Monday, June 5, 2017


5 JUNE 2017


The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation is holding the third Babishai Poetry Festival in Uganda. It's a three-day poetry buffet from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th August in Uganda. Poets, poetry publishers, poetry performers, poetry teachers and poetry admirers, will converge in various locations across Uganda to conduct workshops and transform young minds.

In their signature style, the #Babishaipoetrynatureseries launches phase two. The team, with adventurous artists across the region, will trek across Mabira Forest on Friday 4th August. After the success of the 2016 Poetry on Rwenzori Mountain excursion, this year there will be another trek across the green enchantment of Mabira forest.
Poets from all over the region are encouraged to participate and cultivate the practice of orature in organic spaces.

On Saturday 5 August, Tontoma Poetry Jazz will orchestrate traditional poetry performances and at the same venue,32° East/Ugandan Arts Trust, there will be a relaunch of the African Poetry Book Fund Library. Published poets are invited to read from their work and donate their books towards the enrichment of reading poetry. Maisha Moto will host spoken word performers and storytellers across the older generation to a much younger one later on that day from 2:00pm.

There will be a full children's day at the Uganda Museum on the final day, Sunday 6 August, master-classes to groom older poets and finally to close the festival, an award-giving dinner within the city at Humura Resort. Dinner cards are on sale at 40,000/-.

If you're a published poet, distributor of poetry, or bookseller of poetry, come and exhibit and market your work. Uganda needs you.
For more information on the festival, dinner cards or book exhibition, please contact

The Festival Coordinator
George Kiwanuka
Tel:+256 703147862
Twitter: @BNPoetryAward

Saturday, June 3, 2017

What the 'hell' is Christian writing?

What the 'hell' is Christian writing?

Every artistic work deserves a home; not to be discarded like an orphan. Where though, do we place Christian writing? If it's written by a Ugandan, does it fall under 'Self help books by Africans ?' Or rather, in order to be politically correct, do we place it under religious creative non-fiction, just next to the bibles?'

During the #Babishai2016 poetry festival, we held a session on Christian writing, with Paul Kisakye, author of Prodigal Love and Roxanna Aliba Kazibwe, author of My Love is Not Afraid.

What comes to mind when we speak of Christian writing? Paul Kisakye says that Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar's inspirational material are popular. Furthermore, Christian literature illuminates Christian values and beliefs. It's a type of writing that voices Christianity.

Paul Kisakye's book, Prodigal Love, is sold mainly to the Christian market and for him, he would never produce art for art's sake.

Courtesy photo

Roxanna Kazibwe's poetry collection, My Love is Not Afraid, evokes a feeling of restoration and hope and through that, she's certain to have received the purpose of being a Christian writer. 

A Christian book emits certain values. Another great example, Roxanna says, is Chronicles of Narnia. 

Roxanna at the 2015 Storymoja Festival 

The Chronicles of Narnia,  fantasy book, heightens the Christian experience by engaging values like forgiveness, loyalty, prayer and faith. 

The Da Vinci Code, on the other hand, tackles the church and religion but because it's not a portrayal of Christian values, is not categorised as such.

During the conversation, audience members suggested that Christian writing is just a label used in order to gain an edge over other literary markets.

The #Babishai2017 poetry festival is scheduled for 4-6 August, beginning with a trek across Mabira Forest; Poetry@Mabira.

Follow us on Twitter @BNPoetryAward.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


MARIA KAKINDA BIRUNG  is an unabashed lover of literature. Her poem, 'I am not sorry anymore,' was amongst the Top five in the #Babishai2016 poetry competition. Here, we explore more about her literary life.

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If you had a choice of only one sentence in the world to describe yourself, what would it be?
A selectively curious girl who revels in introversion and sporadically explores literature.

What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Experiences, not necessarily my own but other peoples’. University has so far been a pool of encounters. My interaction with more people has been helpful especially since people have varying versions of what they consider to be reality. Sometimes the versions are not dramatically contrasting but are often revealing.
When it’s difficult for me to write, I try to read books especially fiction. I have a habit of re-reading parts of books that strike me the most. I do that a lot with ‘The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah’ and ‘Tar Baby’ by Toni Morrison.

In your #Babishai2016 shortlisted poem entitled, ‘I am not sorry anymore’, you express, through the persona, an unveiled discontent at the hypocritical and changing worldviews towards women. Why was this poem important to you?

