Tuesday, July 14, 2020


It is with great pleasure that we announce our #Babishai2020 haiku longlist. The Chief Judge, Kariuki wa Nyamu, who also won the 2017 haiku prize, agrees that it was with careful deliberation that the list was made, with such astounding and unparalleled talent. He shall share more, in an extended interview.

To all the poets on the longlist, warm congratulations. It's always a pleasure and paradise, to read from such highly imaginative work, and again, thanks for bearing with us as we navigate how to excel and make positive impact, in online spaces. 

Let's continue to extend out creativity from within, to spaces where we can make a difference.

Below are the top ten haiku winners, of the #Babishai2020 haiku prize.

total blackout...
street lamps glow with
mating fireflies
Name: Ali Znaidi
Country: Tunisia


the morning rain falls
endlessly hugging thy sleep
frozen ideas die

NAME: Andrew Herbert Omuna
Country: Uganda


the wind plays
every tree sways to its song–
nature's musical

Name: Praise Osawaru
Country: Nigeria


my child's eyes
can still see trees run past
our small moving car.

Country: UGANDA


bitter kola
grandpa breaks into
a new tale

Name: Ahmad Holderness
Country of origin: Nigeria
Country of residence: Nigeria and United Kingdom


delicate mounds
parting soil in the night
to die out soon

Name: Akello Charlotte
Country: Uganda


garden opera
in the moon's spotlight
a frog leads chorus

Name: Justice Joseph Prah
Country: Ghana


suffocated roots
peep out of garbage dump
where is fresh air?

Name: Rose Wangari Kinyanjui
Country: Kenya


ringed with its papers
and tracked like jailbird on bail
the immigrant lands...

Name: Adipo Sidang'
Country: Kenya


in the wall
deep opening abandoned
geckoes' room

Name: Osho Tunde Matthew
Country: Nigeria

Details of award-giving shall be shared in due course.

Sunday, July 12, 2020



Written by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

A half-bitten mango, still wet, from the saliva of a monkey, lies on the ground. A half-eaten fig, with particles of dust and stones sticking to it, lies on the ground. Interdependence. Kindness. Lessons from monkeys. In 2017, The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation organized its second poetry-nature trip. This particular adventure, titled, ‘Poetry at Mabira Forest,’ opened an entirely new understanding of how social economies are built. The forest walk guide, Hussein emptied himself heaps of knowledge about medicinal trees, Musamya River, and the marvel of the 306 sq km, covered by Uganda’s largest tropical rain forest.

Safari ants, Hussein duly warned, were a constant menace, and he advised extra caution. There were about twenty poets, academics, journalists and well-wishers in total, who set off on Friday 4 August, from Kampala City, for the launch of the #Babishai2017 Poetry Festival at Mabira Forest. Situated in Najjembe in Buikwe District, Eastern Uganda, between Lugazi and Jinja, the forest boasts of 312 types of trees, and 315 bird species. Covered by such a green density, the forest, for some parts, blocked out the sky and was replaced by an eerie yet welcoming canopy of leaves. There are tropical trees standing at heights of 197 feet, with buttress roots, and one remarkably powerful tree was the Prunus Africana, known to have the medicinal ability to heal prostate cancer and malaria. How empowering to know of the healing nature of trees, and to be honoured with such vastness of miracles. Why then would we intentionally destroy it? Are we oblivious to nature’s healing influence? Mabira Forest’s unmistakable clout continues towards the Musamya River.

Musamya River flows earnestly in the Western and Northern part of the forest, joining Sezibwa Falls, and eventually flowing into the River Nile. Musamya Falls, also named Griffin Falls, is a major site, which unfortunately has been partly ruined by the continued burning of sugarcane and dumping of waste, in the surrounding areas. Apart from promoting poetry, and performing witty and unconventional verse, across Uganda’s breathtaking landscapes, the Babishai poetry-nature series is intent on promoting environmental conservation. This trip identified several areas that were disconcerting, and that hopefully would alert all Ugandans and stakeholders as gatekeepers and stewards of the environment that we have been lavished with. The environment includes both the flora and the fauna. These include the often misunderstood nature of the monkeys.

A half-bitten mango, still wet, from the saliva of a monkey, lies on the ground. A half-eaten fig, with particles of dust and stones sticking to it, lies on the ground. Interdependence. Kindness. Lessons from monkeys. These primates leave the forest bed littered with half eaten fruit; for the sole purpose of ensuring that there is food for other animals that mostly crawl or scamper on the ground. Amongst these that benefit from the fruit, are millipedes, snails, squirrels and porcupines.

