The Uganda International Writers Conference 2019 was hosted at the Fairway Hotel, Kampala, Uganda from May 15-17, 2019. The theme for this year’s conference was “The Right to Write in a Global Context.”
Every two years since 2013, writers and other publishing professionals have converged on Kampala, Uganda for days of intellectual stimulation and thought-provoking discussions at the Uganda International Writers Conference. The conference, organised by the African Writers Trust, has hosted Bibi Bakare-Yusuf and Lemn Sissay in 2017 as well as Noo Saro-Wiwa, Chinelo Okparanta, Julianne Okot Bitek and a host of others in 2015. Some of the 2013 participants were Jack Mapanje and Nii Ayikwei Parkes.
The fourth edition of the conference was hosted in May with participation from writers, poets, bloggers, filmmakers, playwrights, publishing professionals, critics, academics, journalists and book enthusiasts from Africa and its Diaspora. They were involved in panel discussions, book chats and a host of other literary activities.
African Writers Trust Turns 10.
African Writers Trust was set up in 2009 by a team led by Goretti Kyomuhendo to bring together writers in Africa with those of the diaspora. The organisation focuses on capacity building with training in editing and other vital areas as well as hosting events like the Uganda International Writers Conference. The celebration at the conference venue was led by Trust leader Goretti with a cake being cut and promises to do more of the same over the next ten years and beyond being made.
Literary events are a great way for writers who are still new to the business to scale up their knowledge. At this conference, early career writers took part in the Creative Enterprise Master Class organised by British Council Uganda with Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi giving guidance.
New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.
New Daughters of Africa is one of the most exciting projects in African writing in recent times. The anthology, a sequel to Daughters of Africa, features the writing of over 200 women writers in Africa and its diaspora with Margaret Busby reprising the role as editor. The East African launch of the book happened at the Fairway hotel, Kampala moderated by Dr Danson Kahyana. It featured readings from anthology contributors Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Jackie Budesta Batanda, Goretti Kyomuhendo, Harriet Anena, Susan Kiguli, Doreen Baingana, Hilda Twongyeirwe, and Jackie Kay.
Manchester Happened, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.
The first session of the conference was the launch of Manchester Happened, the short story collection by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Makumbi who had just come from a two city tour of Nairobi and Kigali gave her home city just as much if not more love. The novelist and short story writer who was born in Uganda, now based in Manchester, UK, discussed the new book with Doreen Baingana followed by signing of books by fans. Yes, the books ran out. This is Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi we are talking about after all.
Festival headliner Jackie Kay opened the conversations for the festival on “Any Good Art Transforms You” with Ugandan poet and academic Dr Susan Kiguli. “The Right to Write, The Right to Be in the Age of social media” moderated by Gawaya Tegulle had Lulu Jemimah, Harriet Anena and Bernard Ewalu Olupot as panellists. The panel focused on the importance of maintaining a healthy balance in social media interaction.
Another of the sessions was “Revisiting the Colonial Legacy in Contemporary (B)Uganda: A Case of Protection, Patronage or Plunder?” with Apollo N. Makubuya speaking under moderation by David F.K. Mpanga. Apollo Makubuya has written the nonfiction tome Protection, Patronage, Or Plunder? British Machinations and B(Uganda’s) Struggle for Independence (2019) which reconstructs a history of the machinations underpinning British imperial interests in (B)Uganda and the personalities who embodied colonial rule.
Another conversation was “Writing Our Stories: Memoir Writing and Self-Care” featuring Prof Sandra Adell the writer of the memoir Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen. Running the occasion was Makerere University’s Dr Florence Ebila. Prof Adell spoke about memoir writing and the importance of self-care, especially when the motivation for writing is a traumatic event or series of traumatic events. She also spoke about the writing process and everything therein.
Then there was “Writing Our Stories: Memoir Writing as a Way to Heal,” a conversation between James Luyinda-Miti and his discussant Achiro P. Olwoch. Luyinda-Miti is the writer of 90 Days in Hell (2017) where he tells the true story of two Ugandan men who survived the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
Another panel was “Breaking Zones of Silence” moderated by Bethlehem Negash with Nesto Ngong Dzenchuo, Corneli van den Berg, and Abu Amirah as panellists. Corneli coordinates an annual literature festival, held in Bloemfontein, South Africa, concurrently with the Vrystaat Arts Festival and they strive to ‘break zones of silence’ on a daily basis. Nesto spoke to the audience about the current civil strife in his country of Cameroon. The situation has gotten so bad that writers who are trying to carry out research are considered to be spies and suffer the consequences. Abu Amirah spoke about how the state of writing in Mombasa was lacking and how his Hekaya Initiative was working to change this with the Swahili Literary Festival and the Travelling Fiction project.
The evening of May 17 was a treat for those who love poetry and the written word with readings by Jackie Kay, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and Lorraine Oduru. Also on offer were performances by, among others, Kitara Nation’s Ankunda Bridget, Nalongo Ruth Namusobya, and Kagayi Ngobi, Harriet Anena, and many others.
All images used in this post have been sourced from the African Writers Trust Facebook page.