Jennifer Makumbi

Jennifer Makumbi

The overall winner for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize is Ugandan writer Jennifer Makumbi. The East African was awarded her prize at a glittering ceremony on Friday evening in Kampala, Uganda by novelist and short story writer Romesh Gunesekera.

The winning story is about a grieving widow who arrives at Entebbe Airport from Manchester with her husband’s coffin, but events take such a dramatic turn that she must relinquish her widowhood and fight.

The author took her time to speak to Ellah Allfrey on the morning after the win and she gave her views on many things. They included her struggle to get her work out there – her first book The Kintu Saga has taken over a decade to see the light of day. She also gives her thoughts on a topic I most hate where literature from this part of the world is concerned, “Uganda as a literary desert” prompted by Ms Allfrey.

This is a question that all people doing interviews on literature from East Africa should be banned from asking. Taban Lo Liyong made the case for a “literary desert” where the literature from this part of the world. Do you know when this statement was made? 1969. 19 flipping 69!!!

Since then the East African region has written a storm. From Meja Mwangi in the 1970s to Doreen Baingana in the 2000s the quality and quantity of the prose coming from this part of the world can shock you. Especially if you hear some random person who should know better referring to this part of the world as ever have been referred to as a literary desert. Its only these people who perpetuate this lie. Here is the correct answer to such lazy questions in future my people;

Interviewer: Kenya and Uganda has been described as a literary desert. Do you think your book shows that this is coming to an end?

Novelist: I spit upon your question you sound bite seeking interviewer. *spits”

Woosahhh!

P.s. Note to self. Find the paper where this “literary desert” nonsense was born and debunk it. Nimechoka.