Uganda at 56: Writing Independence (2000-2009)

Part III (2000-2009)

The third part of the series highlights a wide range of writers of various disciplines whose work spans across fiction, non-fiction, poetry and theatre, and one can also see how this writing has touched other artistic disciplines such as film. As well as politics, the writers focus on their characters’ and subjects’ interiority and how this functions in the wider context of their environment – especially when the environments do not seem conducive to providing them with life, liberty or joy. In this way, the writers have given life to the phrase “the personal is political”. The influence of living in – and being awarded by – the diaspora is also something that is evident, with the Caine Prize making an appearance on a number of profiles featured on this list. Conversations about Ugandan (and African) artists in the diaspora are often very polarizing in literary spaces because they cannot be divorced from Uganda’s colonial history, the lack of funding made available to arts initiatives in the country and, perhaps most painfully, questions about authenticity (to name but a few issues). These conversations are important, especially to the extent that they enable Ugandan artists in the country and abroad to feel supported and, most crucially, to focus on their art. Sometimes, however, these conversations get so loud that they drown out the voices which need to be heard. When this happens, we must always remember and return to that which lies at the center of this all: the art. It has always been about the art.

Patrick Mangeni: “Operation Mulungusi” (2000)
An academic, poet and playwright, Mangeni is author of several plays including, “Operation Mulungusi” and “The Price” which won the 2000 National Book Trust of Uganda Award (NABOTU) and a novel, “The Great Temptation”. He was nominated for the Uganda Literature Prize in 2001. In 2003, Mangeni was a guest poet at the Queensland Poetry Festival and he was featured at the 2005 Brisbane Writers Festival. Mangeni has a short story collection “A Leopard in my Bed and other stories” and his poetry has been published in the Uganda Poetry Anthology. He has published several academic papers in African Theatre.

Okot Benge: “Uganda Poetry Anthology” (2000)
Okot Benge is currently the Head of the Department of Literature at Makerere University. He is also a Research Associate in the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand and a Fellow of the African Humanities Program (ACLS). He has taught at several universities, including Kyambogo University, the Islamic University in Uganda and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Okot has published several critical essays on cultural communication, gender dynamics in oral literature and East African literary criticism. Furthermore, he is a radio playwright and a published poet. His poems have been published in several poetry anthologies in Africa such as the Uganda Poetry Anthology and in the U.S.A.

Monica Arac de Nyeko: “Chained” (2001)
Born in 1979, Monica Arac de Nyeko comes from Kitgum in Northern Uganda. She spent part of her childhood in Kampala but attended high school in Gulu, Northern Uganda. She has a degree in Education from Makerere University and a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Assistance from the University of Groningen (Netherlands). Monica Arac de Nyeko first rose to fame as a writer for her queer story “Jambula Tree” which won her the 2007 Caine Prize, making her the first Ugandan to win the award. The story has now been adapted into the acclaimed film “Rafiki”, directed by Wanuri Kahiu. Arac de Nyeko had been shortlisted for the same prize in 2004 for her story “Strange Fruit” which followed child soldiers in Northern Uganda. She also won first prize in the Women’s World, Women in War Zones essay writing competition. She has been published in “Memoirs of the Sun”, “The Nation”, “IS Magazine”, “Africa39” and several other publications. She is a member of FEMRITE – the Uganda Women Writers Association.

Beatrice Lamwaka: “Vengeance of the Gods” (2001)
Beatrice Lamwaka was born in Gulu, Northern Uganda and now lives in Kampala. She is board member of Uganda Female Writers Association (FEMRITE) and a freelance writer with the “Monitor Newspaper”, “UGPulse” and the “World Press Institute”. She has been a Laureate for Council for the Development of Social Science (CODESRIA) Democratic Governance Institute. She was a finalist for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award 2009, and a Fellow for the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation/African Institute of South Africa Young Scholars program 2009. She has worked as a researcher and teacher in Uganda; Italy and Sudan. She has also worked with an international humanitarian agency. She writes poetry, and short stories is working on her memoir “The Market Vendor” and a collection of short stories, “The Garden of Mushrooms”. Her publications include short stories “The Butterfly Dreams”, “Village Queen” and “Vengeance of the Gods” among others.

Beverley Nambozo: “Miss Nandutu” (2001)
Beverley Nambozo is a Ugandan writer, poet, actress, literary activist, and biographer. She is the founder of the Babishai Niwe (BN) Poetry Foundation formerly The Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award for Ugandan Women, which began in 2008. She is a member of FEMRITE and is the author of “Unjumping”, a chapbook of poetry. Her hybrid play titled “GA-ad”, which she wrote collaboratively with Ugandan playwright Judith Adong, featured as the play of the month at the New York National Black Theater in August 2013. She currently lives in Uganda.