There’s a certain pressure that comes with youth. For women, it is to look and act in a certain way. Apparently there is a norm to which we must submit and even then our response should be measured.
But I think deep down each of us is struggling with some existential reality to which its ultimate fulfilment eludes us. And I always think about how amazing it is that sometimes you look across the street and see a lady or gentleman, very well put together. Even I, am a culprit. I am not saying that there is no need to apply reason for sanity’s sake but we should recognise that within each of us there is a storm. My professor calls it dialectics; that even when one is still, the respiratory and circulatory system are in motion. Perhaps Nikitta Gill’s quote can best summarise what I am trying to say; ‘Whilst somewhere the water is calm, in another place in the very same ocean, there is a colossal storm.’

Is it important for poets to always have an angle, as they write?
I think it is mostly important when we embark on a deliberate journey to address a specific issue, when we are aspiring to be agents of change. But there are times when poets are writing to discover themselves, to find answers within themselves to questions which they have constructed. And even then, the questions are never definite.

What are some of your favourite poems?
In no particular order;
Five Stations for Various-Richard Ali
Take over-Melissa Kiguwa.
The Kingdom of Gravity-Nick Makoha.
Quarantine with Abdelhalim Hafez-SafiaElhillo.
The poems in ‘Salt’- NayyirahWaheed.

What do you think a poet should do, when readers respond violently to their work?
I think that a poet in writing not only aims to express him/herself but also to illicit some sort of emotion from the reader. The poet’s control is and should only be confined to what is written and how it is moulded. The greater adversity would therefore be no response than any response at all. A non-response may presuppose that one’s work is detached/pretentious, you name it. A violent response on the other hand may reflect truths and what is a greater aspiration than truths’ revelation?

As poets, how can we separate our work from our personal lives?
I think our personal lives inform our poetry and as a result our poetry is more honest. But if we must separate our work from our personal lives, we could immerse ourselves entirely in the events of our lives. What I mean is that we would have to be ‘entirely where we are’, making a deliberate choice to fully experience something. If we must say words or do actions or respond to certain things at those precise moments, then we should. Because poetry is very reflective and sometimes when we write, it is in response to what I would like to call a ‘subsequent reaction’. We are going back in time and saying, “This happened and I did this but I would have liked to do that.”  Or “I felt like this but I should have felt like that.”
This would then be accompanied by editing the poetry and extracting those things that we think we’d not like the whole world to know.

Our third Babishai poetry festival runs from 4-6 August, starting with a poetry trek across Mabira Forest, Poetry@Mabira. Will you join us?
It would be lovely to join you and I hope to be there.

How best can poetry be celebrated for those who find it elitist?
I think that people who find poetry elitist should first recognise that writers are human and not superhuman. Sometimes the expectations of the public on the writers is superficial. That because one is a writer (poet), one should always be reasonable and very, very dignified. Yet poets struggle with the same things as you. From personal crises to ‘simple’ things like vocabulary. But I think that perhaps it is a cycle. That sometimes the writers also sub-consciously emulate these expectations. So personal, ‘face to face’ interaction with the poets would be ideal.
In Uganda, one cannot fail to recognise that there has been a re-emerging focus on poetry in our indigenous languages, almost like a shift back to those days of folk-lore and storytelling. This has helped poetry become more relatable and encourages a wider group of people to come up with their own creative ways of poetry.

Any parting remarks?
I would like to thank the team of Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for giving an opportunity to African emerging poets to interact and learn from each other.

Thank you Maria


 I am not sorry anymore, world.
The internet you shoved down my throat
And the grotesque knowledge you dropped
Onto my stunting spine taught me that
To be a woman, my forte would be,
Not a sharp mind but a sharp tongue.
That I had to spit-
Lewd and rude from pretty lips with lipstick mounted on them.

It is you,
You who taught me that-
Woman was acronym for; War Over Males ANew!
That we had adopted new tactics against men.
The strength of womanhood placed on a weighing scale,
Would be measured by the kilogrammes of
How many pillows I had lain on
And how many men’s mattresses had dipped with the weight of my body.
That the coveted for trophy would be presented to me,
With the measure of how many drops of tears my cup of vanity had collected,
And how many hearts my overgrown fingernails had scoured.

