Of being my father’s daughter.

I’m always rebranding myself, because I can, and also because I’m a writer so I do this thing where I assume I’m a character in a story then I have to use my adamic license on myself. In high school, I gave myself seven pairs of names, one for each day. You’ll be surprised at how many pieces the name Elizabeth can be broken into. Not to mention other versions of it; for instance in Spanish, it becomes Isabel. 😎

When I finally “grew up” I decided to be Lisa Romans. Lisa because it’s a cool version of Elizabeth and Romans because it’s my father’s name. Now we all carry it around; Maria Romans, Patience and Alex. We are our father’s children.

I was told I was born on a rainy night, a rainy Tuesday night. That’s how I got the name Awori which has something to do with the night. In all honestly, I’d have preferred Akoth (rain-related), but I had no say. Maybe I’d have been a little more like dad, he’s Okoth.

My father is a very simple man. He doesn’t try to live large, he just wants to live right. He’d rather pay his utility bills than buy a car and stay in a “dark dessert” a.k.a no power and water. He’s from a humble background, (so am I) and I love how he’s never forgotten his roots. He tells us stories of his growing up. He’s an amazing storyteller. The guy will be giving a lecture on everyone’s recent uncool behavior and then suddenly, he’s telling a story. I used one of his stories to conclude my creative writing project at campus and did pretty well. It’s one where he survived death, he was supposed to be killed using a spear, it’s a story of trust and so many other things but he made it funny.

He says he’s cursed, cursed to be second best in every class he takes. I wish I were under the same curse. I was, for awhile; in primary school to be specific. I was the smartest girl in my class, then I went to high school and threw my curse away. I sort of got it back at the university. Point is; my father is a smart man, and mum says she was smarter than him so you can imagine how smart their kids are. 😂😂😂

I’m sorry I forgot to say this earlier; my father is a human being so he’s not perfect but he’s definitely the best father there is(in my book of course.)

He’s never caned me (I can’t say the same for mum though.) He believes in conversation, he’ll just sit you down so you can talk, talk about your bad grades, your poor time management, or how you abused a prefect. That was the worst! I’d supposedly used the “f” word on a prefect and some idle teacher had told my dad. (Ya, I was naughty growing up.) I didn’t know how to start to apologize, but I was sorry to have ashamed him. I am still sorry.

Dad loves the environment, he’s always making us plant trees. He’ll help you plant and leave the rest to you. It’s annoying sometimes, like on days when there’s good TV but it’s your turn to water the young trees. (what are they called? Treelings? Treelets?) I can’t wait to have kids so I can start up stuff and let them finish 😂

I learnt the word precedent from dad. He was telling us to work hard so we don’t deviate from all he has done for the family. The man honestly works hard, I’d love to be like him someday. Recently he was advising me to save. He gives the best advice, always. Growing up he’d say read hard. Now he says work hard and save. Also ‘as a teacher, never go to class unprepared.’

He’s always tried to make our lives easier. I’ll never understand how he did it but he’s done an amazing job; we have never been sent home for fees, have never slept hungry and when you call to say you’re broke, he comes through. He’s not the richest guy but he’s always provided for his family (cues in Cassper Nyovest’s Superman) I didn’t hustle with the long queues to get admitted to Makerere University, somehow the forms reached home (in Tororo) and we filled them together. He took me to consult with a lecturer and when I got admitted to do Education instead of Mass Communication like I wanted, he didn’t say; “Who told you to play at school? If you wanted it so bad you should have worked harder” Instead, he said; “You can do it after your Education degree. Besides, as a teacher of English and Literature, you can make journalists and anchors.”😅

We watch news as a family and laugh at his comments. We’ll be watching N-something news and he’ll say “That journalist is very unserious,” meaning you don’t move on to the next question just because the politician has “successfully” dodged the current one. Then he’ll look at me and go; “Is that the kind of journalist you want to be? You have to be fearless, the country is relying on you to find them answers so you have to find them real answers.” He doesn’t like mediocrity, he says you’d rather not do it than do it badly.

