Who Are The Male Heroes of Ugandan Literature?

By Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa

It must be said that the contemporary age of Ugandan literature is an era of women voices and triumph. Whether in fiction, drama or poetry, Uganda’s most recognisable voices in literature are female. Examples include, Goretti Kyomuhendo, Adong Lucy, Jackee Batanda, Aujo Lillian, Deborah Asiimwe, Beverley Nambozo, Arac de Nyeko, Glaydah Namukasa, Angela Emurwon, Juliane Okot Bitek among others. Whether FEMRITE has a lot to do with or not, is a discussion for another day.

However, there was a time when the voices speaking were men’s. Uganda’s literature scene was mostly speaking in baritone. And there were none of today’s popular England-based prizes – Caine, BBC, or Brunei. Little of the predominance of men writing of the time might be recognised today, except the occasional mentions of Okot p’Bitek, Moses Isegawa and Dilman Dila which is why we have prepared a list of 13 Ugandan Male heroes of Literature so that their names do not go a-blowing in the wind.

The Elders

  1. Julius Ocwinyo
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Julius Ocwinyo giving a keynote address on Developing Uganda’s Literature scene at the #Writivism2016 festival

Is a poet and teacher currently working as an editor at Uganda’s biggest publishing house – Fountain Publishers. Born in 1961 in Teboke Village, Apac, Julius studied at Aboke Junior Seminary, Lango College, Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo and Makerere University. Julius is one of the few Ugandans whose books have appeared on the national syllabus. His works include Fate of the Banished (1997) which was included on the A level syllabus in 2008, Footprints of the Outsider (2002), The Unfulfilled Dream (2002) and The Price of Grandma’s Love (2009)

  1. Arthur Gakwandi

Is a diplomat and former lecturer at Makerere University. Born in 1943 in Kajara, he went to Ntare School for his secondary school, to Makerere University and then gained his MLitt at University of Edinburg. His most famous and only novel is Kosiya Kifefe (1997) which also features on the national syllabus.

  1. Timothy Wangusa

Is a professor of Literature and presidential advisor whose major works are poetry. Born in 1941 in Eastern Uganda, he studied at Makerere University, where he later returned and served as Dean of Arts and head of Literature department. He was instrumental in establishing Uganda Christian University’s Department of Languages and is a visiting lecturer in Literature there. His works are Salutations: Poems 1965-1975 (1977), Upon this mountain (1989), A Pattern of Dust: Selected Poems 1965-1990 (1994), Anthem for Africa (1995), and Africa’s New Brood (2006).

  1. Austin Bukenya

Is an academic, actor, novelist, poet and playwright who has published novels, poetry and plays. Born in 1944 in Masaka, he studied at Gayaza Primary School, Kisubi Seminary, Namilyango College, University of Dar-es-Salaam, Makerere University and Kenyatta University. He is skilled in a wide array of languages from English to French, Latin and Kiswahili. He has several academic publications as well as fictional works including The People’s Bachelor (1972 novel), The Bride (1987 play) and A Hole in the Sky (2013).

  1. Okello Oculi

Is a poet, novelist and consultant whose works include poetry, novels and chronicles of rural African village life. Born in 1942 in Dokolo, Northern Uganda, he studied at Soroti College, St. Peter’s College Tororo before attending St. Mary’s College Kisubi and Makerere University. He gained his Master of Arts at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin in the United States. His fiction works are Song for the Sun in Us (Poetry, 2000), Kookolem (1978), Malak: An African Political Poem (1976), Kanta Riti (1973), Orphan (1968) and Prostitute (1968). He is currently a political and social consultant based in Abuja.

  1. John Nagenda

Is more famous for his cricketing and politics but a fair size of keen readers will be aware of his writings. Born in 1938, he studied at Kiwanda Primary School, Busoga College Mwiri, Kigezi High School, King’s College Budo and Makerere University. He remains one of East Africa’s leading columnists with his “One Man’s Week” which is now a website of its own – onemansweek.com.  Books he has published are – The Seasons of Thomas Tebo (1986), and Mukasa (1973).

The Departed

  1. Austin Ejiet

Was commonly called a “master of language and communication”. A popular columnist with The Monitor newspaper for his column “Take it Or Leave it”, he was celebrated for being an easy satirist. Born in 1951, he studied at Makerere University, the University of Stirling in Scotland and University of Marquette in United States of America. His most famous work is Aida, Hurray for Somo and Others (2005). He passed on in 2010 to cancer.

  1. John Ruganda

Could be called one of Uganda’s through and through playwrights. Born in 1941, he worked at Makerere University, University of North, South Africa and University of Nairobi. He established himself as a force majeure in East African theatre and drama. His produced works both for the stage and screen and has one of his works as a constant fixture on the national syllabus. His plays include The Burdens (1970), Black Mamba (1972), The Floods (1979), Music Without Tears (1982) and Echoes of Silence (1985). He passed on in 2007.

  1. Godfrey Kalimugogo

Was born in 1943 in Kabale, went to school at Kihanga Boys’ Secondary School, Nyakasura School, Makerere University (while it was still Makerere University College of the University of East Africa) and gained his postgraduate degree from the University of Dar Es Salaam. He had one of his books (Trials and Tribulations in Sandu’s Home) feature on the national syllabus. He had 15 books published and these include Dare to Die (1972), The Pulse of the Woods (1974), The Department (1976), Trials and Tribulations in Sandu’s Home (1976), The Prodigal Chairman (1979), Pilgrimage to Nowhere (1981), Sandu, the Prince (1982), A Visitor Without a Mission (2003), Bury Me in a Simple Grave (2009), A Murky River (2009), The Honourable MP Who Resigned (2010), Escape from the shadows (2012), A Sacred Letter of Love (2013), A Gang Of Traitors (2014), and The Billionaires’ Disease (2015). He passed on in 2015.

  1. Henry Muwanga Barlow

Was a poet whose famous poem “Building the Nation” earned him a place among Uganda’s unforgettable literary giants. Born in 1929, he attended school at King’s College Budo, Makerere University (while it was still Makerere University College) and Oxford University. His poem “Building the Nation” has been featured in several anthologies. His published works of poetry are Of Feathers and Dead Leaves and Other Poems (1989) and Building the Nation and Other Poems (2000). He passed on in 2006.

The New School

  1. Bob Kisiki

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    Bob Kisiki at the book launch of Sweet Medicine at the #Writivism2016 festival

Is part of a new school of authors quietly etching his name down. Born in 1969, he attended secondary school at Namasagali College, obtained his BA (Arts) Literature at Makerere University and a diploma in Education at Kyambogo University. He is professionally a teacher but also practices journalism, writing a weekly column in the New Vision. His works are; The Kind Gang (2002); and two novels in one volume, The Rainbow’s End and Gobah & the Killer Healers (2009).

  1. Alan Tacca

Besides featuring as a regular columnist for The Monitor newspaper, Alan Tacca has produces some truly gifted work in his two novels, The Silent Rebel (1984), The Naked Hostage (1999). Radio presenter James Onen describes his prose as ‘clear, lucid, and bitingly sarcastic.’

  1. Nick Twinamatsiko

Surprisingly, Nick is not literary in a sense given his profession is a civil engineer. However he has produced works that have received stellar reviews from Uganda’s literati. His works so far include novels Chwezi Code (2010), and Jesse’s Jewel (2010) as a well as a collection of poems, Till the Promised Land.

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Nick Twinamatsiko’s Chwezi Code
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