Isn’t it you who taught me-
To scrub the melanin off my skin?
For the fire in me would be revealed
Through the beauty of my newly acquired light skin.
Isn’t it you who whispered
That my femininity was evidenced by
The number of Instagram followers
Who unlike the disciples to Jesus, would hang onto the gospel…
Of the edges and curves of my body
And the wit of a sexually induced mind?

How dare you change your mind then?
And tell me that the price of femininity had changed…
That I had to grow the branches of a discerning mind and heart…
That ladies like Maya Angelou and Malala Yousafzai…
Had taken the mantra from the hands of women
Whose nudity and sexuality was weightlessly carried through
The air for all to see….
How dare you turn your back on me
Seeking to un-teach all the things;
That you had buttressed into my being?   

Kakinda Maria Birungi

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Babishai Poetry has garnered interest in the African Haiku, or as AdjeiAgyei-Baah, co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network coins it, Afriku.

The condensation of an African landscape in three lines is an extraordinary gift. Launching the inaugural Babishai Haiku prize in 2016 opened a treasure chest of unlikely imagery and meeting of immeasurable talent. This year 2017, we're expanding our partnership with University of South Africa (UNISA). Professor Maithufi Sopelekae shares his experience with the haiku and the importance of this partnership.

1.    Why is it important for UNISA to engage in the African Haiku?
Sope: Unisa prides itself as an ‘African University in the service of humanity’. Among others, this means sharing resources, plights and achievements with the continent and continually searching together for answers and solutions. However, this university’s network across the African continent is not yet a vast and aggressive as desired. I thus see this Association’s privileging of African epistemologies (as in the African Haiku) to be a convenient platform from which the above ideals can be pursued.

2.    How do you feel our African oral structures can be used to raise more awareness on the African Haiku?
Sope: I am inclined to believe that the rhythm of some (if not most) of the African aphorisms, idioms and proverbs lend themselves to relatively easy transcriptions into haikus. These genres are condensed, loaded in dialectical arguments and are highly rhythmic at times. I also find those that I am familiar with to be judicious in how they deploy metaphors to articulate the thesis (synthesis) such as it is comparable to that of the Haiku.

3.    How would you define a good haiku?
Sope: Aside from meeting the formal properties that we associate with haiku, I think it should not be contrived. In other words, it should arise organically from the process of mature observation and thinking. I also think that it must be rooted in people’s lore or oral storytelling.

4.  fogbound day...
     everyone suffers 
Above is one of the Babishai 2016 winning haikus, written by BlessmondAyinbire. How would you describe it?
Sope: I am impressed by the ability of the author to squeeze an argument within three lines, respectively comprising five, seven and three syllables. The thesis is introduced in the first line in the image or metaphor of a ‘fogbound day’ which stands for an anticipation for a day that will be clear or filled with hope. However, this sense of optimism is subtly undermined in the second line in which, in contrast to the first line’s sense of optimism, the speaker remarks that behind hopefulness is a sense of suffering – perhaps denialism. The concluding line, which describes the malady remarked uponin the second line as ‘myopia’ or near-sightedness,carries the synthesis. Ironically in thisdepiction, the idea of ‘suffering’ is shown to be mediated in a fragile but profound perspective to life. The poem thus returns us to its opening, main metaphor and paradox of a ‘fog-bound day’. Finally, instead of dismissing those who look forward to a clear day, the speaker acknowledges the shock absorbing mechanism or therapy that sustains them.

5. What do you feel about haikus in non-English?
Sope: I am not familiar with any Haiku outside of those published in English. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of any Haiku composed in a South African Black language. I am however committed to finding out. My hunch is that some of the black idioms and aphorisms will easily lend themselves to haikus in transcription.

6.  South Africa has actively engaged in protests against the current leadership. ( 2017) What are your thoughts on protest art?
Sope: I feel that this is indicative of vibrant democracy, high levels of civic awareness and a keen desire to avert the social, economical and political dilemmas such as they are commonin many post-colonial countries.
Protest art: in South Africa, protest art has a long history of association with the rise and articulations of black politics. However, this kind of art has yet to adequately engage with the politics of intersectionality. I find it interesting that this weakness continues to impoverish recent fine output such as that of AyandaMabulu (I refer to his portraits of rape) and Zapiro (see his banal and mechanistic sketches of Jacob Zuma).The fashionable #drama such as #FeesMustFall has been accused of being chauvinistic. We therefore await with baited breaths how protest art in South Africa will provide a critique of this phenomenon.