The one thing I’ve successfully learnt from my father is choosing which battles to fight. He’s generally a calm guy. And although I may not be as calm, I don’t fight every time I’m provoked. I fight when it’s necessary, because PEACE is better than “winning.” Besides, what’s the point in fighting if we’ll both end up with scars?

I once tried to use dad as a shield. I realized I had a crush on some guy at church. So I would go with dad, and leave with him immediately, to resist the temptation to walk up to the guy and say hi. On the third Sunday, I saw him talk to the guy’s dad. And the Sunday after, then the one after… So turns out they’re tight. In my head, if the crush ever says we should be more than friends, I’ma be like; “Yo! We can’t do this. What if we break up? What if it ruins their friendship? That would be selfish of us, no?”😂😂😂 In real life the guy still blue ticks me. I should probably tell dad so we can stop talking to them as a family; combined effort, right? (Pretty petty, right?)

But my father didn’t raise me to be petty. He raised me to be mature and nice, to work hard, to care for people and all God has blessed us with, to be responsible, to believe in miracles, to never despise anyone or anything, to forgive, to learn from my (many) mistakes, to be appreciative, to make time for laughter (I picked my sense of humor from him), to be simple, to express myself (every time I go home, I find a new notebook waiting for me), never to trust Internet (which is why I’m not posting his picture here),to constantly try to be better, to plan for the future and most importantly to pray, because Jehovah God is the God of everything.

I’m proud of the man my father is. I’m proud of the father he is. Not perfect, but the best. Happy Fathers’ Day to fathers, you’re incredible!

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Wakanda R(L)eads.

Have you ever fallen so far down you can’t remember how you even got to the top of the mountain? Well, I fell. I fell so far down it’s hard to pick my self up. I was so high, now I’m so low. It’s difficult to get back up.

Our relationship started in primary school. I was shy and quiet so I needed him to occupy me. Every evening, I took a piece of him. Scratch that! I started reading in primary school. I’d go to the library every evening to return and pick a book. It was our thing; Christine (my cousin), Alex (my brother) and I. The Tororo main library is opposite the post office. In my mind, that’s no coincidence, they are saying to be able to write to others, you must have read enough. Anyway, what do I know? The library was pretty cheap, you’d pay one thousand shillings and get access for the whole term. We would walk from school via the main hospital, past the youth center to the library every evening before going home. We read after doing homework. The librarians knew every consistent borrower. If you lost a book, you were banned from the library until you paid for it. Banned in every sense of the word; you weren’t to enter the library or even accompany a friend to the library. Your presence was an abomination. You were a thief and were supposed to keep away until you could return what you had stolen.

The one book we loved so much back then was; Does Your Father Snore? We had to look up the word snore to be able to answer the question. No, I’m not sharing the answer here😂.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss

In O’level, I hang out at the book store more than anywhere else. Every free period was time to hit the book store, unless I was reading. I was always reading books literature; during lessons, at prep time, after classes. If I wasn’t reading I was writing. The more I read, the more I wrote. I’d get chits saying things like; “Who has last week’s story?” “Have you written the continuation?” “Is she going to die?” If there was a time I could go back to, it would be O’level. My favorite book then was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I’d narrate it to anyone who cared to listen. (I need to read it again.) Harlan Coben’s Tell No One blew me away.

When the Mills and Boons wave hit, I was a victim. One book was to be read by hundreds of people so unless you were tight with the owner, you only had a day or less to finish. Same with Brenda Hiatt’s books. My favorite was Taming Tessa. Then came Danielle Steel; my!!! If you brought any of those books to school you wouldn’t go home with them. They moved from class to class, from stream to stream, from dormitory to dormitory and you never saw them again. So don’t tell me Africans don’t read!

