Where are the Ugandan book junkies at?
If you thought Uganda hasn’t produced some of the best literature on the African continent, think again. Ugandan writers, both novelists and poets, are silently playing a very influential and decisive role in the promotion of Ugandan writing.
In this first part of our books recommendation series, we list for you some of the best fictional writings to ever come out of Uganda.
The list is by no means conclusive, as there are many beautifully written Ugandan books. You are free to include Ugandan fiction books you have enjoyed in the comments box.
Kintu is the book every living Ugandan must read. This is a book that represents the past, present and future of Uganda and Buganda. In this striving tale of a family and of a nation, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi traces the origin of Kintu and connects the dots of his descendants’ lives as they pursue to break through their past shared family curse dating back to the 18th century, reconcile this inheritance of tradition and the modern world (present day) which is their future.
2. Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol
Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol is a fulfilling work of art. The poem which turned 50 years this year, is one of the most widely read literary works originating from Uganda written by Okot p’Bitek who has been widely referred to as a philosopher. It addresses the issues facing a liberated Africa and it’s identity crisis. The poem is a dialogue (story) between Lawino, a woman whose husband, Ocol, throws her out of their home and brings home a more ‘Europeanized’ woman as a wife. If you are educated and still proud of your African heritage, this book should be your bible.
You can buy Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol from Turn the Page Africa here
3. 30 years of Bananas
This play by Alex Mukulu has been described by writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi as the most influential book to ever have come out of Uganda. Through the experiences of the narrator, a refugee from Rwanda called Kaleekeezi, this play takes a satirical view of what Uganda has celebrated, suffered, and lost over the three decades of her independence.
You can buy 30 years of Bananas from Amazon here
4. Kosiya Kifefe
Sometimes a novel can best describe a country’s political history and for Uganda’s case, Arthur Gakwandi’s book takes the lead. First published in 1997, Gakwandi through Kosiya Kifefe (the main character in the book), traverses the years of the African youth with its dreams, uncertainties and escapades, while at the same time projecting the images of a changing society that is rapidly disintegrating. The story is full of political intrigues, facades in high places and lust for power and wealth. It is set in Uganda and Kenya.
You can buy Kosiya Kifefe from Amazon here
5. The Invisible Weevil
Mary Karooro Okurut’s fourth and most popular novel first published in 1994 fictionalizes Uganda’s record of past tragic national journey. Set in three decades of three different regimes, the book covers the story of Africa’s post-colonial political actors typified by the thinly disguised Presidents, Opolo, Duduma, Polle and Kazi.
You can buy The Invisible Weevil from Amazon here
6. Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe
Doreen Baingana’s fiction debut will always remain a classic. Like Kambili Achike in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Tropical Fish follows and brings out society through the eyes of an innocent Ugandan teenage girl Christine Mugisha and her family after the end of Idi Amin’s as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence in Entebbe, Kampala and Los Angeles.
You can buy Tropical Fish from Amazon here
7. Broken voices of the Revolution: An Anthology
This is by far the most popular collection of poems by the Lantern Meet of Poets who had their last recital (Moving On) in October this year. The anthology filled with humor and satire, points out how the once promising dawn of political hope of the NRM government, has turned into the opposite.
You can buy Broken Voices of The Revolution from Turn the Page Africa here
8. Fate of the Banished
Julius Ocwinyo’s Fate of the Banished challenges the maxim of Catholic clerical celibacy. Set in Northern Uganda during the Kony war, Ocwinyo pits the church against the flow of people’s lives; a conflict that endlessly oscillates between comfort and discomfort, rage and peace.
You can buy Fate of the Banished from Turn the Page Africa here
9. Upon this Mountain
Set around Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, Timothy Wangusa’s Upon This Mountain excellently describes African life in the post-colonial era filled with clashes in communities where cultural and religious practices such as circumcision and baptism met. In all parts of the book, Wangusa uses humor to expose the contradictions in the church, and in society as a whole.
10. Abyssinian Chronicles
Moses Isegawa’s Abyssinian Chronicles is a remarkable story of Mugezi, a young man who manipulates Idi Amin’s reign of terror and experiences firsthand the most crushing aspects of Ugandan society. Mugezi withstands his distant father’s oppression and his mother’s cruelty in the name of Catholic zeal, endures the ravages of war, poverty, and AIDS, and yet he is able to keep a hopeful and even occasionally amusing outlook on life.
You can buy Abyssinian Chronicles here
11. Building the Nation and other poems
Written with rare wit and humor, the poems in this book by Christopher Henry Muwanga Barlow, deal with a diverse range of themes such as political opportunism, war, nature, and love. Spanning decades of experience and deep reflection by a veteran Ugandan poet, this collection offers fresh and enriching insights into subjects that are of interest and concern to us all.