7. In 2015 during our first Babishai  poetry festival, we invited an environment expert to talk about how as artists we need to care for our environment. How do you think Art for social change can create positive impact?
Sope: I have always considered art to be a platform for social change. As a norm, many dictatorships attack people’s arts, because they emanate from people’s attempts to make meaning of physical space in their own spiritual and political terms. People’s arts do not care for extraneous and capitalistic intellectual property.

8. What are the important current trends in African writing?
Sope: I think they are many. I mention a few: cosmopolitanism (re-defined as Afropolitanism), Afrofuturism, the ‘ordinary’, eco-critical, shamanism, etc.

9.. Kindly share a brief profile and photo.
Sope: See attachment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


       "We are looking forward to Africa themed haiku i.e. haiku about African sights and sounds. Haiku must contain clear images, settings and juxtaposition. Haiku must be concise; three lines each.
·         It is open to ALL African poets (LIVING IN AFRICA), who will not have published a full-length collection of poetry by July 2017
·         Submissions should be original, in English. Submit using Times New Roman, single-spaced and size 12.
·          Send three Haikus to as a word attachment. DO NOT include your name or contact details on the haiku  itself
·         The subject line should read, #BABISHAIKU2017
·         Include your name, email address, country or birth and country of permanent residence, telephone number and the titles of your haikus in the body of the email
·         The submissions will be accepted from April 13th 2017 to July 4th 2017
·         The 2016 winners are not eligible to apply
·         The short-list will be announced in mid-July 2017
·         More details on the face book page, Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, on Twitter @BNPoetryAward and the website,
·         The top three winners will receive 200 USD each and receive publication in the Mamba Haiku journal;
The chief judge of the #Babishaiku 2017 Competition is:-
 Adjei Agyei-Baah 
Adjei Agyei-Baah is the co-founder of Africa Haiku Network and the co-editor of the Mamba Journal, Africa’s international haiku voice. He promotes haiku in Africa and as well serve as a haiku teacher and consultant for several schools and institutions in Ghana. He is the author of “Afriku” published by Red Moon Press, 2016 and a winner of several international haiku awards. 

This Babishai Haiku 2017 award is proudly sponsored by:-


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Tuesday 21 March 2017       World Poetry Day Press Statement

How do we take back our power if we never knew we had it in the first place?
In 2009, when the first Ugandan annual women's BN poetry prize was awarded to Lillian Aujo, it was a novelty. It was a platform that emboldened the closeted poets; unsure of their poetic power. Floods of gratitude poured in from the Ugandan women. After five years, when the award stretched to include all African poets, it was also the opportune time for a Ugandan woman to say, "Here I am, I'll continue the Ugandan women's poetry prize." That was power.
For the five years it lasted, the poets attended master classes at various continental festivals like Storymoja. where they met and were mentored by London 2012 Olympics poet Lemn Sissay, where they were published in Babishai poetry anthologies alongside Prof. Jack Mapanje and Dr. Susan Kiguli, read from the same stage as Sitawa Namwalie and experienced a vast amount of unlimited poetry.
The conversation about this poetry prize re-emerged during the second Babishai poetry festival in 2016. The panel of impassioned Ugandan women poets spoke with conviction and pride. Let the actions begin. When the prize began, there wasn't even a blog to its name. The founder hadn't published any poetry collection unlike today and her only literary achievement was attending a writer's retreat in Lamu. There were hundreds of others more advanced in their literary careers.
What did the founder of this BN Poetry Award have that was different? The power of decision and the heart to make it happen at all costs. There is every feasibility to revamp this prize. Just say Yes!  Make the decision. The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation will offer support. Don't wait for an endorsement from heaven. You have it. Anthony Robbins says, "Use whatever life gives you... The truth of the matter is, there is nothing you can't accomplish if you clearly decide what it is that you're absolutely committed to achieving."
To the Ugandan women poets, take back your power. Bring back the prize. Babishai will give its support. As you do so, in the words of Roxanna Kazibwe, published poet, 'Remember to have the time of your life while at it.'
FOUNDER AND COORDINATOR                        

Friday, March 10, 2017


'Husband, now you despise me
Now you treat me with spite
And say I have inherited
The stupidity of my aunt
You say you no longer want me
Because I am like the things left behind'

Lawino,  the central female character in the famous poem by Uganda's Okot p Bitek, Song of Lawino.
Lawino stands for self-respect, traditional values, feminism and she's also still a relevant voice for today. Tonight, you too will believe that Lawino is indeed our uncelebrated Uganda sheroine.
Make Acoli great again. That's what Lawino stands for. Respect of tradition, upholding Acoli values. Acholi people also known as Acoli is an ethnic group from the districts of Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya, Lamwo, and Pader in Northern Uganda (an area commonly referred to asAcholiland), and Magwe County in South Sudan.
The Acholi language is a Western Nilotic language, classified as Luo. Organised in chiefdoms. Leader is Rwot. Main activity is agriculture.The dances too, Lawino does not waste her time but presents the openness, liveliness and healthiness of Acoli dance positively, without apology:
«When the drums are throbbing
And the black youths
Have raised much dust
You dance with vigour and health
You dance naughtily with pride
You dance with Spirit,
You compete, you insult, you provoke
You challenge all»,

 Her husband Ocol, educated in Western ways, married a second woman called Clementine, an African lady who dressed and spoke in ways that devalued her African tradition and upheld Western ways. This is exactly what Ocol admired. By so doing, held Lawino, his traditional wife, in disdain.

Brother, when you see Clementine!
The beautiful one aspires;
To look like a white woman;
Her lips are red-hot;
Like glowing charcoal;

‘My clansmen I cry
Listen to my voice
The insults of my man
Are painful beyond bearing
He abuses me in English
And he is so arrogant
Second major factor explaining Lawino’s sheroics, Lawino challenged this Western education, whose literacy,  it appeared,  held tradition in contempt. She continues to say,
'In the deserted homestead
You insult me
You laugh at me
You say I do not know the letter A
Because I have not been to school and I have not been baptized. '
And yet, I agree, like Taban lo Liyong, indicated in Popular Culture of East Africa, published by Longman in Kenya, 1972, that while education may be formalized, it may also remain informal in the sense of cultural information. E.g the Luo proverb, Jatelo ogongo ogwari, meaning The leader will be scratched by the thorn.
How many of us here have other rich proverbs in our languages? There are invaluable lessons .
This book, Song of Lawino, which we must all purchase to understand the sheroics of Lawino, is available at Aristoc at 19, 600/-.  The Acoli version was published in 1966 by East African Publishers, before its English translation and last year there was a global celebration of the 50th anniversary. The English version was published in 1984 by Heinemann as part of the African Writers Series.
According to an online essay, written by  poet Allan  King in 2011, entitled, Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol, Colonization's Remnants in Africa, he stated that the verbal brawl between Lawino and her husband Ocol were reflective of husbands who once loved and adored their wives, despised them once they returned from abroad. To Ocol,  a newcomer to European values.
'Akurri ma welo maro moko, which in Acoli means, ' A newcomer is usually in danger of being trapped or tricked.'
Lawino is our uncelebrated feminist, our modern day Leymah Gbowee. Leymah is a Liberian female fighter who led the women's peace movement to put an end to the second Liberian civil war in 2003. She received a nobel peace prize in 2011. Leymah said that it's time for women to stop being politely angry. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, Book by Alice Walker, Lawino is a womanist, a feminist of colour.
Published in 1983, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose is a collection composed of 36 separate pieces written by Alice Walker. Originally published: 1983
Publisher: Harcourt/
Standing up to Ocol in her unapologetic feminist stance,'
My friend,
age-mate of my brother,
Take care,
Take care of your tongue
Be careful what your lips say.
Dr. Godwin Siundu, who teaches literature at the University of Nairobi, mentioned in an article published on  February 6th 2016, in The Saturday Nation,  in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Song of Lawino, mentioned the relevance of Song of Lawino. The questions  raised enable readers to identify if they have been addressed today and sadly, they haven't. Lawino remains a critical relevant voice in today's debates.
 Let's all become Lawino; feminists, upholders of traditional values and relevant voices of today who are able to embrace Western education while the same time, embracing our culture.

Beverley Nambozo’s speech delivered at Bukoto Toastmasters Club