Having first taken a tour of Mabira Forest myself, in 2005, during the heavy protests over the deforestation of large parts, for sugarcane planting, I was enamoured then just as I was enamoured eleven years later. With the notes taken by the poets who travelled and the footage sponsored by the Babishai team, I was able to capture the essence again. 

As a risk-taker, with a fascination for heights, Hussein who also managed my zip lining expedition, explained about the thrill of the one-hour adrenaline-pumping ride. Cruising over, while hanging on for dear life, is as daunting as it is exhilarating. There are six zip lining ‘flight’, in total, the last covering 87 metres across River Musamya, leading to the final descent. Some more avant-garde couples, decide to ride together, leaving onlookers in awe.

The Babishai 2017 Mabira Forest nature trip, was, all in all, a once-in-a-lifetime delight, with the promise of subsequent poetry excursions across Uganda.

Email: babishainiwe@babishainiwe.com

Saturday, July 4, 2020


By Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

They are diurnal; active during the day, like most humans have been trained to be. With large activity during the day time, they act as agents of pollination, laying a copious number of eggs, for their own life insurance. Their eggs are often eaten by all types of predators, from spiders, ants and a few birds, therefore reducing the risk of predation, by increasing the number of eggs that they lay. While butterflies come in about fifteen thousand types of species and vary in their lifestyle, after exploring for a while, not as an entomologist, but as someone who’s fascinated by their curious nature, I unearthed (pun intended), a few images of butterflies, taken in 2014.

The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, which promotes African poetry coordinated an East Africa poetry exchange programme, with a Kenyan poet, Michael Onsando, who visited Kampala for a few days. During his visit, he led discussions on the politics and aesthetics of poetry, during an evening hosted by Femrite, where the discussion varied from the potency of East African poets, to the validation sought by African literary gatekeepers, to sustainable livelihoods in poetry. It was a vibrant evening, laced with intellectual and creative discourse.

Babishai and the butterflies. Getting to that. A friend of Babishai’s and a personal friend of mine too, Tom Forrest, a retired British Diplomat, who has lived in Uganda for decades of years, with a house on Buziga Hill, overlooking one of the most breathtaking views in Uganda, invited us to a brunch. Together with Jackee Batanda, a writer and entrepreneur, and Sophie Alal, writer and winner of the 2010 BN Poetry Award, we had a remarkable time. Tom is a nature enthusiast, whose garden boasts of such a wide variety of plants and flowers, that we were immersed in it for a while. My mother, who runs a successful landscaping business, introduced me to the magnanimity of plants and flowers, and I’m always enamoured by the experience. It was here while we chatted and walked in the garden, which a few butterflies kept flitting around us.

Like any human with fairly good eyesight, we were drawn to their essence. With Jackee’s camera, thanks to her photography skills, we were able to capture some iconic moments of this butterfly. One black and yellow species was by the window sill, stately and striking. How do you capture such beauty in just a photograph? How do you sip enough of it, to quench your insatiable need for nature’s grandeur! It’s impossible. We tried, though.

It was later that I discovered butterflies never fly in straight lines, to confuse their predators. They do not want to leave obvious flight paths, as that would make them easy prey. On reading Robert Greene’s ’48 Laws of Power,’ he too recommends that we should leave a little mystery to our habits and schedules. A change in routine, puts people off-guard and you not only brighten your vibe, but also heighten your security.

I’ve seen photos and videos of heavy set adults chasing butterflies down across miles, with butterfly nets. Their indirect flight confuses the butterfly catchers, and it’s quite a sight to watch.

Lessons from butterflies: We must lay a large number of eggs; because that raises the assurance of survival. Live in such a way that even with half of your ideas, plans, or activities failed, there is assurance that your legacy will remain intact. Not because you had a million ideas, but because the predators could not reach them, or destroy them.

Lessons from butterflies: Be unpredictable. Don’t live such a monotonous and regular life, which leaves no surprises. If you’re a dancer, change the music. If you write, change the characters, and if you’re a parent, change your style.

There are hundreds of iconic moments with Babishai, which were captured in photos. I’ll be sharing more.

Thanks for reading. The various lifestyles of butterflies was information gathered from discussions with friends who love to travel around Uganda, and an article in The Eye Magazine.

Babishai edits poetry, and if you have a collection of fifty poems or more that you would like us to look at, email babishainiwe@babishainiwe.com, or call +256 751 703226.

Friday, March 27, 2020


27 March, 2020

Dear Friends of Babishai, Lovers of Poetry, and Leaders in the Arts,

We are looking forward to a tomorrow that is better than today.