12. The headline that morning and other poems
The Headline that Morning is Peter Kagayi’s debut poetry collection published by Sooo Many Stories. This collection full of humor and satire, gives a very good shot on Uganda’s contemporary politics, culture, religion, neo-colonialism and love. This is a collection every person below the age of 40 should read.
13. Waiting: A Novel of Uganda’s Hidden War
Goretti Kyomuhendo’s book is set in the seventies during the last year of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s brutal, often surreal rule, Waiting evokes the fear and courage of a small close-knit society uncertain of what the edicts of a madman or the marauding of his disintegrating army will bring with each day.
You can buy Waiting here.
Dishing Out Inspiration: How this Man From Nakasongola Became a Globally Celebrated Chef
Joe Semanda is a 24 year old award-winning chef currently making culinary magic at the Kampala Serena Hotel. He’s the first Ugandan to participate in the international young chef Olympiad, an annual competition, twice, and bringing home the prestigious mentor’s medal for the 3rd International Young Chef Olympiad 2017 for mentoring Ugandan contestant Sandra Agasha.
He picked his love for cooking in 2010 after completing senior four. “I always wanted to be a surgeon but after my senior four, I failed to get school fees to push me to A ‘level. When I was asked what technical course I could do, I chose to do catering and I majored in food production” and thus his journey as a chef begun.
He was inspired by an uncle, Ben Musasizi who worked at a top Hotel in Uganda before moving to the United Arab Emirates as a Chef De Partie. Cooking has always been a part of his life. “I always had my holidays in the village with all my cousins. We were many and my grandmother used to make a cooking time table for all of us. We wanted to impress so we cooked our hearts out”.
A passionate young man, Semanda delights in cooking and expanding his horizons in the field. “My dream was always to work at the Kampala Serena hotel and when I made it there, it opened doors to a world that I knew less about. I learnt more about food and how it moves souls. I traveled to India and met with great chefs from over 67 countries and we all spoke one language which is “food””
Semanda is humble, intelligent and hungry for success. He has always aspired to be the best chef in Uganda. “Thanks to Jimmy Sekasi Business Institute, I was chosen to represent the school and Uganda at large in the 2nd International young chef Olympiad 2016 as student contestant and went back for the 3rd International Young Chef Olympiad 2017 as a mentor”.
He is currently preparing for the African young chef competitions that will be held in May 2018 in Nigeria, thereafter upgrade his diploma to a culinary degree in an international institution for more exposure.
A visionary, he seeks to promote the food industry and boost the culinary profession, “I am trying to reach out to the ministry of tourism to work with me and we promote this fast growing profession by organizing internal cooking competitions among cooking schools, I personally have missed out on a number of opportunities due to lack of funds but I believe with a helping hand, we will raise our flag way high using our talents.”
Semanda has not always been the young award winning chef at a top Hotel in Uganda. “Making it to where I am today has been a battle after all the hardships of raising school fees… At the moment, the greatest challenge I face is passing up opportunities for growth and exposure due to the lack of funding. I urge the tourism and hotel sector to be open to people like me who want to make a difference in this industry for Uganda and come out to promote and support us”.
He implores all young people not to under estimate any job but to use it as stepping stone to their dreams. “Do not allow pride and social status influence your employment decisions” he says.
How this woman is empowering youth in slums to turn their passions into sustainable careers
Unemployment remains one of the most highlighted challenges for young people in Uganda today. The 2014 Uganda Census Report indicates that Uganda’s population between the productive age of 14 and 64 is slightly over 18 million. with 58% of this population group unemployed, it means that Uganda’s total non-utilized labour potential is 10.4m as of 2014.
One woman is trying to change this status quo.
Meet Noeline Kirabo, a change agent and the founder and C.E.O of Kyusa Uganda, a non-profit organization that is empowering out of school youth to become employable by starting their own business or get available jobs.
“Our organization focuses on youth between 15 to 25 years of age to help them discover and harness their passions and make them employable in the fast growing entrepreneurial environment of Uganda.” Says Noeline.
It all started as a dream when Noeline herself was working a full time, well-paying job. She desired to do something that would leave a legacy. Having a background of not being in tertiary education herself, she wanted to offer the same hope to youth who withdraw themselves from endless possibilities because they consider themselves unemployable due to dropping out of school.
‘My passion derives from my experience as a former school dropout. I educated myself using online courses. When I got my first job, there was no turning back. At the height of my career, I was challenged to think about the legacy I wanted to build. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my passion was in people developing more so empowering youth to live purposeful and fruitful lives.’ She says.
