Following our June 27 announcement of the 2016 Writivism Short Story Prize long list, we now bring you short Q & As with the long listers. In this third part, we talk to Praise Nabimanya Kayongwe from Uganda, Frances Ogamba and Bura Bari Nwilo from Nigeria. Enjoy.
There are many online Ugandan writing platforms – Praise Nabimanya Kayongwe
Praise Nabimanya Kayongwe is a preacher’s daughter. Her family, friends and God are the reason she lives. Words are her life. They keep her grounded. When she is sad or happy, she writes. When she is too excited or anxious, she reads to find her calm. We asked her a few questions about writing and reading.
What do you think of creative writing workshops?
I’m grateful for them. They have opened the way for people who write to get their work read, critiqued and improved through exposure to editors, readers and other writers. I wish there was a way of making them more frequent especially for Ugandan writers.
What is your favorite African book published in the last five years (2011 and beyond)?
Paul Kisakye’s “Prodigal Love”. I had waited eagerly for it so when it came out I was pretty excited and I wasn’t disappointed. It tells of God’s love in a very simple and compelling way. I think it’s a beautiful book that everyone should have on their bed stand.
To what extent would you say that performed poetry and spoken word have influenced contemporary Ugandan writing?
I think to some extent. The performed and spoken word poetry platform is steadily growing in Uganda especially in schools and universities which is a good thing. I think Ugandan poets and spoken word artists have been encouraged to now write for larger audiences.
Does your Christian upbringing affect your writing?
Definitely. The stories I write almost always subconsciously challenge my religious background and the poetry kind of affirms and reflects the journey I’m on as the tentacles of religion are being shed off and the realization of God’s love is settling in.
What do you reckon is the future for Ugandan writing?
I think Ugandan writing is going places. A great number of people are writing and reading. There is more awareness especially through social media. There are so many writing platforms now which encourage writers to express themselves. More young people are attending poetry and spoken word shows which is really encouraging.
Working with Haruna Ayesha has shaped my writing – Frances Ogamba
Frances Ogamba is a language graduate from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She writes in French and English and works with a shipping company in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She models and dances among other pursuits of diverse ingenuity.
Which African books do you wish you had written?
I wish I had written Flora Nwapa’s Efuru, Ben Okri’s Stars of the New Curfew, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, T.M Aluko’s One Man, One Wife, Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Mariam Ba’s Une si longue letter, etc.
How has the experience of working with Haruna Ayesha Attah in the Writivism mentoring helped your writing?
Working with Haruna Ayesha has shaped my subsequent writing. Before her, I didn’t know I had to account for every thought, every word, every punctuation I put down on paper.
Where else would you like to live outside Nigeria?
I would love to live in Ethiopia or in one of those countries sitting at the edge of the Sahara desert. I also love Abu dhabi, Cyprus and Malta.
Have you considered becoming a professional translator?
Yes. I would love to get into the United Nations someday and translate important documents. I am undergoing the necessary training at the moment.
Did the Abidjan workshop in any way contribute to the quality of your writing?
The Abidjan workshop was my first and I took a lot of things home from it. I learned to show and not tell and to establish a mental history of characters before creating them.
Dilman Dila is simply amazing – Bura-Bari Nwilo
Bura-Bari Nwilo, a photo enthusiast and screenwriter was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in 1987. He studied English and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Nwilo draws inspiration from his good and bad childhood experiences, of bloody cult clashes in his secondary school to a fond long trek home. We asked him about his writing and Nigeria.
You write very humorous status updates on Facebook. Do they make it into your fiction?
Yes, sometimes they do. But I am a bit more serious with my stories because some of the experiences I try to capture in these stories are not funny. However, comic relief or plain funny situations are my best escape from the sad world around me.
What do you think of short movies that have been adapted from short stories, for example The Encounter?
I did not follow up on The Encounter but as a screenwriter, I think writers of short stories are very creative. They put a lot into the shortness of the stories. A great filmmaker who has been burdened with creating a movie off such work should be commended. And I believe it is a far richer a work because it is coming from a short story compared to when one just scribbles an idea and put it on screen.
What was The Diary of a Stupid Boyfriend about?
Oh. I was in school, bored, broke and I had these followers who believed I was a writer. I was more of a rant person so when the idea came to put my tiny thoughts on relationship in a book form – pocket size. To raise funds for myself and to keep readers busy, I thought it was great. In summary, the book hinges on my experiences as a lover boy and gives sometimes impractical tips on how to have a successful relationship, using humour as vehicle.
Can you imagine a Pan-African world that exists outside Nigeria?
Of course! I do. And that’s why I am part of Writivism and I am a supporter of the idea. There is a need for African unity and every country in Africa should feel responsible to unite African writers. Our generation has a lot of energetic young people – folks who borrow funds and sell personal properties to attend writing workshops across the African continent. That’s great. It should be encouraged and isn’t that what pan-Africanism is all about? Nigeria is just one of the countries with great talents – a lot happen outside here.
What stood out most for you at the 2014 Writivism workshop in Abuja?
I made some new friends and I loved the interactive session. I loved the way we created stories and shared. Sadly, some of us could not keep up with that connection but it was fun. The facilitators were amazing. They are parts of the new school of Nigerian writing and it was fun to share ideas with them. However, the best part for me was the mentorship period. It was my first. I discovered most of us would do greatly with mentors who are committed to the improvement of our crafts. Dilman is simply amazing.