Monday, February 23, 2015

Launching Poetricks at Kampala Parents School-20th February 2015

On 20th February, we'll officially launched Poetricks at Kampala Parents School. Poetricks is an adventure toolkit for children who read and write poetry.
It is an adventure guide with puzzles, games, building blocks and more, all in an attempt to introduce poetry to children from the age of four to eleven. The book can very well be used for older children and adults. It is a maze, a way of filling in that empty feeling when we feel defeated by poetry.This is the start of  a continent-wide launch of the toolkit. Other launched will take place in each of the East African countries later in the year.

We have a target to sell thousands of copies annually. Once a child has a hold of it, the rest will ignite with need and passion.




Were you there for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Day Time Series? Well, on 13th February, Valentine’s eve, if we may add, #Loveromancen’ebigendeerakomuKampala happened. Love, Romance and the things that follow in Kampala. The first poetry reading event of its kind, held from 10:30am and 12:30pm at 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust.
25 of us settled down to a good session on poetry, based on exactly that, Love doveyness of romance in Kampala. It was difficult to know how the session would run. There were copies of poetry books on sale, A Nation in Labour and A Thousand Voices Rising, delicious chocolate and vanilla Wordy Cakes, roses to pick from and a sweet-smelling aroma of love. Paul Kisakye, owner of Wordy Cakes, rendered us helpless with his poem, Missing You,
Missing You
missing you
like a terminal disease
that one endures
but can't get used to

 first published here:
Roshan Karmali, moderator and host of Poetry in session revealed her forthcoming collection, one we’re all looking forward to, a collection which unfolds in two parts, Angels and Demons. Rosh poetically submitted  us into another spiritual experience. For her, the entire reading was such a refreshing experience that she felt she was with long-lost friends at a brunch. How’s that for poetry.
Farida Bagallaliwo read one of Derek Walcott’s famous love poems. Her own interpretation, well portrayed through the melody in the recital brought us into an even deeper surrounding of #loveromancen’bigenderako. As an activist, Farida was particularly pleased that the event began and ended on time, as advertised.
The reading, supported by Poetry in Session, Femrite and 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust was warming up at this point and there were still quite a number of poets to go. Joel Nevender, blogger and poet, read a parody, of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter in the Holy Bible. His rendition was entitled, 1 Valentine’s 13. This also highlights unrealistic views of love and romance on Valentine’s. This changed the narrative with symbols of the absurdities of Kampala City, most of which we laud, amongst them, the recent sex-tape scandals. His two other poems were, The Ones that Don’t get caught and Daisy. The Ones That Don't Get Caught talks about the hypocrisy of society as regards sexual immorality.
Daisy talks about a dream girl that will always be a dream, never a reality.

Caesar Obong, a poet from Northern Uganda, led the readers into a mystical and narrative view of lust and erotica, including the landscapes of love and society amongst various social groups. Roxanna Aliba, a love poet, read from her forthcoming collection which will be released mid this year. Hers is one we should definitely aspire towards.
Half-way the reading we held a mini-launch of Harriet Anena’s A Nation of Labour, a selection of poetry about the irrationality of governance in Kampala, as well as unimaginable pictures of sex at an entirely new scale. Her concise messages remain imprinted and it was a pleasure to have her. Harriet’s book inspired another member to write her own collection. Her poems, Hemline cop, V-Day and We are on heat. Hemline cop is an excellent version of the hypocrisy of the state of governance in Uganda. Further, in Anena’s words:
“The event was a great start in the right poetic direction and I look forward to seeing similar events organized for not just Valentine’s Day but other key days on the Calendar.”
Christine Ssempebwa is a poet whose truths and convictions lie in the verse. Quite new to the poetry scene, she proved herself wrong by calling herself a non-poet. The rhythm and message were everything poetic.
Edith Nakku, a writer and member of the weekly readers-writers club, said of the event said she enjoyed the event and this is what she said,
“I was able to meet people of like and different mind and be inspired by their words, to hear truth spoken in new beautiful ways. Amazing. The time of the meeting was great. No hurry, no hassle.”
Roshan Karmali said,
“It was an insight into loving and living in Kampala from the sex tape to the heartbreak and everything inbetween and a reflection of Love from multiple angles.”
What is love and romance without music? Bosco, a regular at Poetry in session, got out his guitar and sang an all time favourite, How does it feel to be the one that I love? It’s a soft and deep masterpiece, whose lyrics tug at a listener’s heart-strings.
Susanne Aniku, jazz musician and singer brought down the house with two songs. One was written by famous composer George Gershwin in the late 1920s, entitled The Man I Love. It is about a woman longing and dreaming about the man she loves. The second, Susanne’s own song, called Thank you, is a song of gratitude to someone that rescued her when she was down. Both songs will appear in her forthcoming jazz album. Her own poem, Your eyes also reflects her own ability to be soul deep and unapologetically in touch with her emotions.
Heritage Ddamba, a spoken word performer, emotionally took us on a roller-coaster of  a love target in a man’s life. Beverley Nambozo, BN Poetry Foundation founder,  ended the day with her poem, Dear Doctor. A poem about the unsafe spaces of love in Pentecostal churches, of a strong Christian woman, affected by HIV by her god-fearing husband, and having to show gratitude for all he’s done for her.
Many thanks to Moses Serugo for Youtube videos, Dilman Dila for photographs, Fred Batale for the organization, Lamaro Jennifer for the administrative work and to the many that came. And for the twenty or so who thought it was a night-time event, we’ll see what we can do about that next time. Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation is committed to more poetry and more of you.
Below are a few videos from the event, done by Moses Serugo and in case you missed it, Dr. Okaka Dokotum highlighted Ugandan women in the arts, raising the writing flag high.  

