Rosebell Kagumiire, Nyana Kakoma and Zaahida Nabagereka were the first panellists at the Uganda International Writers Conference 2017 in Kampala, Uganda. They were moderated by Elone Natumanya.
The third edition of the Uganda International Writers Conference 2017 kicked off on March 6th at the Fairway Hotel in Kampala, Uganda. The conference was organised by our friends from the African Writers Trust which is based in the East African country. This is why it was apt that the events were kicked off by Goretti Kyomuhendo the director of African Writers Trust who welcomed the delegates to the venue.
Our moderator Elone, who was really good incidentally, had the three panellists start out by introducing themselves and their reasons for being on the panel. Nyana Kakoma and Rosebell Kagumiire were both journalism students at Makerere University who then transitioned to working for The Daily Monitor newspaper and then started blogs. Nyana’s blog So Many Stories went onto to become a publishing outfit after she had gone to Modjadji Books in South Africa to do an editorial internship. Rosebell took another root via a TV station into civil society and is now curating an African feminism blog with an Ethiopian colleague at AfricanFeminism.com. Zaahida spoke about the projects that Afrikult has been doing; you can read more about the UK based organisation here.
The discussions started moving back and forth about current trends in African and African diaspora writing and publishing. The discussions touched on topics that you would expect at such a forum like the role of social media, is traditional publishing getting extinct, and the like. Seeing as we were in Uganda also on the table were topics were like the writing of Stella Nyanzi and even that notorious Uber story (that I stopped read after that guy dropped a doodie on Thika Road).
The ladies were asked about their experiences in the publishing industry as it was constituted at the moment and it became clear that they had different ways of looking at it. Nyana was a blogger who felt that she needed to do more than just curate content but bring new voices to Ugandan publishing in a more substantial way. She set up a publishing house for the writers with manuscripts that had failed to get a space in her county’s market. She made mistakes at the beginning; her first project was a poetry anthology and it was difficult to get the audience to embrace this genre initially. Her team innovated with recording a live CD of the poetry performing; the draw was that her poet is an exceptional vocal performer. She discovered to her surprise that the book has done better than the CD.
Rosebell on the other hand saw the blog as the solution. She had set it up, click here to access it, when she realised that she would likely have a problem getting her opinion into the newspaper pages which were dominated by men voices. The blog which is eight years old now allowed her a freedom to do stories that she felt needed to be told in her voice.
The discussions were typical for an opening panel for an East African event; a bit restrained as delegates felt out opinions and tried to see how far they could push the envelope. Eventually the panel would wrap up with a tea break. This is East Africa and we end things with tea breaks. That’s our style.