To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries. – A C Grayling

African books? We read them in class. The likes of The River Between, The Bride, The Lion and The Jewel, Things Fall Apart, The Devil on The Cross, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, No Longer At Ease, The Palm wine Drinkard, A Man of the People, Betrayal In The City, Weep Not Child, Mine boy, The African Child, Black Mamba, Recipe For Disaster, A Grain of Wheat, Upon This Mountain…and the list goes on and on.

Lately I’ve been slacking. I don’t read as much as I used to. Instead, I watch. I’m the girl who doesn’t stop until I’ve finished the entire season of the series. I convince myself it’s my way of reading (which in way it is.) But I know actual reading is way better; where I’m allowed to used my own imagination to make words real. It is incredible! This year I purposed to read at least one book per month and I’m still slacking. I would only read when power went off, but I decided I wasn’t going to wait on UMEME’s failures as opportunities to learn new things. I decided to be intentional about turning off my internet to delve into a book. I also couldn’t wait for my life to get tough(er) just so I could escape into a different world in a book. I’ve so far read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s Questions for Ada and Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine. Talk about baby steps! Yesterday, I started on Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and I must tell you it’s magic. Literally. It’s a fictional novel set in Nigeria about a girl who’s trying to bring magic back to her people.

My plan is to read more African literature. I can’t impose that on anyone because literature is like wine; some like it red, others like it white. And its okay. On this last day of the April 2018 edition of #UgBlogWeek, I envision an Africa that reads, an Africa that’s willing to learn more about herself through the different voices that represent her. I envision an Africa with a reading culture. I envision an informed Africa. An Africa whose mind is open to new ideas, an Africa that appreciates the wealth that is (in) books.

Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life. – Jesse Lee Bennett

Wakanda matters

Shalom! How are you doing? How is your Sunday going? I hope it’s full of laughter and love, or good sleep and food, or cool music and beautiful weather, whatever works for you…

Photo: matookerepublic.com

As a kid, I went to church just so I’d get sweets after. Mum paid us for going to church. Paid sounds wrong, let’s go with rewarded – she rewarded us for going to church. Eventually, the reward stopped coming; then going to church just became a thing, you had to go to church. There was no negotiation about it. “As long as you live under my roof you have to go to church,” I heard those words today. The pastor was referring to his household. My mum said that too.

When I went to boarding school for secondary, she wasn’t there to knock on my door. Still, I went to church. Church was awesome because I was in the choir. There were other reasons I went to church; I was in a girls’ only school so it was exciting to go out at least once a week, and if I got lucky, I’d bump into mum or one of my sisters. Yes, home wasn’t far from church.

When I joined campus, I stopped going to church. I was busy six days a week, doing a course with an unnecessary number of course units and Sunday just felt like the perfect day to rest. I told myself I was resting just as God had. Until some guy showed up in my life with his new perspective and all. He said church would help me grow, that church was a place to rest, to refill ourselves so that we spend the rest of the week sharing what we’d learnt. I was on a new journey and didn’t know much, so I took his advice.

Martin was his name. He was studying law while I was studying education. He stayed in a hall at the university while I stayed in a hostel outside the university campus. I woke up late on the Sunday he was taking me to church, but he waited. When I got to our rendezvous, he’d brought me a cup of coffee. Guy was on a mission! So we went to church, sang, danced and heard the word and I had fun so I went back the following Sunday, and the following one, and the one after that, and the two after that… Now I endeavor to attend church as often as I can, I mean it’s just two hours, it can’t hurt to go hang out in God’s presence, receive his word then go share…

Today, church was really dope. We are doing a series on family and how it matters. How family plays a huge role in how we turn out as individuals. Last Sunday, we talked about vision and its importance to the family; how it unites the family, gives it purpose and helps it focus. We also learnt that to get a vision, we have to pray to God about it, talk about it as a family, engage with like minded people and then stick to the vision no matter how hard things get.

