Stella Nyanzi was freed by Ugandan courts on February 20, 2020. Her new poetry collection No Roses From My Mouth, written while she was in jail, is available for your reading pleasure.
Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan medical anthropologist, feminist, queer rights activist, and scholar of sexuality, family planning, and public health. In 2017, she was arrested for a Facebook post that was deemed to have insulted Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. She was given an eighteen-month sentence by a court and sent to jail pending an appeal. The appeal court gave the judgement that freed the Kampala resident this past Thursday. You can read the drama of Ms Nyanzi’s release here.
While in jail, Stella Nyanzi wrote poetry using writing materials that had been smuggled in. The poetry has been released as a collection published by the Ubuntu Reading Group on February 1 with the following blurb;
Stella Nyanzi was arrested on November 2, 2018 for posting a poem on Facebook that was said to cyber-harras the long-serving President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Museveni. She was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months in jail. At the date of publishing this poetry collection, Nyanzi remains incarcerated. She wrote all the poems in this collection during her detention. This arguably makes her the first Ugandan prison writer to publish a poetry collection written in jail while still incarcerated. The first batch of the poems was released on her 45th birthday on June 16, 2019 celebrated while she was in jail under the hashtag #45Poems4Freedom. Other poems were written after the birthday. These poems must be read not only for their beauty and the power of the poet’s vision, but also for the bravery and radical intent of their writing and publishing.
Feminist giant Mona Eltahawy recommends the collection saying, “Nyanzi is a hero. Her insistence on violating patriarchy’s rules by talking explicitly about taboo subjects—be they the president’s buttocks, sex, sexuality, queerness—should be studied everywhere as a masterclass in the power of refusing to obey the rules of “politeness.”
We have been looking through this collection and have to say that the book, while needing edits probably because of the rush to get it out, packs a punch. The poet aims her righteous anger outward to all who rightly deserve it be they faux feminists, corrupt politicians, and more. We shall be giving more analysis of the text when we are done with it.
If you want to get your copy of the book please check out the Amazon edition here. We shall be on the lookout for any events about this book in East Africa and share when they become available.