Mildred Kiconco Barya: “Raindrops” (2001)

Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer and poet from Uganda, born from the western District of Kabale. She went to Mwisi Primary School and later joined Kigezi high School. In 1996, she was awarded a full government scholarship to attend Makerere university in Uganda. She graduated with a B.A in Literature. While at the college she joined FEMRITE where she worked with Goretti Kyomuhendo, then the programmes Coordinator and Violet Birungi then the FEMRITE editor. Her first collection of poetry came in 2002, “Men Love Chocolates But They Don’t Say” and followed was “The Price of Memory: After the Tsunami (2006)”. She has since worked as a journalist and travel writer and in 2009 she served as Writer in Residence at TrustAfrica, a Pan -African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal among many others. She currently lives and works in California, USA.

Mercy Mirembe Ntangaare: “Lady, Will You Marry Me” (2002)
Mercy Mirembe Ntangaare is a Ugandan dramatist. She holds a PhD from Makerere University, with professional training in theatre marketing, folklore, dramaturgy and criticism. She has done extensive research on creative writing particularly in dramatic writing, folklore, photography and computer design. She has written and directed many plays which include “Lady, Will you Marry Me?”, “Semitego: the Great Hunter” among others. She has also written children’s books which include “Sarah’s Dream”. She is a founding member of the Uganda Theatre Network that hosts the Uganda National Chapter of the East African Theatre Institute (EATI). She was the first chairperson of the Board of UNC and the EATI and former chairperson Board of Trustees of Uganda National Cultural Centre among many other responsibilities. She is an active member of FEMRITE and she is currently teaching at Makerere University in the Dept. of Performing Arts.

Harriet Anena: “The Plight of the Acholi Child” (2003)
Harriet Anena was born and raised in Gulu to Acholi parents. She wrote her first poem, “The Plight of the Acholi Child” in 2003. It won a writing competition organised by the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and helped secure her a bursary for A-level education. She attended the Caine Prize workshop 2013, and her story “Watchdog Games” was published in the anthology A Memory This Size and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2013. In 2013, she was shortlisted for the “Ghana Poetry Prize” for her poem “We Arise”. “A Nation in Labour” is her debut collection of poems. Anena is an active member of FEMRITE and she is a journalist working with the African Centre for Media Excellence.

Juliane Okot Bitek: “Going Home” (2004)
Juliane Okot Bitek is an award winning writer born in Kenya to Ugandan parents. She holds a Master’s Degree in English and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art (Creative writing). She is an essayist and poet whose work has been anthologised and published widely in literary magazines, online and in print. She recently completed a book, “Stories from the Dry Season”, which she co-authored with Grace Acan, a women’s advocate in Northern Uganda. Julianne has been invited as a poet to different poetry festivals and literary events, International Poetry Festival of Medellin, Columbia (2008), and Grenada, Nicaragua (2009). Her most recent publication 100 Days (University of Alberta Press, 2016) is a collection of poetry that questions the role of commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. She currently lives and works in Canada.

Doreen Baingana: “Hunger” (2004)
Doreen Baingana is a Ugandan short story writer and editor. She got her first degree in Law from Makerere University and an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland, USA. She is an active member of FEMRITE which she has referred to as a literary home of sorts. Baingana lived in the USA for over a decade before returning to Uganda. Her work has appeared in “AGN”, “Glimmer Train, African American Review”, “Callaloo”, “The Guardian”, “Kwani?” and on “BBC Commonwealth Stories”. Her book, “Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe” a collection of short stories, has been published in the US, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and was most recently translated to Swedish. She has won many awards and recognitions of which include being shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2004 and 2005 and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book Award (Africa region) in 2006.

Dilman Dila: “Stu’s Honeymoon” (2004)
Recently published in the “New Orleans Review”, Dilman Dila is a film maker and writer with a particular interest in speculative fiction and fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. Dila’s story “Home Coming” was nominated for the 2008 Million Writers Awards and he has a collection of short stories, “A Killing in the Sun” which was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and also longlisted for the 2013 Short Story Day Africa Prize. He has also published two novellas – “Cranes Crest at Sunset and The Terminal Move”. His radio play “Toilets are for Something Fishy” was longlisted for the BBC International Radio Playwriting competition. At the 2014 Uganda Film Festival, Dila’s film “Felistas Fables” won him four awards. The film has also won him international acclaim. Dila’s short story “Onen and his Daughter” was longlisted for the Inaugural Jalada Prize for Literature. He has written for newspapers and magazines and he has also been widely anthologized.