Kyusa seeks to eradicate the issue of youth unemployment by accelerating youth employability. The organization has been in existence since 2014 and has grown from its pioneer lot of 10 students to a total of 250 graduates with great testimonies about the impact Kyusa had on their lives.
The initiative offers programs that include business startup trainings for potential entrepreneurs, business acceleration for small and micro entrepreneurs, employability class for youth seeking to enter formal employment.
“Support programs are also offered to participants including mentor matching with business icons, exposure filled visits to gather hands on skill, support to attend vocational training, apprenticeship training, apprenticeship placements, business branding and incubation. “ Noeline says.
This rich syllabus has seen majority of the Kyusa alumni successfully running small and medium enterprises.
Julius, one of the alumni from Kyusa started a catering business that has grown into a full restaurant operating in Kisenyi. He employs four people and is working with Kyusa to start an apprenticeship program. He also runs an Events Management Company where he offers ushers, public address system and outside catering services and employs 20 youth on part time basis.
Another beneficiary Henry, runs a commercial farm on eight acres of land. He grows fruits and vegetables. Henry employs 15 youth on his farm and he is also working with Kyusa to launch an agribusiness training center for youth on Nakaseke.
Deborah another alumni, has started a pineapple jam business and is in the process of standardizing the brand so as to sell across the East African market.
Noeline is a 2013 Kanthari fellow, 2014 Hive San Francisco fellow, 2015 Cherry Blaire Foundation Mentee, 2016 Community Solutions Program fellow, 2017 YALI Regional Leadership Center Fellow.
The journey has not been all rose and no thorn for Kyusa. Noeline started out with very little funding from friends and family. She had to learn to get the job done with the few available resources which is a valuable lesson up to date. But like they say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way!’ Overtime many people have bought into the vision and partnered with Kyusa to get to this point.
Noeline looks up to her mother who made her believe she could be anything she set her heart to. She is inspired by Pastor Moses Mukisa of Worship Harvest ministries who has taught her a lot about vision, people development, leadership and resourcing for the vision.
Kyusa ultimate vision is to build a replicable model that will empower 10,000 youth annually across the African continent through the collaborative efforts of partners across Africa.
13 Ugandan artists We Met on #DrawingWhileBlack Who Will Inspire You
If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the last few days, you might have noticed a lot of really cool art from around the world taking over your feed.
Black artists, graphic designers and illustrators from all over the world are introducing themselves and showcasing their art to the timeline and to the world, using the hashtag.
You can thank Annabelle Hayford (@sparklyfawn), a 19-year-old, a gender artist studying animation and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for rallying others in their field to share their work.
Some EXTREMELY TALENTED Ugandans across the globe did not sit down. From New York, to London, Kampala and across the globe, Ugandans took to Twitter to also engage in the challenge and boy oh boy, they are proving that Uganda has got talent.
Let’s not talk too much. Here they are. Enjoy!
— Solomon W. Jagwe (@soreel) September 19, 2017
2. And then JNK
3. Say hello to Franco Mpagi who-wait-for-it uses black ink to create his murals
— Franco Mpagi (@FrancoMpagi) September 18, 2017
4. It seems we won’t get enough of Solomon W. Jagwe
— Solomon W. Jagwe (@soreel) September 17, 2017
5. Enter the super talented Neema Lyer
— Neema Iyer (@NeemaIyer) September 17, 2017
6. Here comes Andrew Mamawi. He’s not at all affiliated to Game of Thrones
— Andrew Mamawi (@andrewmamawi) September 18, 2017
7. Introducing Elise aka Seiishin who does character design and story-boarding in animation
— Seiishin (@fox_seiishin) September 15, 2017
8. Dorothy had to introduce Xenson because a multi-media artist needs some respect!
— Dorothy Nabunjo (@redroseflow) September 19, 2017
9. The only ballpaint artist on the hashtag- so far. Say hi to Michael Dungu
— MiKaiyiLi (@Dungumichael1) September 19, 2017
10. Everyone stand up for Jonas Rayme. This guy is a gem!
— Mbaleka Jonás Rayme™ (@jonas_rayme) September 19, 2017
11. Darsan Aine is a super talented chap!
This is my friend Darsan Aine from Uganda 🇺🇬. I believe he is one of the most talented artists in Uganda. RT to give him some market! pic.twitter.com/LDEKOaurO0
— Musonera Joshua Ntale (@NtaleJoshua) September 18, 2017
12. EZI (not Mr. Eazi) the vector artist also came through!
13. Daniel the low key chef made a plot twist!
— Busingye the Artisté (@nsdannie) September 18, 2017
Absolutely amazing art!
If you’re an artist and want to talk to us about your art, we’re eager to say hello! Send us an email on email@example.com and let’s talk!
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