Writivism Festival 2015 : Boiling Pot of Literary Consciousness

Pemi Aguda, second from the left : Winner of Writivism 2015 Short Story Prize.

The winner of the 2015 Writivism Short Story Prize is an architect. –That is a feminist friendly start of the article. 
The winner of the 2015 Writivism Short Story Prize is an African architect.- That is the Pan Africanist friendly start of the article.

While one certainly cannot please everyone, one does need a space to share ideas regardless how distant from each other they might be and this certainly happened at the Writivism 2015 Festival that comprised topics like; feminism, sexuality, language, identity and politics.

The five day long festival took place from 17-21st June,2015 in three spaces: Maisha Garden, Buziga; The National Theatre, and Makerere University, in Kampala and was host to literary enthusiasts from all over Africa, US and the UK. It was  five days  of masterclasses, keynote addresses and discussions on topics to do with literature and culture.

The winner of the 2015 Writivism Short Story Prize was announced on the closing night of the festival at the National Theatre. Pemi Aguda, one of 3 Nigerians of the five shortlisted Writivism contestants, is an architect but also lover of words. Quite soft spoken in person, her writings however have a much stronger impression!

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Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah conducting a masterclass on writing for Social Justice

Writivism started in 2013 thanks to efforts from the founders of CACE – Centre for African Cultural Excellence, Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, Ateenyi Kyomuhendo and Naseemah Mohamed whose idea was to

“…support increased connection of African literature to African reality, basing on the understanding that writing is inherently activist, and so they called it “Writivism”. The goal was to be achieved through such activities as connecting readers to writers, running a mentoring programme for aspiring writers, running writers’ and readers’ workshops, running an annual literature festival, school tours, writing competitions, among others – “Writivism: Helping Young Writers Find Their Footing”, Joseph Ssemutooke (Daily Monitor)

Some very key discussions comprised the place of the writer in politics, a session which pitted Uganda Senior Presidential Advisor, John Nagenda against Dan Kalinaki, author of ‘Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution. It was a conversation where John Nagenda posited that talking about politics was not as important as doing something about it and noted that perhaps the place of the writer in politics was to give people something to laugh about. A humorous man himself, at some point in his conversation with Dan, he took a call. Afterwards he told us that sometimes he remarks “Yes Sir” to give the impression he is taking the president’s call.

I took part in a series of masterclasses: Editing, Social Justice, Blogging. Honestly, before I attended these masterclasses I was wondering whether I would learn anything new but as they say “Everyone you meet has something they know that you do not.” Even now I am applying  a lot of the things I learned.

Rachel Zadok author Sister Sister conducting a masterclass on Fiction
Rachel Zadok author Sister Sister conducting a masterclass on Fiction

I also attended a session about Ugandan books on the Literature syllabus. We need to agree that the syllabus does need a separate section to encourage Ugandan literature because at the moment, the content is available and we need to hear our stories. Quite frankly, there is little about us in the syllabus. Personally the only Ugandan book I read on the syllabus was John Ruganda’s The Burdens. Imagine what our young ones would enjoy if Doreen Baingana’s Tropical Fish:Stories Out of Entebbe, or Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu were on the syllabus!

Finally for me, the best part of Writivism was watching Donald Molosi’s one man play, “Today It’s Me”. Donald Molosi comes from Botswana which has the highest AIDS prevalence in the world. As a means to talk about the disease and inform others he looked for a story and found it in the life of the late Philly Bongole Lutaaya. While performing, you would never know Donald wasn’t Ugandan. He sang Lutaaya’s songs with such depth and precision it was all too emotional.

Donald Molosi’s play about Uganda’s legendary singer Lutaaya poses a serious question: What are we doing about our stories and heroes? Will it take a Motswana to remind us of who we are? Could it be worse that, even when “Basiima Ogenze”, it is for a while and we forget?

Thankfully Writivism is doing what they can even with how successfully this year’s festival was. We are looking forward to more self consciousness, to not forget who we are. To celebrate our own. Till next year.

Photos: Writivism Facebook

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