Note: BN Poetry Award submissions last year reached 1,500. If you want to participate, submit your poem. Follow the guidelines on our website

Thursday, February 12, 2015



On behalf of the board of the BN Poetry Foundation, I am pleased to share some of our literary and creative poetry events in the next few weeks. We invite you to be a part. The Babishai Niwe (BN) Poetry Foundation is an establishment that coordinates annual poetry competitions for African poets, publishers work of African poets, organizes literary festivals and uses a unique toolkit called Poetricks, to make poetry possible for children.
We invite you for our reading on Friday 13th February 2015 for a reading based on the theme, Love, Romance nebigenderako mu Kampala. We expect poems, spoken word and stories on the issues of Love, specific to Kampala City. It will take place from 10:30am to 12:30pm at 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust in Kansanga, opposite Bank of Baroda. On that day, we’ll also sell what reviewers have termed the most dynamic anthology of African poetry to date; A Thousand Voices Rising, we’ll hold a mini launch of A Nation in Labour, a poetry collection by Harriet Anena and in partnership with Poetry-in-session, give the participants an early Valentine’s surprise.

From 15 January to 15 May, we’ll be receiving submissions for the BN Poetry Award. The details are on the website at Our judges this year are Antjie Krog is a poet, writer, journalist and Extraordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape. She has published twelve volumes of poetry in Afrikaans and three non-fiction books in English:Country of my Skull, on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission; A Change of Tongue about the transformation in South Africa after ten years and recently Begging to be Black about the different ethical frameworks operating in the country’s democracy. Her works have been translated into English, Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, Swedish, Serbian and Arabic.

Krog has been awarded most of the prestigious South African awards for non-fiction and poetry in both Afrikaans and English. International recognition came through the award of the Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture (2000); Open Society Prize (2006) from the Central European University (previous winners Jürgen Habermas and Vaclav Havel);Research fellowship at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2007/2008 and an Honorary Doctorate from the Tavistock Clinic of the University of East London UK.
Mildred Barya:
Mildred Kiconco Barya, a Ugandan doctorate fellow at The University of Denver. She holds a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and a Masters Degree in Organisational Psychology from Makerere University.

She is the author of three award-winning poetry collections, namely:-
Give Me Room to Move My Feet, published in 2009 by Amalion Press in Senegal, The Price of Memory after the Tsunami, published by Mallory Publishers in UK and Men love Chocolates But They Don’t Say, self-published collection in 2002. Mildred serves on the advisory board of African Writers Trust where she is also a founding member. She is devoted to social change through creative works and blogs regularly at

Richard Ali:
Richard Ali is a lawyer, author and poet born in Kano, Nigeria. Author of the warmly received 2012 novel, City of Memories, Richard is also Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine and was a runner-up at the 2008 John la Rose Short Story Competition. He edits the quarterly Sentinel Nigeria Magazine and serves as Publicity Secretary [North] on the Association of Nigerian Authors. Richard completed a 6-week Residency at the Ebedi Writers Residency Program in 2012, attended the Chimamanda Adichie-led Farafina Workshop in 2012 and was a Guest at the 2013 Ake Book and Arts Festival, Abeokuta. He lives in Abuja where he practices law and runs the northern office of Parrésia Publishers Ltd where he serves as Chief Operating Officer. He is unmarried and enjoys chess, reading and travelling. He is working on his debut collection of poems, The Divan.