Today, we looked at family culture – how we DO life; our norms and practices. To cultivate a strong culture, we were taught to;

1. Demonstrate honor. To honor God first, then to honor each other. Honoring God means living to please him. Honoring people means treating them like the special beings they are; being polite, kind, sincere, just and patient with others. Others in this case means everyone we meet, everyone is special so they all deserve special treatment; everyone deserves to be loved and cared for. Everyone!

Deuteronomy 28:1 If you fully obey the Lord your God by keeping all the commands I am giving you today, (the ten commandments) the Lord your God will exalt you above all the nations of the world.

Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

2. Demonstrate hard work. We have to be people who do things, not people who sit back and wait for things to be handed to us. We have to put our hands to work and do our best and God will bless us.

Deuteronomy 28:8 The Lord will bless everything you DO and will fill your store houses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

Proverbs 12:11 Those who work their land will have abundant food but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

3. Demonstrate generosity. God blesses us so we can bless others. We shouldn’t let our wealth control us, we should control it. We do so by giving because it is more blessed to give than to receive.

When we give to others, we give God room to bless us even more.

Photo : pixabay.com

As we drove home, I sat in silence. I was thinking. I wondered what Africa would be like if we sought to please God with our every breath, I wondered what Africa would be like if we honored one another, if we spoke to our colleagues politely, if we talked about our differences instead of resorting to violence, if we accorded one another respect regardless of tribe, nationality, gender or financial status. I wondered what Africa would be like if we just loved each other, if we saw each other how God sees each one of us, as special and worthy of everything. I wondered what Africa would be like if we all gave our all at our work, if we didn’t constantly give excuses or pay my attention to distractions. I wondered what our continent would be like if we didn’t keep so much we didn’t need, if we intentionally gave of what we had, if we willingly shared with our “neighbors.” I honestly wonder what Africa would be like if we knew everyone matters. That’s the kind of Africa I envision(ed), an Africa where we do life with an understanding that everyone of us matters, an Africa that knows that Africa matters. Would knowing that change how we do things, how we treat our people and resources?

Hi, it’s me

In the spirit of the weekend, let’s keep it short and sweet. The title is Pius Miti’s idea. It will make sense as you keep reading…

First of all, I want to appreciate you all who take the time to read my posts. You mean so much to me.

Today, being a Saturday, I want to talk about something awesome, something beautiful – friendship. I know friendship is an amazing thing because that’s the image my friends have painted in my life. There’s no such as a perfect friend, only a good one. The focus of this blog is communication. Communication is such a big word; let’s just say “checking on people.” Check on people as often as possible.

Credit : pixabay.com

I don’t know where I’d be if my friends didn’t check on me. This one time, I thought I was going to die. Well, not necessarily die but something close to it. It was exam week and I’d spent the entire morning chilling at my place. I decided to go to the staff room at lunch time, to eat but also to show face. After lunch, I stayed around for a little while and was planning to leave when a colleague asked if I was the teacher of literature for senior four. I said yes. She told I had to supervise my paper which was scheduled for two. I didn’t believe her, so I checked the timetable. And she wasn’t lying! Time check – 1:48pm.

I had set the paper, so it was saved somewhere on my PC. But one of the reasons I’d left the house was because UMEME had done its due and turned off power and the laptop had eventually blacked out. I hadn’t put it on my flash because I thought it wasn’t due until the following week. The panic set in. How was I supposed to get power? How was I to print out the exam? I literally started to shake. Then a notification came through, someone was saying hi, just checking on me. I was relieved to have someone to talk to through my crisis. The exam was sat. I wasn’t fired.

Credit : pixabay.com

There’s people who won’t respond to your texts and calls, people who will blue tick you, but be consistent. Check on them. Even when they don’t respond, deep down they appreciate it. Check on people; you can never know what they’re going through unless you take the time to find out.

So, as you can see, I envision an Africa that values communication and friendship, an Africa where people check on their people every once in awhile.

On Abstract Payment

No, I ‘m not out of Wakanda-related titles 😂 , I’m just taking a break from the play.