During this time when the world seems to be spinning under our feet, let’s keep our heads high, and remember the effectiveness of our togetherness, our creativity and our steed. In these unprecedented days with Covid-19 stretching its ugly neck in unwanted spaces, the Babishai team has agreed to postpone our festival, which was scheduled for June, 25-28 in Kibaale, by the crater lake.

We appreciate all who have reached out to us with care and advice. That means a lot, that even with your own challenges, you still think of others. The #Babishai2020 Haiku award deadline passed and the judges shall proceed with their work. The announcement of the shortlist and winners though, shall be postponed to June, until we finalize on a new date for the festival.

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Keep to the prevention measures, until we kick Corona out of our lives.
Keep writing and reciting too, because people around you need the warmth that stems from a creative mind, more than ever.

The Babishai Team

Thursday, October 24, 2019


You probably know someone who has written a poem and kept it locked up for ages; a secret like a belch, (for them and them alone). Maybe you are that person who’s written a poem, about a moment that was too terrifying or magical, not to be locked in the confines of pen and paper.
The BN Poetry Award began for that reason; to tell you that some secrets are okay to share. We began this journey of splendor, sin and secrets so that unrecognised poets, especially, would have their space to shine. Since 2009, about 5,200 poets have passed through the BN Poetry corridors, through both the annual poetry contests and annual publications.
Turning this service up a notch, we want to not only spread the word of African poetry through annual contests, but also to read, reread, proof read, edit and give advice on poetry and haikus, from Africans. With every contest, we often receive such requests. Before we announce our 2019 annual haiku award, kindly indulge:-
After receiving our umpteenth request to read, edit and assess poetry and haiku from both emerging and established poets, we have decided to create an official space for this highly sought after service. We have decided to fill a much needed gap.
The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation is officially opening up a professional editing space for African poetry. To all emerging and established poets of African descent, kindly submit your work. We have subsidized the rates for African poets.
1.      All submissions must be submitted as a Microsoft word attachment, using Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri, font size 12, single-spacing.
2.      Kindly use a header at the top right corner and include  your name, draft title of your submission (not compulsory), city and country of residence, city and country of origin (if different from above).
3.      This is a professional service, and depending on the amount of work submitted, there will be a fee.
The Subsidized Poetry Editing Rates are as Below:-
10-20 Poems  -   $200
21-50 poems- $500
4.      If you’re interested in the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation going further to publish your work, that can be followed by a formal discussion on preferences, design, time-lines, quantity, and other essential criteria.
5.      You own the copyright.
6.      Kindly submit work to babishainiwe@babishainiwe.com. You may also call +256 751 703226
Thanks for being such a support towards African poetry.
Towards the end of the year, we shall be calling for submissions for our 2019 African haiku contest.


Follow us on Twitter: @BNPoetryAward
Instagram:                  babishai

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The BN Poetry Award’s Esteemed MC, Sophia Aniku

 A starless night, a breeze and a poetry home, brimming with minds agog with excitement. In August 2009, we launched the BN Poetry Award, founded by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, at a lavish dinner in Kampala City. This award, an annual celebration of Ugandan women’s poetry, soared into the constellation, a new belief in poetry by Ugandan women. Like any event, Mcs, hosts and Chief guests, are often the cement of any occasion.

Sophia Aniku. (Photos courtesy of Buyondo)

Sophia, a radio and television and radio personality who also manages a fashion house of Ankara and other well-sought after African clothing, was there to witness the first award-giving dinner of the BN poetry Award. She not only participated as a witness but she indulged us in her enviable gift of MC-ing. With Sophia, she emits charisma, confidence and elegance effortlessly. Always one to hold herself to high standards and employ admirable work ethics to her tasks, the BN Poetry Team, was highly blest to have her.
During a recent interview with her in celebration of ten years, Sophia reflected with alacrity and humor.

Interviewer:  Sophia, what stood out on that evening of August 2009, during the launch of the BN Poetry  
Sophia:          For me, it felt like when you’re building a fire and you start with that first spark, and you    know that there will be additional wood. It was definitely something that would grow over time. It was our little secret. People’s minds and spirits were tuned to that moment. It was intimate, quiet and special. People took it all in.

Interviewer:      You have emceed at three of our BN Poetry award-giving dinners. For each of those times, what was a constant factor?

Sophia:                 The participants wanted to take ownership of it. They brought their families, interns fully participated and I do recall telling Stella Nyanzi to be quiet at one of those memorable evenings. There was such rich diverse members of the audiences, in age as well. The momentum kept building.

Dr. Stella Nyanzi at the 2009 BN Poetry Award dinner.

Guests across the arts, academic and corporate sector.

