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 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



Thursday, January 17, 2019


Sarah Marione Ijangolet Akol is an artist and graphic designer based in Kampala, Uganda, proficient in traditional painting but choosing digital art as a medium of expression – including the design of wearable art in the form of t-shirts and other casual apparel. 

Having developed and cultivated a passion for art from a young age, Sarah studied fine art in O and A level at Mt St Mary’s Namagunga and Gayaza High School respectively, and attained a Bachelor’s Degree of Industrial and Fine Art at Uganda Christian University, Mukono in 2017. In 2018, she decided to enrich herself with the skill of Illustration, an interest she developed from exposure to storybooks and comics. She hopes to use this skill to illustrate her own book of Ugandan folk tales.

Sarah is passionate about vector illustration and portraiture and is fascinated by Ugandan folklore and mythology, a lot of her work being an exploration of the rich world of Ugandan fantasy and mythos as passed down from generation to generation. She chooses not to be limited in her depiction of Ugandan deities and supernatural beings, allowing her imagination to stretch and mould their visages and appearances to accommodate how truly extraordinary the tales about them are. In doing so, hopes to conserve as many of these folk tales as possible.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


My name is Sanya Noel and I’m a poet living in Nairobi. I work as a mechatronic engineer during the day and get back home in the evening to read and write, though that is getting a little harder with time. I’m an editor at Enkare Review, which is a Nairobi based literary magazine that I joined in in 2016. I love some running, it helps clear up my mind and I do a lot of thinking while at it.  I graduated from engineering school in 2015.

Photo credit: Prophix studios

1.        What have you been up to since you won in 2016?
I joined a literary magazine, Enkare Review, in 2016, and in the two years since then, I’ve lived a whole literary life. I’ve been an editor, copy editor, at the back organizing things, researching for interviews of writers I like, and many others for the lit-mag. I put my literary production on hold for a while running the lit-mag and it’s only recently that I got the energy to get back to it. There was something I read about Orwell, a period when he worked in a bookshop. For a while later, Orwell couldn’t read. He just didn’t enjoy it anymore. One of my favorite editors is Mary Norris of the New Yorker, and I must have read something related to her editing in her Between You and Me, how she just couldn’t enjoy reading after becoming a copy-ed. at the New Yorker. It must have been the same with me. By getting involved in a high energy lit-mag, it was like seeing how sausages are made. It became almost impossible for me to read. I was always on the edge, my editor mode activated as I looked for imperfections that writers and editors of the works I was reading had missed. But it’s gone now, that active mode. At least most of it. I’m settling back to enjoying a good old honest poem and writing one myself. And a once in a while short story and that occasional essay or non-fiction piece.

Award-giving at the #Babishai2016 poetry festival in Kampala. Photo credit: Prophix studios
2.        You’ve been writing for a while. What can Kenya and the region look forward to in the next three years?
A friend and mentor reached out to me and offered a good deal. He was publishing, and I was to publish along with him. He’s an experienced writer and a person I look up to. I took it up, but the works have been in the doldrums for a while now. But three years is a long time for me to be too terrified of committing now, isn’t it? Definitely a chapbook in the very least. Perhaps a full length collection by then. I’m just getting back to the work and starting from scratch while at it. It will take me some time to get back to full flight here, but I have that chapbook ready, it has been ready for years, and I think it’s damned good. I have a good feeling about it, though in Kiswahili, we say mavi ya kale hayanuki (Old droppings do not stink.) Old poems may not excite me that much, and I may have to do an overhaul. That is if my friend doesn’t like them. I hope he does though.

3.        We know that you’ll be coming for our tenth anniversary. What do you hope to see?
It’s the poetry. I’d like to meet some of the past winners and see their work, or their contributions. I think prizes are like blocks in running. They help you to take off at the starting line in a race. There is a recognition that comes with winning a prize and the money is important too. I want to meet and read the poets who won the prize before me and those after. And I just want conversations too. One of the things I’ve learned about old poets is their sense of community, and it’s not just among the poets. I’m thinking of musicians like Freshlei Mwamburi and how they had this sense of community with others like.

4.        Of the winners in the haiku and poetry categories of our prizes, are there any whose works you follow to-date?
I have followed Lillian Aujo’s work and wished she put out poems more often. I think she’s a brilliant poet. I also keep checking on Orimoloye Moyosore and what he’s been doing at Agbowo, another online lit-mag. The change to haiku threw me a little off-guard, it’s not a form I’ve looked that thoroughly into.
6.       How has African poetry changed in the past five years?
Mentioning African Poetry almost always brings to mind the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) and the Brunel Prize for African Poetry. Perhaps it’s the money that attracts attention to these prizes, or the models they use. Brunel accepts a body of work, ten poems, as APBF’s Sillerman Prize, which accepts a full length collection. In 2013, I was an engineering student at Jomo Kenyatta University (JKUAT) who spent nearly all his time reading and writing poems, and I looked up to the poets at APBF. I liked them. Clifton Gachagua had just won the Sillerman Prize and Brunel was coming up. Interesting. 

 I'm wary of poets becoming pretentious though, over time. It happens sometimes. I also long for more accessibility of African poets on the continent. It's disheartening when some of these poets' works are inaccessible to us living on the continent and when some prizes seem to favour Western based African poets over our own African based poets.
On the continent here, I’ve seen poets become quite solid. We have created spaces here, and these have made poets work more. Visibility is really important. Kalahari Review, Enkare Review, Jalada Africa, Kikwetu Journal,Expound Magazine, these spaces have in a way inspired many to keep doing it. My discomfort is with the styles we may have inspired. Taking stock at Enkare Review, it suddenly hit me that the poetry we have published in our issues has been of one particular style, and one that I’d criticize for being too abstract, though abstract is alright. But a once in a while direct poem is a beauty too. We need those more often.

7.       Which African poet do you find yourself reading over and over again? Why?
It’s got to be Chris Abani. A friend introduced me to his Sanctificum about a year ago and I keep going back. There’s a mix of solidity and nuance to Abani’s poetry that just draws you in. I think I’m going to spend a good amount of my money on his books at the end of this year. I’ve got some book-mules coming over from America and it’s time to become poor again, for Abani. I like his simplicity. I sometimes compare writing poetry to walking in a  pool of water. If the water level is low, your weight exerts some force on the floor and you have some grip. I like that, some grip to the poem. With the water increasing, your become buoyant and lose that grip. You can’t walk or run anymore, and now you’ve got to swim, but it’s not high enough to swim well enough. I like some familiarity. Poems are supposed to be clever, but not too clever while at it. Otherwise, we lose the plot. Abani brings all these things in a poem.

There is also something about Jonathan Kariara and Marjorie Oludhe Magcoye that keeps drawing me back to them. It’s perhaps their references in their works. Oludhe wrote direct poems in such a lovely way. Kariara was sophisticated in a way that was ahead of his time.

8.       What do you want to see in African poetry in the next five years?
It is publishing houses set up here. In Nigeria, Richard Ali has set up Konya Shamsruni, which I believe would be an equivalent of Copper Canyon Press. In Kenya, we have had long conversations about the same. I think we need to publish more poets here and distribute the work on the continent. This will inspire more poets.
But it’s not just publishing houses. We need quality too. I’m imagining if we put together a chapbook series that had Richard Oduor Oduku, Michelle Angwenyi, Harriet Anena, Lillian Aujo, Lydia Kasese, Saba El Lazim and Mariel Awendit. Wouldn’t that be something now? Let’s say we are publishing bi-annually. Seven East African poets. Two years later, we have another round of fresh poets, say a mix of the experienced ones and bring in the younger ones: Phyllis Muthoni, Taban Lo Liyong, Alexis Teyie...  And we keep this going such that these poets actually earn their royalties and that the publishing houses become self-sustaining. I would love to see that, publications that sustain themselves while producing good quality work.

Join Sanya Noel for our tenth anniversary celebrations in Kabale by Lake Bunyonyi, from 21-24 March 2019.
Details here:

Saturday, November 3, 2018


3 November 2018


The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, based in Kampala, has been promoting African poetry since 2009, through annual poetry competitions, poetry publications and annual poetry festivals.  We have identified and worked with over a hundred African poets, published three anthologies and held four highly successful annual poetry festivals. In 2019, our tenth anniversary celebrations will be held in Kabale (South-Westsern Uganda) and Kampala. In order to manifest substantial achievements, we seek a professional and qualified personnel for the following position.


Below are the desirable qualifications:-
*      Understands or is willing to follow the vision of Babishai: A Society Immersed in Poetry
*      Is teachable, loyal and respectful
*      Knowledgeable of artists, establishments and events surrounding poetry, spoken word and performance especially in Kampala, the rest of Uganda, East Africa, Africa and sometimes, globally
*      Ability to compose content for social media that is compelling and noteworthy
*      Capacity to create large followings and healthy discussions on social media
*      Easy access to the internet, a tablet or computer and a camera with excellent knowledge of their usage
*      Ability to design e- versions of posters, flyers, using appropriate web-based or computer packages
*      Understands and applies appropriately the differences between the following:-
                                i.            Its and It’s
                              ii.            Their and There
                            iii.            I’m as opposed to Am
*      Based in Kampala, Uganda
*      Available from November 20, 2018.

Those interested in this opportunity, kindly email your three-page CV, including referees, an application letter in PDF, to by 15 November, 2018.
Do not hesitate to contact us with any inquiry. We invite you to read our website for more information on our work;

Note: This is a paid position.
           This position has a three-month probation period.

Yours Sincerely,

Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

CC: Nambozo Daniella
CC: Andrew Ssebaggala
CC: George Kiwanuka