Speaking of plays, during my first literature lesson with my senior five class, I asked them what they wanted to do after school. The bold Doris said she wanted to be a writer. The rest of the class started at her in anticipation. They thought she had more to say. The only guy in the class asked the question they were all thinking; “What else?” To them, and many other people, being a writer is not enough. Writing is “supposed” to be a hobby, you’re not allowed to take it seriously unless you are the victim(writer.)

Credit : pixabay.com

Generally, there’s this perception that creatives/artists do what they do just for fun (which is true in most cases) and so being a creative/an artist is just a by the way. That’s the perception that has people taking advantage of creatives/artists, treating them like “anomalies” (which they could be in the sense that they do abnormal amazing stuff.) That’s the perception that has people not paying creatives/artists for their work in the name of “giving them exposure.” What if we paid doctors in “exposure” instead of shillings? “I got an accident, patch me up and I’ll give you exposure. I’ll tell my whole family about you.” Then what? Will exposure pay my bills? Do institutions now accept tuition in form of exposure?

Credit : pixabay.com

Let’s pause on this whole exposure thing. Let’s talk about tickets, people who ask you to cover an event and pay you with free tickets. Or our “friends,” our friends who are constantly asking for favors and don’t plan to ever give us real work. “I have a party, please come take my pictures.” “My boyfriend just broke up with me, write” ko” for me a poem I send to him.” “Please help me edit this article.” “My new cloth line is out, can you be my model?”

But where does this mindset come from? Does it come from our systems that tell us some subjects are more equal than others? Is it a continental issue? Or is it because most creatives/artists don’t take themselves seriously? Or is it all of that? What would your family say if you took home a blogger as a promising spouse? Picture this;

Hi Dad, this is Andrew, my fiancé

What does he do?

He’s a blogger.

What does that mean?

He writes on the internet.

Don’t we all? What exactly does he do for a living?

As a creative/artist, are you being excellent? Are you being exceptional or are you like everyone else? If we want to be taken seriously, we have to take ourselves seriously. We have to do serious work, maybe, just maybe then they will stop paying us with abstract things (like exposure) yet we give them real things. We have to know our worth and accept nothing less. Quote your price range (of course depending on how good your work is) and say no more.

Credit : pixabay.com

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt – Sylvia Plath.

Believe in yourself and in your work every new day.

You ask what kind of Africa I envision? I envision an Africa whose education systems foster creativity. I envision an Africa whose creatives give their all, whose creatives deliver beyond the continent’s expectation. I envision an Africa that understands that the creative process takes a lot of hard work, time and resources, an Africa where creatives are appreciated, an Africa that pays its creatives in the same currency as everyone else, an Africa that lets passion put food on the table. An Africa where creativity is celebrated as the big deal it is.

A Wakandan Tale

#UgBlogWeek

I met Anita recently. We are workmates. In my free time, I hang with her because she’s a good storyteller; with all the facial expressions, sound effects and body movements to help your imagination. She wasn’t born talkative, she taught herself to speak; because it’s the only way she could let out all that was within her. She’s a slow walker so sometimes she misses lunch and we don’t laugh. But when someone else misses, we laugh, we say the person has anita-d. On a good day, she’ll laugh with us. On a bad day, she’ll just give us one of her blank stares and we know to stop. This is Anita’s story.

Anita was on scholarship in A’level and managed to qualify for university. Her scholarship would continue to university if she went to a particular one, which was cheap but it wasn’t “all that” so, upon receiving advice from colleagues, she dropped out a month into the semester to find a job. She wasn’t giving up on her education, she was only making money to pay tuition at Makerere University. By August 2014 she had made enough money, enough to pay tuition, rent and buy a mattress, saucepans, sheets, a blanket, plates, cups, whatever people need when they first join the university. A month into the semester, she was broke. She had spent a whole year working as a youth mentor for the organization(CS) that had got her through high school but she was already broke.

