Since its establishment in 2009, African Writers Trust (AWT) has held many workshops for writers, editors, and publishers. “AWT’s vision is to create an environment that nurtures the writing, reading and publishing of African writers,” writes Goretti Kyomuhendo, the director of African Writers Trust, in an introduction to the paperback copy of Moonscapes, a collection of short stories and poetry by the training workshop alumni between 2012 and 2015.
“January 2013 saw the successful conclusion of the joint mentoring scheme between the African Writers Trust and the British Council Uganda. The programme, which paired emerging Ugandan writers with established UK based writers, lasted six months. During this period the mentees submitted short stories and poems and received critical feedback on their works via email.” This resulted in Suubi, AWT’s first collection of short stories and poetry.
Most of the writers and mentees from AWT’s workshops are now not only successful writers and editors but also publishers or publishing consultants. Last year (2017) I felt honored to be invited as one of the participants in AWT’s workshop at Country Lake Resort, Garuga in Entebbe. We were given copies of books, Moonscapes being one of them. After reading it I was compelled to download Suubi, which preceded Moonscapes, from AWT’s website.
I read both collections – one story and poem at a time. Though some stories are better written and more enjoyable than others, most of the stories and poems are well written. The stories and poems in both collections cover various themes from the personal like sexuality, rape, family conflicts, to the political and religious. In terms of style, most stories are similar, with the same points of view, mostly first person and third person narrative, except for Lilian Aujo’s Getting Somewhere, which is fantastically told in second person.
For lack of space, here are my two cents on some pieces. Sophie Alal’s Here Are the Children, the first story in Moonscapes, is so beautifully written with simple sentences and good diction.But it leaves you wondering whether it’s fiction or nonfiction (memoir).
Crystal Rutangye’s Legal Alien is yet another well written story which blurs the thin line between fiction and nonfiction. The Stone Baby by Adelina Mbekomize is my favorite story in Moonscapes. Except Nakisanze Segawa’s At the Nile, which doesn’t flow, and Zuhura Seng’enge’s Lesedi reads more like broken up prose sentences than a poem, the other stories like The Search by Regina Asinde and Stella’s Riunga’s Tunu the Invisible are very interesting and well written.
Suubi invitingly opens with Lilian A. Aujo’s brilliant poem,The Eye of Poetry, and short story, Getting Somewhere. I must say, wow, Lilian is gifted poet and writer. Spoken word poetry is the in-thing for poets nowadays, but reading Lilian’s poem made me realize that sometimes written poetry can be more profound than spoken word poetry. Also, I don’t know much about haiku, but if Harriet Anena’s short poem, I Died Alive, is a haiku, I want more.
For some reason Crystal’s Legal Alien appears in both Moonscapes and Suubi, but there are other very impressive storiesin Suubi, likeGloria Kembambazi Mutahane’s The Gem and Your Dreams, Hellen Nyana’s Waiting, and poems by Davina Kawuma, Elone Ainebyona, and Emmanuel Monychol.
Even though The Stone Babyis my favorite story of both collections, Suubi’s stories are generally of better literary quality than Moonscapes. No wonder three writers from Suubi were offered places on the Caine Prize for African Writing annual writing workshop, which was held in Uganda in April 2013.
Once condemned as a literary desert by Taban lo Liyong, a well known writer and literary critic, Uganda has turned into a literary oasis of sorts, thanks to initiatives like AWT, Femrite, and Writivism, among others, for such short story collections like Suubi and Moonscapes published often, several literary events and a growing literary fraternity.
This review was written by Hassan Higenyi, for Turn The Page Africa.
For a copy or more of these books and others, please visit ttpafrica.com.