In March, we’ll be holding a mini poetry festival in Kabale. This coincides with the Kabale University Language Day. We’ll hold readings, share the stage with the students in spoken word and donate books towards their library.

In May, we head to Nakuru with a delegation of poets for the inaugural Nakuru based Storymoja Festival. The BN Poetry Foundation sent the first ever Ugandan poets to the Storymoja Festival in 2012 and the partnership has grown ever since.

In July, we will announce the shortlisted poets of the BN Poetry Award and in August, hold a poetry festival in Kampala, as we announce the 2015 winner.

September, together with Bayimba Foundation, we’ll launch the first ever poetry anthology on the theme of Kampala City, during the Bayimba Festival.
We look forward to sharing more this Friday at the Love, Romance reading.

Beverley Nambozo
Founder, BN Poetry Foundation
Tel: +256 751 703226


Friday, February 6, 2015

It's Easy To forget by Surumanzi Manzi-published in A Thousand Voices Rising


When you are alive
It is easy to forget that you will die
Or even that death actually exists ...

Beyond wreaths, caskets and cemeteries encountered seasonally
You cannot feel the sting of death anymore...

You believe such things to be reserved for ‘others’ ...
The unwanted step-children of gods who did not exist anyway ...

When you are young ...
It is easy to forget that you will grow old,
That you will lose the smooth texture of skin,
Or the milky white of your eye ...
That your beautiful black locks of hair will grey one day,
and your heart will grow weary with lack of ambition ...

You forget that one day,
You will lose the spring of step ...
And the innocence of youth ...

You will lose the liberty to dream dreams,
and a lifetime to chase them ...
You forget that you will someday be bald, bent and bitter ...

When you are healthy,
Well, sane and strong ...
It is easy to forget the pain of illness ..
The physical pain ... and the mental pain,
the anguish of immobility ...
The dread of impending death...
And the insane lusting-after life itself ...

When you were born in Kampala,
It is easy to forget the deprivation of a rural childhood...

When you were bred on buttered-bread and frozen-milk ...
It is easy to forget the hard corn-cobs welcoming the toddler in Moroto
to yet another day … everyday …

When you are perpetually conflicted between beef and mutton for dinner,
It is easy to forget that thousands of fellow citizens have been constantly unsure of their next meal from the day they left the womb ...

If the toughest riddle in your life has been choosing between Budo and Namagunga for your high-school education ...
It is easy to forget that 70% of the nation‘s children will never have the chance of knowing the meaning of the boring word ‘black-board’ ...

When you are alive,
It is easy to forget that you will die ...

When you are safe, sound, fat and pampered in your gated & manicured sub-urban home ...
It is easy to forget that the masses of Ugandans ‘out-there‘ can only manage half the night‘s sleep owing to incessant battles with mosquitoes, bed-bugs ... and stomachs grumbling from emptiness ...

When you are young ...
It is easy to forget that you will grow old ...
And, SURELY, you will die ...

When you are young,
When all you think of is girls and boys and toys,
A good job, money to spend and a life to live …
It is easy to forget that your country needs you …

That by sitting all day and wishing of good times …
By refusing to partake in efforts to right society’s wrongs,
You are plainly betraying your country …

When you are young,
It is easy to forget that by not speaking for justice, and writing for justice, and walking and marching for justice …
You are effectively as guilty as the corrupt of robbing public funds …

As guilty as those parasitic politicians,
Of killing pregnant mothers due to absence of medicines in our hospitals …

As guilty as the reactionaries,
Of selling the soul of Uganda to foes yonder …

It is easy to FORGET

Solomon Manzi,
Lantern Meet of Poets

A Thousand Voices Rising poetry anthology:
Copies in Kampala available at The Uganda Museum.
In Kigali, available at Ikirezi bookshop and Genocide Memorial Bookshop.
In Nairobi, call +254 722 790479