Credit : ct.counseling.org

Anita called her mother in the village. Her mum couldn’t understand what Anita needed the money for. Wasn’t university like secondary school? Couldn’t her daughter stay in the dormitory and eat posho and beans like everyone else? What did she need money for? the primary three graduate wondered. When Anita explained, she said she would look for work to get some money for her. Work for Anita’s mother meant digging allocated portions of people’s gardens and hoping they’d come through on the payment. Her husband had died when Anita was only five so she had had to raise her children by herself.

When her mum didn’t deliver on her promise, Anita called her elder brother Denis. He couldn’t help her, he didn’t understand what she was doing at the university. She hadn’t even consulted him before joining so if she couldn’t sustain herself, it would have been better she go home. Being broke is not easy, but being broke and having your own blood out rightly refuse to help is almost unbearable. She had no food, no money, no nothing; which made it hard to concentrate in class. Replaying her brother’s harsh words have her an ache. She was biter. she was hurt. But mostly, she felt all alone. She spent most of her time crying, and wishing anyone cared. Finally, she decided to take her life. “No one will care,” she told herself as she wrote her note. With her last dime, she bought rat poison, mixed it with water so she had a “solution,” and shut the door.

When she picked up the cup, someone knocked on the door. In politeness, she paused her business and answered. It was her roommate. Her plans had been ruined. She had to come up with new plans. She scaled the entire hostel in search of where to hang a rope but didn’t find one. Her roommate, Grace was never one to involve herself in Anita’s business. She’d cook her food, eat it and pour out any left overs. She didn’t even ask why Anita always sobbed herself to sleep. I guess she felt it didn’t concern her.

The following day, a friend sent her 50,000 shillings. She was more excited than relieved. Coming back from Kalerwe, a boda guy knocked her. (The devil was up to something, helping her accomplish her suicide mission.) She woke up in Mengo hospital. She called her sister Eunice but Eunice couldn’t come. She had issues of her own. So Anita tried her other sister Joy. Joy had just given birth. Her baby was only a day old, but she came. She checked on Anita and would have stayed if the hospital hadn’t refused her from doing so.

Her last option was CS, the organization that had catered for her secondary education. They took care of her. Long story short, Anita graduated in January this year. How she got through campus? In the second semester of her first year she got a job as an askari. The salary wasn’t enough to pay tuition and for her other needs so she left. She gave up. CS took a chance on her, gave her accommodation if she could pay for it by working. She moped the hostel. For tuition, one of the board members at CS gave her capital to start a business. She started frying cassava. Her customer base was the hostel. She later did some charcoal selling. Her normal day was something like this; wake up at 3am, walk to Kalerwe from around MBI to buy cassava, walk back with it, peel and fry the cassava, deliver it to retail points, sell some charcoal to early-risers, go to school, come back at around 6pm, collect money, sell more charcoal, start moping at 11pm, finish at around 1am, REPEAT! She lived a life of Work hard and wear out your body or Stop working and leave school. In her final semester, she stopped working. All she had was 400,000 shillings and no guts to ask for help. Her roommate Grace, lent her money to top up. She paid it back months ago.

Guess who showed up on her graduation with most items on the party budget ticked off? Denis.

Graduation is(maybe) a big deal for us Africans because the road to it is not always a smooth sail. Sometimes the ship topples and we fall into the sea, we teach ourselves to swim because the other option is not a choice we can afford.

Not everyone goes through life like Anita but for those who do, most of our lives are spent trying to make it against all odds so somehow, we Africans teach ourselves strength. For us, our resilience is all we have.

Credit: shutterstock.com

As we wonder if Anita’s hustle was worth it; I envision an Africa where we take chances on strangers, where we believe in their potential even before we know them, where we offer a hand to those in need, where those in need are not afraid to ask for help. An Africa where we don’t just show up on good days, an Africa where we stand by people on their bad days and walk with them till the good ones. An Africa where we are each others’ family, where we support each other. I envision an Africa where we persevere, where we stay standing even when the storm shakes us, an Africa where we never give up. An Africa where we work hard because sometimes, “hard work” pays.

