Kampala, Writivism, and other dope African stuff

I attended Writivism, which is one of Africa’s leading literature festivals, in its 5th year of running, from the 17th - 20th of August, featuring a myriad of writers and artists, both established and new, from across the African continent and the diaspora. So many talented writers and artists, from all walks of life, I felt really privileged to share with.

Firstly, Kampala is a beautiful city. The green of Entebbe is picturesque, and as you move in to Kampala it just comes to life with people and colour and culture. The people are also very friendly, in a way that I do not feel even in my home city. Here, people greet each other when they are in the space and time is conceived differently. There’s a very tender balance of getting things done, but also, don’t rush because there’s time to get things done. There’s an “economy of trust”, as was described to me, particularly among the boda boda and the local traffic. A kind of natural looking out for each other, particularly on the local level.

There were so many events, talks, book launches etc, at the Writivism festival I couldn’t possibly cover them all (that’s not what this blog post is about), so I’m just going to highlight some favs favs of mine and share with you, as well as some anecdotal stories of what happened in the city.

The AKADOPE band played the opening night of the festival. They are a Kampala based live music band, that plays originals and covers. This band was AMAZING. Absolutely awe-inspiring. They did covers such as 24K Magic - Bruno Mars, Love On Top - Mariah, etc, but when they covered Always Be My Baby (Mariah Carey), that’s when I lost and started doing the two step all over the place. And they played original music as well, and some Congolese-fused improv, which - rumours suggested - I may or may not have been asked to come forward and dance in front of everyone, swinging my so called Congolese hips. Luckily, there isn’t video evidence (*laughs nervously*).

Actress and Writer Kemiyondo Coutinho put on a show with her one woman play KAWUNA: You’re it! The show looks intimately into the lives of women effected by HIV, also telling the story through the child, “Super Wendy”, who is the most adorable child in the whole world. It is really beautiful story, and has so many layers, which require unpacking to truly understand. I watched it twice, and I recall the night after the second watch, waking up in the night still filled with questions. The most fascinating thing was watching Kemiyondo play all the characters herself, of which there were over 10 - including animals, very convincingly, displaying the entire spectrum of human (and animal) emotion, that you forget you are just watching one person. If KAWUNA is brought to a stage near you, make sure you go and see it.

The reading/launch of No Place to Call Home at Writivism was really exciting. It was beautiful to see that so many people were able to connect with the story and draw their own interpretations. All the books sold out, which I’m very thankful for. And I’ve already started getting some amazing feedback from those who have already read it (at lightning speed)!

South African writer and journalist Mzilikazi Wa Afrika did a reading/launch for his memoir, Nothing Left To Steal, which is about his life and the process of his wrongful arrest/imprisonment as a journalist exposing corruption in South Africa. I had been following for a while, and he is very interesting (I met him and he is equally so in person). And I am reading the book at the moment, and there is so much packed into it, and I’m only two chapters in!

There was an amazing keynote speech, held by Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire, on decolonisation (in literature). I managed to catch the tail end of it, and it is exactly the kind of thing I live for. It is a necessary conversation, which we should all be having.

Kampala has an amazing night life. There are so many spaces to just hang out and chill, meet new people (did I mention everyone is really friendly?), and relax. I met at least 5 Black British Ugandans, who had moved back to Kampala. That was really interesting. I also got to meet the infamous Mr. Stone who I'd been following on twitter long before he followed back (it's true!). A really lovely man. One thing I was not prepared for was how much Ugandans LOVE bashment/soca/general Caribbean culture. I heard the music everywhere I went. One place played it ALL NIGHT. Also, special mention to Ugandan food: MATOKE is delicious!

Shout out to Kongo Loko (Instagram:  kongoloko_fashion) for the top I bought! It fits amazing. Also, special shout out to  Joy Mogami from Africa In Dialogue and Charles King, Writivism creative non-fiction short story winner 2017, for the jokes and shenanigans. And a very special mention to my long time friend, Deng, who came down from Juba (follow my Instagram for this story).  And to Society 6 for their incredible artwork!

This was a very informal post, which I'm realising I cannot include everything, so here are pictures to make up for where the words have ended. Enjoy!

To explain, 1st fav Kenyan is Ngugi Wa Thiongo, 2-5th are the band members of of Sauti Sol. :D