Nick Makoha: “Lost Collection of Invisible Man” (2005)
Nick Makoha, a poet and playwright, divides his time between Uganda and the UK based poet and playwright. His poetry collections, Lost Collection of an “Invisible Man” (2005), “The Second Republic” (2014) and “Kingdom of Gravity” (2017) was shortlisted for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. He won the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and was the 2016 winner of the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for his pamphlet, “Resurrection Man. His poetry has been anthologized in several collections.

Glaydah Namukasa: “Voice of a Dream” (2005)
Glaydah Namukasa is a midwife, writer, and a member of FEMRITE. Her first novel, “Voice of a Dream” won the 2005/2006 Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa Senior Prize. Her novel “The Deadly Ambition” won her the 2006 Micheal and Marilee Fairbanks International Fellowship to attend the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in Ripton, Vermont, USA. In March 2013, she was a writer in residence at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Milan, Italy. In 2008 she was awarded the title of Honorary Fellow by the International Writers Program (IWP), University of Iowa, USA. She has also been a visiting writer in residence at city of Asylum Pittsburgh and Ledig House International writers’ residence, Hudson, New York. In 2014 she was listed as a participant of the 39 African writers announced as part of the Africa39 project unveiled by Rainbow, Hay Festival and Bloomsbury Publishing at the London Book Fair 2014. She is currently the Chairperson of FEMRITE.

Judith Adong: “Rock Point 256” (2007)
Judith Adong is a Ugandan playwright and filmmaker. She is a graduate of the arts from Makerere University, where she lectured at the Dept. of Performing Arts and Film. In July 2011, she was the only African writer among 10 international writers to attend the Royal Court Theatre playwrights’ residency, where she developed her play “Just Me, You and the Silence”, which featured at the New Black Fest in October 2011. She has had a public reading for the play at the Old Vic Theatre in London, in 2012. She is also an alumna of the New York acclaimed Robert Redford founded Sundance Institute Theatre Program Lab and Mira Nair’s Maisha Film Lab (2008). She is currently living in Kampala Uganda.

Nakisanze Segawa: “I Love School” (2009)
She is a Ugandan poet and storyteller. She took the third place in the 2010 Beverley Nambozo poetry Award for her poem, “The Hustler”. She was a participant in the Ebedi International Residency in Iseyi, Nigeria, in January 2015. She is a performance poet who recites her poems in Luganda and English. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies. The Triangle, her maiden novel was published in 2016. She is an active member of FEMRITE.

Asiimwe Deborah: “Forgotten World” (2009)

Asiimwe Deborah is an award winning Ugandan playwright, performer and producer, who has worked as a Specialist for the Sundance Institute East Africa and a mentor with the Hamburg, Germany-based Do School. Her plays include “Forgotten World”, “Cooking Oil”, “Appointment with God” and “Un-entitled” which have all either become productions or staged readings in the USA and East Africa. In 2010 she won the BBC African Performance Play Writing Competition with her play, “Will Smith Look Alike”. She is the festival Director of the Kampala International Theatre Festival.

Lillian Aujo Akampurira: “Soft Tonight” (2009)
Aujo is a poet and fiction writer based in Kampala, Uganda. She is the winner of the BN Poetry Award 2009 and The Jalada Prize for Literature 2015. She is also an Ebedi fellow. Her work has been featured online in Prairie Schooner, “The Revelator”, “Sooo Many Stories”, “Bakwa Magazine”, the “Your Heart Will Skip a Beat” anthology and Jalada’s “Afrofuture” anthology. She has been featured in print in the FEMRITE anthologies “Summoning the Rains” and “Talking Tales” and in the BN Publication “A Thousand Voices Rising”. Her work, “A Memory This Size”, also appears in the “Jalada 05/Transition 123 Issue”.

Ernest Bazanye
Mostly known for his journalistic prowess, Ernest Bazanye is an author of the novels “Chandler and Frasier: Kampala’s Most Wanted’ and ‘The Ballad of Black Bosco.” Bazanye is the founder of Uganda Modern Literary Digest which is an online literary platform. His works have appeared in the Africa Book Club and the Kalahari Review. He has published several short stories. And he contributes to newspapers and magazines.

Daniel Kalinaki: “Open Secret: People Living With HIV And Aids In Uganda” (2000)

Daniel Kalinaki is a Ugandan Journalist working with the Nation Media Group as General Manager in Uganda in charge of Editorial. He was previously the Managing Director, Regional Content. He is a winner of the Chevening Scholarship, Sports Rookie of the Year, and the inaugural Tebere-Mudin Award for Journalistic excellence. Kalinaki’s work has appeared in the “Daily Monitor”, “The East African”, the New Internationalist, Africa Confidential, the Weekly Observer, MS Magazine, and on the BBC World Service radio. He also teaches journalism part-time at Makerere University. He is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). He is the author of “Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution” 2014).