How do we write about Wakanda?

#UgBlogWeek

Let me start by saying this is not a manual.

When I did creative writing, I didn’t ever really look forward to class. It wasn’t about the lecturer and how he assumed we were much more intelligent than we actually were, or how he enthusiastically talked about his favorite books in an attempt to illustrate what he meant by “real conflict,” it was because he made us read our work. He’d tell us to write random things, then make us read one at a time. I love reading, it’s so easy. But after reading, you’d stand in front of the class and wait for feedback; what they thought of your work. You’d stand for minutes because no one gave feedback, except the lecturer. I don’t think we feared being attacked by the owner of the work in case we gave “negative” feedback, we just felt we weren’t experienced enough as writers, to have thoughts on others’ work.

But outside class, people will say anything about your work. Mahad, for example found a book I’d written in first year and gave his unsolicited opinion. “Your characters are not African,” he said. I didn’t ask questions, I knew what he meant. My characters were Matt, Chloe, Emma, Steve, Renee, etc. so of course they weren’t “African.” What if I named them like Ngugi? Who supposedly gives African names to his good characters and uses English names for bad characters? What if all my characters were “bad?”😂

So how should we write about our Africa? Should we write in English or our mother tongues? Should our characters have African names or other names? Should they speak our languages or other languages? Should we speak only of our vibranium or can we also say something about our never-departing leaders and their/our failing systems? Should African writers write in the language they think in or the language that sells more books?

Charlotte Akello, my friend (and I say friend because we laugh at the same things) wrote a story which is in Writivism’s new short story collection- Odokonyero. Hers is the title story. For those who don’t/didn’t know, Odokonyero in Acholi means “he became a laughing stock.” It’s a story about a boy who gets traumatized after rebel activities but no one understands him. In that particular story, she’s thinking in Luo, Acholi in particular. In her head, Odokonyero and other characters are speaking Acholi save for the NGO workers. Acholi is what she would call the ‘official’ language that was used by the rebels.

On the issue of mother tongue versus “foreign” languages she says; “While writing in your mother tongue may target a certain audience, having a voice in your mother tongue and putting them in English is intended to draw all kinds of audiences. Look at Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu. It is an outstanding book because of its uniqueness. And the setting is in Buganda, her inner voice is probably Luganda. The only problem with writing in our mother tongues is limitation in vocabulary, and this is because we have been taught English and our mother tongues have been left out. It is almost a sin to speak your mother tongue in most schools. But if we took time to learn our mother tongues, I don’t think we would have problems with them. The African dialect is richer.”

So what if your computer doesn’t recognize names like Kitong, Namutosi, Kintu, Lusiba, Ampumuza, Ayella, T’challa, Namaganda, Kiconco, Awori, Rukwengye, Mugabi, Adoch, Oduor, and the like? Do you settle for Denis, Steve and Faith? No; you keep correcting your autocorrect until your characters have their right names because names are very crucial to every story.

Peter Kagayi(author of The Headline that morning) also believes African writers should write in our native languages because it is our DUTY. It is our/your duty as an African writer to help in the decolonization process by preserving our mother tongues, to create memory for the future heritage and to promote your/our indigenous culture.

Diego Mwesigwa (a poet) doesn’t agree. He thinks and writes in English because his mother tongue doesn’t give room for a lot of expression that can be understood in his writing. He doesn’t think writers should write in their mother tongue as a must to prove themselves because everyone has their own style.

Like someone said, this is a long conversation. It all goes back to who you’re writing for and why you’re writing. Are you writing about Africa for your people or for the rest of the world? Do you want them to see what you see, are you trying to shine out of the dark continent, are you trying to make a point or are you just saying ? In all this, I only envision an Africa where we fearlessly tell our truths our own way (for instance; Kech nekan, waakadhi adwar giraachama 😂😂 Shout outs to #TeamAlwaysHungry)