centre For African Cultural Excellence (Uganda, and beyond)

Second Meeting – September 16.

Boy, Interrupted, by Saah Millimono. (Liberia)

October, 2016.

First Meeting – September 30.

  1. Roses For Betty And Other Stories, The Writivism Anthology 2015, by Centre For African Cultural Excellence (Uganda, and beyond)
  2. Let Us Tell This Story Properly, edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, for tan anthology of the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize.

Second Meeting – October 14.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngonzi Adichie (Nigeria).

November, 2016.

First Meeting – October 28.

  1. Lusaka Punk And Other Stories, an anthology of The Caine Prize For African Writing 2015, by Kwani.
  2. Fire In The Night And Other Stories, The Writivism Anthology 2014, by Centre For African Cultural Excellence (Uganda, and beyond)

Second Meeting – November 11.

Dust, by Yvonne Ahiambo Owuor. (Kenya).

December, 2016.

First Meeting – November 25.

  1. The Cock Thief, by Parselelo Kantai. (Kenya).
  2. Weight OF Whispers, by Yvonne Ahiambo Owuor. (Kenya).

Second Meeting – December 9.

It Is Our Turn To Eat, by Michela Wrong. (Kenya).