When Writivism happened last year, I saw it as mere jousting. I thought of it as talk and that we would soon see it die down into the forgotten corridors of Ugandan literary events. However, being a part of it this year, I get to understand the scope of what it is doing and hopes to achieve.
The fact is Uganda is rich when it comes to literature, if not now, our history speaks for itself (John Ruganda, Okot P Bitek etc) However I have been part of Literature events that lasted for a while and died down or are not that well understood from top to grassroots. An example of this are the National Book Trust Awards. They have been running for a while but they do not have the kind of coverage they should or the appeal. I do not want to blow my own trumpet but I won a few of those while still in school. Winning these though was because of the influence of particular teachers who had interest in literature/writing. If they did not push for their students to join, there would be no engagement.
The Pretext sessions and writing tours have given schools (teachers and students) access to literary minds. I understand also that FEMRITE and Babishai are also doing something similar as regards reaching the grassroots with an appreciation for literature.
We seem to be at a place in time in Uganda akin to the African Writers’ Conference in 1962. We are host to some great writing from all over Africa. We have guests from kwani.org, jalada.org, award winning writers like , Jennifer Makumbi, Angella Emurwon, not to mention some great literary minds like Michella Wrong, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Tsitsi Dangaremba and others you can view here.
If you look at the list of guests above, you will realise that at home, we have many of us refusing to sit down and lament over the golden days of writing. I am proud of the likes of Beverly Nambozo of BNPoetry, Nyana Kakoma of So Many Stories, Hilda Twongyeire of FEMRITE, and many others, people I have seen from over twenty years pursuing a literary dream for Uganda.
It’s a fact writing is not only about plays and fiction. There are new platforms like blogging, newspapers and the like. What I am thankful for is that this year’s Writivism gets to handle a number of platforms and issues that do not exclude the reader.
In the masterclass of blogging, James Murua mentioned something important : The reader is even needed more at these festivals than the writer because they are the ones with honest opinions. In fact, as if to add on to this, during the Editing MasterClass with Daily Monitor’s Carol Beyanga, an issue was raised of does a good writer automatically turn into a good editor? Point being that sometimes a non writing editor is more objective and not fond of particular styles.
I was not able to attend the later sessions which included a question that has been tickling me a long while – “Are women dominating the African literary scene?”. I hope I can get these notes somehow.
The benefit though I see is that getting to meet with so many other people, from Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, USA, UK, Kenya, etc, opens our minds about so many things but not only that, allows the literary scene to be something that is not solo-led but a movement. I hope you get time to check it out these remaining four days. Check out the festival programme.