Interviewer:      You’ve worked and lived around Africa, Is there any insight into the poetry scene?
Sophia:                 In Abuja, House 33, there is a space owned by a playwright and screen play writer of Blood Diamond. This house provided opportunity for artists to come and express their work. He encouraged hard-core exchanges with passionate artists. Those kind of people should work with Babishai across the continent.

Interviewer:      Whom do you think should read our children’s books?
Sophia:                 The children’s books are fabulous. Children need this very type of stimulation. The orgnic experience can be found in books.
Congratulations, Babishai. We are reaping the depth of the galaxy of poetry. We are our own sonnets. Babishai is the sonnet. The song to the word.

Above is the Babishai team, speaking to hundreds of students at Kabale University, in Matrch, 2019.

Thank you Sophia

Thursday, August 8, 2019


It drives me to indescribably awesome heights, when I'm invited to speak, perform poetry, and train. When firebrand and mastermind behind Science Stories Africa, Patricia Nanteza, extended a request for me to train some of Uganda's most ingenious scientists on how to creatively share their discoveries to the world, I accepted the invitation in a heartbeat.

This photo captures me embracing the moment as I was engulfed in science.
Courtesy photo: Science Stories Africa

At the start of a much-needed two-month holiday, in June 2019, I plunged into the training. Science Stories Africa is a platform intended to create connections between leading Ugandan scientists and their discoveries, to the rest of the world. The intention is to make science more palatable, relatable and creative. My job was to articulate that and train the scientists into managing their discoveries, difficult laboratory terms and impossible to believe experiments, into stories, so that entire audiences could hear and learn from them.

Allan Muhumuza, Engineer at Kiira Motors EV. Photo Courtesy of Science Stories Africa

In 2008, Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) Teams from 35 Pre-eminent Research Universities built a 5 seater Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, The Vision 200 Led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 
Makerere University, the only African team, developed the Power Train and in-Vehicle Communication Network for the Vision 200. The electric car made by the Makerere University Vehicle Design Project, was finished and was taken for its first test-drive on Tuesday 1st November 2011. The test-drive was successful and attracted a lot of local and international attention. Allan Muhumuza, who was amongst the senior team members of the project, a passionate and inspired new father, used his daughter, Atara, as an inspiration to model green cars that are environmentally friendly and offer more socially compatable options for other commuters and pedestrians.
 Let's embrace ourselves, too, for the first electric powered environment friendly public bus. We can't wait!

With Dr. Priver Namanya Bwesigye, Photo courtesy of Science Stories Africa.

Priver genetically engineered entirely new plants, from a process known as cell suspension. Targeting a specific type of matooke highland breed, Priver, in four arduous years, challenged by walking away from the project, depression and fatigue, soldiered through with fortitude. Being able to re-generate plants from cells empowered Namanya and other scientists to try to enhance the plants’ defence mechanism through genetic engineering. This came at a crucial time when the particular matooke breed had begun significantly reducing in quantity. Now, it's possible to reproduce this breed, through genetic engineering.

Martin Tumusiime,  of Yo-Waste App! 

Yo-Waste, is a mobile app that explores ways of reducing the heaps of garbage in your community, Their mission is simple:
 To create sustainable and waste free communities. We do all this through developing innovative technology solutions that allow people to recycle more and haulers to divert more collected trash to recycling industries. As a young entrepreneur with knowledge of advanced technology Martin set to work with a group of youthful smarts and developed this timely, convenient and resourceful application.
Above is the entire group of five laudable Ugandan scientists, at the launch of Science Stories Africa in June 2019.

Prof. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, Director of The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), as a child, experienced the morbid reality of attending burials of other children. As an adult, his observation led him to realize that the large deficiency of Vitamin A in foods, could possibly be a leading factor of those early deaths. 
 Using Genetically Modified processes, he , with other scientists, have increased Vitamin A content in matooke. He stands by the word that the foods are safe for consumption.

Engineer Alphonse Candia, another formidable scientist, on growing up in Arua, where smoked fish was a delicacy, realised that with tragic deaths from liver cancer, there could be a link to the local ways fish was smoked. Through the invention of a smoking kiln, a prototype that was tested and found to be effective in preserving fish without the dark-smoke, Engineer Candia is heralded for his magnanimous work in science and in improving livelihoods.

Above are the mesmerized crowd, filling the National Theatre auditorium, listening to the heartfelt, endearing and empowering stories of the five scientists.

Photos are from Science Stories Africa.

For me, being part of the enchanting thread where dreams and nightmares turned into possibilities, to hear firsthand how lives are actually changed, thanks to scientists who sharpened their grit to make a difference. It's nothing short of wow!

By Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva