Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Flavia Zalwango Kabuye, Jeweller, Poet, Scientist

What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself?

I am Flavia Kabuye, a Social Scientist. I am a social researcher, self-styled marketer and an artist with a passion for creative writing. I believe writing is a continuous process of release.

What year did you receive an award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

I received an award in 2011. I won in 3rd place for my poem ‘Beads of Hope’. The theme of the award for 2011 was HOPE.

What was the writing process of this poem like?

This poem came at a time when I was determined to rejuvenate my writing. I had previously submitted for the BNPA and was not successful. Luckily for me I attended a workshop organized by Beverley where I received very constructive feedback on my previous submission and also participated in individual and group exercises which were beneficial. I decided to write about an experience that is shared by many women and girls today.

How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

The award money and other prizes were a bonus. I think I was transformed in my thinking and appreciated the power of poetry in bringing together like-minded people to celebrate its rebirth - with each poem that was recited. The truth is that most of the writing we do is behind the scenes. So behind the scenes I will write and come forth to the prized scene.

What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men? I am happy that BNPA is spreading its golden wings to include both men and women. It was like a debt, now it’s a date! I also appreciate the fact that BNPA is now the melting-pot for African poetry. I know it is getting bigger and better! I also feel that we as Ugandan writers we have to stand up to the challenge.

BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

I think this initiative is timely because it is an opportunity to identify talent at an early stage and nurture it. It is a step in the right direction. Early exposure usually leads to mastery and ‘mastery learning’ is better than ‘conventional instruction.’

However, this is a long-term goal that needs proper planning and monitoring in order for the students to balance writing and other school activities. The cooperation of the staff is paramount and it should be clear from the start how the school benefits from this endeavor.

What are you working on now, artistically?

I am writing a step by step guide to hand-made jewellery which I intend to translate into some of the local languages for the benefit of marginalized women and girls trying to lift themselves out of poverty through handiwork.

Any final thoughts?

Bravo BNPA!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

When PBS NewsHour Visited Kiwatule

Top photo: Emmanuel Nsengiyunva, Victoria Fleischer, BNN and Jason

Courtesy photo.

It’s been so noisy and overwhelming the past couple of months. When my eyes couldn’t stay open, my hands felt the way for me and when my feet were so bruised and worn, my instinct trudged on. Even after letting go of so much excess weight in my personal life, I just felt heavier. And then PBS NewsHour called.

I still don’t understand fully why PBS NewsHour came home to interview my family and I. I didn’t know who they were until I asked a few friends and family in America. I still haven’t had time to feel honoured. The 4 hour interview was engaging and fun and I saw a lot about myself that I had never probed to understand. Usually when I sit to lay my plans and map out where I want to go, there are places I pretend I never travelled to and people I pretend never meant much to me even though they did. Even the steps I walked which were insignificant and lacked direction, the people I dismissed and the ones whose words weighed like wet wood.

There has been no time yet to process or feel because instead of living one life, I’m living many lives right now. I’m a mother of two, Coordinator of the BN Poetry Award, wife (very very sexy wife), cook, cleaner, entrepreneur, daughter, sister, friend. I have to smile and be perky when people call and ask if they can still submit poems to the BN Poetry Award, even a week after the dead-line. I have to smile as I politely say No, because the Judges already have the poems. I manage many other Arts projects which pop up in the most unlikely of places. A friend of a friend who recommended me or who read about me in the papers who wants me to teach her fifteen year old son how to write a novel. Or a Manager that does not have any money wants me to write his book and says I will become rich from the sales. There is so much noise. Everyone is shouting at once.

So, PBS came. Victoria and Jason are nothing but charming. I would invite them home for tea or for a movie or just to talk about books. Emma, my husband was dressed and sharp, more eager than I was. Our girls were at their best, especially when Victoria told them to scribble on the walls so that they could capture a normal day at home. I wanted to tell them everything I could about myself, my projects and my parents, how everything changed when I became a mother and that mothers don’t have to stop with their careers and that could even be when their careers began, as it did for me. Nothing significant happened in my career until I had a baby. And when I become a grandmother, I know that more will happen.

As soon as the PBS crew drove in, I was immediately at ease. There was no need to feel guilty about not buying new curtains or furniture for the huge media house. The interview began almost at once.

I breathed.

I started the poetry award because I knew there was so much more to life than being in an office. And when my daughter turned 4 months and I quit my job to be at home with her, I knew that I was going to pursue poets and poetry until I became breathless. I’ve been doing so for six years now. Every year I feel like giving up because fundraising for poetry projects is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, that and labour pain. Each year though, things happen and more things happen. I’ve met some of the most magnificent friends I could have ever hoped for in a life-time in the past few years. There are people who are celebrated at such wide international scales but whose humility in reaching to me, makes me feel like the most blest person in the Universe. There are some who I always want to boast about, the kind of boasting where I want the world to know that I have visited and inhabited true friendship, the type that is mashed up until the colours blend into one. The type of friendship where it doesn’t need to be publicized because the evidence of its power is evident in the privacy of contentment. Friendships that grow every time they are shared selflessly. Have you made that friend? Whichever way certain friendships may go, I will know that because I did the right thing with my life, I have held one of life’s most potent gifts, friendship.

I thank poetry for that. Thank you, Poetry. Thank you, Poetry for PBS NewsHour and for journalists and development partners and people who sit and trust that I am the woman for the job. Thanks Poetry, for the Ambassadorial role in being the BBC Commonwealth Poet from Uganda.

I have been spending lots of time with positive thinkers who were part of my first writing days, people whose journeys have spread so far that when we sit and talk, it’s not so much about what could have been but more about, Where we are is so much better than we could have ever dreamed!

Interviews like PBS that use the keen eyes of the heart, mind and intellect are good for us to see into ourselves. They helped me see how I actually do care a lot about women and girls and love to travel as often as I can. They helped me see myself through stunning eyes, instead of eyes that are judgemental and bigoted.

I am learning that it’s okay to feel sexy and brave and hot when others are stifling in luke-warmness. Sometimes the best help I can give a flailing friend is not to step back and reach for them but to show them the way by walking at my fullest height.

I look forward to when PBS will air the interview. I look forward more, to how the interview has answered many questions about myself and shown me how to walk the many unused paths of my life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sophie Alal, Organic Farmer and Writer

Sophie Alal: Courtesy photo

1. What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself? I'm Sophie Alal. Apart from writing, I love good food, good conversation and gardening. I love life.

2. What year did you receive an award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

Making Modern Love won in 2010. I cannot remember what the theme was. It might have been something to do with modernity. In the previous year, I was runner up with The Rebel Fell, a composition after Pablo Neruda.

3. The theme that year was Money and Culture. What was the writing process of this poem like?

I sat down one afternoon and decided to lightly capture the spirit and urgency of mourners at a lumbe. There was nothing to it, just sat, sweated and wrote until there was a pile of criss-crossed A4 papers at my feet. Then it was down to editing and more editing.

4.How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

My outlook has never been different. I've always had a soft spot for culture and the arts. So, I gave away the $250 prize money to my little sister who wanted to start a business but did not have enough capital. Winning was the kind of affirmation I needed to probe silences and mine local traditions for other people's, and my own understanding of life.

5. What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men?

Uganda is also in Africa. What has been good for one of us is also good for all of us.

6. BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

I don't know. But, I hope it can include boys too. Who shall be the future readers, lovers and partners of these female poets?

7. What are you working on now, artistically?

Growing an organic herb and vegetable garden.

8. Any final thoughts?

All these wonderful opportunities should not end in Kampala, and African capital cities only. There is incredible talent in villages and small towns too. And many of these gifted poets are yearning for us to reach out and be closer to them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The BNPA team is profiling past winners of the award since 2009. Here is Regina Asinde, who emerged second in 2010.

Courtesy photo.

1. What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself?

My name is Regina Asinde. I am a business lady. I describe myself as mature, candid and a firm believer in integrity. Every day I work to improve myself and my skills—that’s part of becoming better at what I do.

2. What year did you receive the award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

I received the award in 2010 and was in the second position with the poem “Fragrance”. The theme for the award that year was Money and Culture.

3. What was the writing process of this poem like?

Surprisingly, “Fragrance” was one of my “brilliant idea-put on paper” poems! When I saw the call for submissions, it was just about three days to deadline. I got thinking that I should submit a poem and even if it would not win, there was really no harm in trying and so I went home and flipped through my draft book that lovingly embraced my poems. I was searching for poems I had written whose overlaying theme was money. To my dismay, I had none even remotely hinting at that theme! So I had to go back to pen and paper and draft out something. It was during the great scandal of Temangalo land and Global Funds. As I heard a couple of neighbors discuss the scandal, wondered what could make one do what the key players in that scandal did and it suddenly hit me that it was nothing else but Money and not just the sight of it but the smell of it. And there I had the poem.

4. How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

They made me realize that one could actually make a living out of writing in Uganda! Earlier on, I had believed that writing as a profession that earned one an income was only possible in the western world and some other few African countries. But with this, my belief changed and I was inspired into thinking about a career in writing. Unfortunately, I’m yet to realize that dream.

5. What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men?

It is okay, though personally I would have loved to keep it Ugandan and strictly for women. There are so many literary awards open to all Africans and everyone which I believe others can submit their poems to. The average Ugandan woman would feel challenged to submit, particularly the upcoming poets who are not yet so confident in their artistic skills. However, when it is Ugandan only and females only, more women would be encouraged to submit.

6. BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

This is great. It would help them develop and grow artistically from an early age and will give them a chance to learn the necessary skills and training that would make them become better poets as they grow. I love this idea.

7. What are you working on now, artistically?

Right now, I’m writing some nonfiction book and also working on some short stories. Of course I still write poems, they are my punching bag.

8. Any final thoughts?


Her poem can be read on the website, under, Winning Poems 2010.

Thank you Regina

Wednesday, May 7, 2014



What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself?

I am Sanyu Kisaka. I am a student at New York University Abu Dhabi, having spent three years there so far. I describe myself as a lover of words and an artist. I am an actor and poet.

What year did you receive an award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

I won the BNPA award in July 2011. I came first with the poem “A Hand Swing of Disguised Depravity”. The theme that year was HOPE.

What was the writing process of this poem like?

Rather than thinking of writing about the theme, I wrote about a person who I found myself wishing and hoping for. That way, it was easier.

How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

The award money and prizes did not change my outlook towards writing but the award ceremony as a whole did. I realized that when one speaks from the heart on a theme that everyone can relate to, it becomes easier to grasp another’s heart. So my outlook to writing became removed from the personal to something more external and for those around me. I received 250 US Dollars, autographed copies of leading poets, an autographed copy of Unjumping by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva and some creatively designed jewellery by Bona 2 Designs.

What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men?

I think the inclusion of men is a good addition however to target Africa removes the uniqueness the award had to Ugandans. I think Ugandan poets still need affirmation for their poetry and BNPA was giving them that support before they apply for the bigger continental awards. For emerging poets, the idea of sending in their work may appear daunting simply because it’s now open to all of Africa.

What are you working on now, artistically?

As a student, I am currently focusing on my technique as an actor. For my final project, I hope to merge the theater and spoken word in a thirty-minute piece in which I explore woman-hood. It shall be a yearlong project that ends next May.

Any final thoughts?

BNPA is doing a great job for writers in Uganda and I’m happy to contribute to that.

Thank you Sanyu, as ebullient as ever.


Friday, May 2, 2014

BN Poetry Foundation Sends Heartfelt Wishes and News

Hello BNPA Friend,

As we enter mid-year, I hope it ends with fulfilled dreams and unexpected goodness for you. Lots has been happening in 2014 and as someone who has been dear to us, we would like to let you know that your good wishes, kindness, support and trust, have honed us further.

Introducing the new team:

On April 23rd, there was a strategic meeting for the BN Poetry Foundation with a new team of six.

Mona Nsiime, who is a recent graduate of Economics and in charge of data collection and documentation.

Ivan Okuda, a Student of Law at Makerere University, journalist and writer by talent and the Chief Executive Officer of House of Words Consult as well as Editor in Chief, of First Class Magazine.

Rosey Sembatya, poet and writer and the Founder and Coordinator of Malaika Educare, an Education Consultancy.

Peterson Iglesias, a spoken word artist, scientist, computer whizz and passionate wordsmith.

Andrew Ssebaggala, The Director of House of Talent East Africa, performer, producer and Arts Manager.

Flavia Kabuye Zalwango, a Chemist, artist and third place winner of the 2011 BN Poetry Award for the poem, Beads of Hope.

During the Strategic meeting, we identified new ways of branding, marketing, widening the scope to include the entire continent, making ourselves relevant in schools and tertiary institutions, plans for the BN Poetry award 2014 Ceremony, the launch of the poetry anthology and how to involve our Government.

We intend to b active in more areas of career guidance, offering training services, schools’ outreach, media appearances and promotions using various available companies.

We also want to work closely with Arts Therapy Foundation, run by Beatrice Lamwaka, to coordinate Poetry camps in Gulu.

Coupled to that, there are 3 days left to the close of submissions to the 2014 BN Poetry Award after which Judges Joanne Arnott, a Canadian/Metis award-winning poet, Richard Ali, poet and Publicity Secretary of Association of Nigerian Authors and Kgafela oa Magogodi, poet, musician, producer and author of the Book of Rebelations, will begin their work.

More news: The BN Poetry award winners from 2009, along with a few other notable poets from Uganda will feature in Prairie Schooner magazine, one of the world’s leading literary magazines. This Prairie Schooner 2015 FUSION project is being coordinated in collaboration with Echwalu Soyinka, one of Uganda’s leading photographers.

Later in the year, the BN Poetry Foundation, together with Deyu African, managed by Sophie Alal and National Book Trust of Uganda, will launch the first mobile library in Kampala City. BN Poetry Foundation and several other partners will also open the first Poetry Library in Kampala and as soon as the books arrive, details of this will follow.

Under the BN brand, is the BN Leadership Academy for Women and Girls in Africa, which is built on seven pillars, one of them being Leadership Through Readership. Operations will begin in 2015.

Thank you very much for the financial contributions to our mobile money campaign. Much appreciation. Looking forward to sharing and being a part of more Literary Festivals and events later on in the year like Bayimba, Writivism, Open Mic , Poetry –in-Session and many more.

We will be profiling the winners of BNPA from 2009 to 2013 on the website from next week (5th to 9th May), blog and facebook page, to find out what they are doing, their writing, how their poetry has shaped and to learn much more from them. Many perform regularly in Kampala and Nairobi, run workshops, have been published and have great aspirations.

I,BNN, was also selected as the 2014 Commonwealth Games Poet, representing Uganda, and the poem, Lake Nalubaale, will be broadcast during the Games.

Best Wishes and a special rest of the year. You may follow us on the facebook page, Babishai Niwe.

-- Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva