Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Roxannna Aliba Kazibwe is a Christian, an author, published poet and entrepreneur. Each week, we interview our guests for the #Babishai2016 poetry festival scheduled for 24-26 August in Kampala.

Roxanna (Courtesy photo)

1.    Roxanna, your poetry collection, “My Love is not Afraid,” is a creative narrative of Agape love, filial love, eros and God’s abundant grace. Your inspirational blog reflects the same. How does this knowledge affect your daily work?
This growing understanding and experience of God’s love for mankind is the basis for all my work. It is the foundation and motivation for my writing. I aim at encouraging and empowering others because love is enabling and not crippling. I hope to reassure all who read and/or hear me in the love of God for us. I want to remove any notion in people’s minds that God is at war with us, angry with us or out to get us. God is for us, He is on our side. For all who believe in Him, He adopts as children and therefore as His heirs. I think being grounded in this identity is what can help a person to flourish and so it is my main focus.
2.    Do you have specific audiences you write for?
I have various forums on which I write and each targets a different audience.
On my blog at youarebeingloved.org I write for people who need encouragement and advice on knowing their purpose and fulfilling their potential.
On my author page I write for people who enjoy literature; I share short stories, poems and my writing processes.
Overall, I write for people who need a love, hope and faith boost J
3.    What are some of the criticisms you receive from your writing?
Some people comment that it sounds too good and is therefore idealistic: to be loved unconditionally by a perfect God.
I chose to be true to my message and not try to wrap it to fit another. It’s okay to cause a little discomfort J 

Roxanna's poetry collection,2015

Then there’s the “you are too young to be giving advice on this” line.
I came to terms with the fact that I don’t have to wait to be a certain age to share the things that I am learning. I hope by doing this other people even much younger than me will be spurred on to do the same.

I’ve also been told that my poems are easy to understand.
4.    What do you think is different from Christian writing and secular writing?
Everyone has their unique writing experience. Here’s mine:
I’ve always been a writer but I didn’t always have a relationship with Jesus.
Before, I used to write about my own experiences and/or thoughts/imaginations and so the piece could be dark or bright depending on my mood. Be informed that I had a bout of depression at some point so you can imagine what those pieces were like. All in all, I wrote for myself.
Now, I write the Truth. The Truth is consistent and is not dependent on my mood. I like to think of my hand being “the hand of a ready writer” passing on whatever it is that God wants me to share. Now, I write for Him for the sake of others.
I must admit that I get more joy from it because when someone reads your work they are not just understanding your words but they feel the feelings you felt as you wrote and so I’m able to pass on peace, comfort, hope, a good expectation, love, rejoicing through my writing.

Roxanna at Babishai Niwe World Poetry Day Celebrations in Kabale, 2015

5.    During the Easter Weekend, one of your plays, The Encounter was performed at Worship Harvest Church. Share what it was about.
“The Encounter” in a nutshell is about God’s power and love: God’s love for mankind and His power over sin, death and their proprietor the devil. It’s the Easter story where Jesus is portrayed as a devoted prince, Tsozo; the Church is portrayed as a helpless girl bound for death, Nissa; and the devil is portrayed by a pompous, deceitful leader, Sly.
I’m working on a print version of the play. It will be ready in July.
6.    You’re an entrepreneur. Tell us a bit about your businesses.
One of my businesses is Birella. A fresh fruit juice company that offers natural cocktail juice that is healthy and tasty. We deliver the juice on order at the customer’s convenient location. A customer can expect it to be ice cold and delivered on time. Our clients include event organisers (weddings, introductions, parties, concerts), offices, schools and homes.
Apart from my published or performed work, I compose customized poems for functions, organisations and personal use. On occasion I work as a ghostwriter.
I also do one on one reviewing and guidance for writers.

7.    What, in your opinion, is the best diet for poets?
Hahaha that will be a full plate of reading and goblet of writing.
Anyway, it is in the best interest of a poet to read/listen/watch other poets’ work. A poet could even zero down on some poets that write on a similar subject or have a similar style to theirs and he/she studies and learns from them. If the poet (that one is studying) is still alive, one can reach out to them and ask questions (thank God for Twitter) without being stalker-ish.
It is also key to write and write and write some more. This will help you write better and write faster. It will keep you in shape.
Don’t be a closet poet, share what you write with 1) other poets so that they can get some much needed, (especially) technical criticisms (2) readers of poetry so that you can get feedback e.g on how it made them feel, did they understand your message, did they enjoy your style, was it confusing etc.

8.    What do you expect at the #Babisha2016 Poetry Festival?
Oh! I really look forward to this three day buffet of interaction, learning, networking, being challenged, growing and fun with poets!
I expect a diverse delegation of talented, charged poets and an atmosphere of creativity, inspiration and an appreciation of art.
9.    Any parting remarks?
Thanks to Babishai Niwe for creating this platform. See you in August!

Thank you Roxanna

The #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival runs from 24-26 August in Kampala. For details, visit www.babishainiwe.com or email festival@babishainiwe.com

Monday, April 18, 2016


Babishai Poetricks is an adventure toolkit that encourages children to maximise their creative potential using poetry, creative illustrations, movement and sound and inter-personal communication.

Storytelling time

Every child has something to say

 This programme, under the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, was launched on June 16th 2015, on The day of The African Child, to promote new spaces for children aged 4 to 12. Having visited and facilitated in many primary schools in Uganda, the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation noted a significant lack of African poetry for children. Babishai Poetriska is a toolkit divided into eleven adventures that emphasizes the use of the five human senses as a wholesome way of describing and articulating, builds on team-work and introspection to develop children individually and with others.
The busiest times are during the holidays. Over the Easter Weekend, Friday, Saturday and Monday, there were nine children who underwent the training. Ranging from 3 to 10, we articulated the five senses, compared colors to emotions, improvised with kites to determine the power of wind and had an impromptu spelling bee. This coupled with story-telling and composing their own poems, gave the children a real Babishai experience.

Daniella,one of the trainers
During the Babishai Poetry Festival which will take place from 24-2 August 2016, we will have an entire day for primary school children to perform in poetry and theater and hold a pan discussion, presenting their case for poetry.
We partner it hike-minded organizations like Malaika Educare, which is one of the largest mobile children’s libraries in Africa. With over on thousand children’s books for children in various towns, they ably deliver books to individual homes on a weekly basis.
This year on June 16th, The Day of The African Child, we will launch the Babishai Poetricks Leadership Academy for African Children Living in Africa. The main pillar of this academy is Creative Leadership Through Creative Readership. The target is African children from 4 to 12, living in Africa. We will be using the Babishai Poetricks toolkit, which is a proven workable creative method of nurturing the leaders that Uganda and Africa need.

Babishai Poericks time
The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, founded by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, a writer editor, poet, long-distance swimmer, actress and leadership trainer, coordinates annual poetry competitions for Africans. This year, they introduced the Haiku competition, dubbed Babishaiku, they publish poetry by Africans, coordinate creative children’s programs, business programs, annual poetry festivals and poetry mentorship programs.


This year in June, Babishai is leading a team of creative explorers to the foothills of Mt. Rwenzori to hold a poetry session, launch a poetry collection and have a wide barbeque spread. Poetry on The Mountain is another annual event which Babishai will share with her audiences and friends.

The Babishai 2016 Festival runs from 24-26 August in Kampala. #Babishai2016
The Babishai 2017 Festival runs from 7-9 June in Kampala.  #Babishai2017

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Paul Kisakye is an unapologetic Christian and author of recently published book, Prodigal Love: Embracing God’s Outrageous, Unconditional Love. He is consistent in his belief in God’s grace and power. 

Paul Kisakye (Courtesy photo)

Paul's book will be launched on 19th April at Papali on the Roof in Kampala-Bukoto. The entry fee of 30,000/- includes a copy of the book. Paul is also a guest at the #Babishai2016 poetry festival and will be part of a panel discussion on Christian writing and why he strongly believes that it’s not a hindrance to creativity.

1.       Paul, Congratulations on your recent book. Let’s start with Christian writing. You hold firm Christian beliefs. How flexible does that permit you to explore multiple themes in your writing and do you sometimes find yourself in positions of self-censorship?
I am a Christian, and I am a writer. I write for a living. I am a Christian writer in the same way a friend of mine is a Christian lawyer and another is a Christian surgeon. My beliefs influence my writing the same way my surgeon friend’s beliefs influence his work. About self-censorship, I rarely have to censor myself. I never have need to use profanity in my writing, and I know how to write a sexually explicit scene in a way that doesn’t make it feel dirty. I’ve written some stories that haven’t gone down well with some Christian friends of mine. But God liked them. And that’s what really matters.

2.       How would you feel towards a body of Christian writers supporting one another amidst the challenges in the literary fraternity?

That is long overdue. Most of us writers are semi-hermits. We forget that God created us to live in community. Community is important for our creativity. So I’d definitely join other Christian writers so we can support each other. As long as it’s safe and healthy.

3.       In three words, how would you describe your book?
Experience Unconditional Love.

prodigal Love: Embraing God's outrageous, unconditional love

4.       What are the most surprising responses you have received from this book, so far?

The pig! That pig on the cover has caused no small stir! I’ve enjoyed reading and listening to people speculate on why I chose to have a pig on the cover. Well, it’s mostly a picture of Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, which was the inspiration for the book. It also represents how most people think about their relationship with God. Most people feel like they are filthy pigs that God loves but can’t hug. A few people have said that the pig might keep away Muslim readers. But I’m not worried about that. I wrote this book for Christians. If only Christians learnt how much God loves them, this world would be a much better place.

5.       You sent a children’s poem for Babishai Poetricks last year. It’s going to be published in a poetry anthology which we’re producing. How often do you write poetry?

I mainly write prose. It comes naturally to me, whether I feel like writing or not. But for poetry, I have to be in a certain space. I haven’t yet figured out what kind of space that has to be. But the last time I wrote a poem was when someone died a few months ago.

6.       Which, in your opinion, is the best diet for poets?

Books. Lots of books. And a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary (or Google). But for real food, anything that you fancy will do.

7.       What do you expect from the Babishai Poetry Festival?

I’m looking forward to having interesting, quirky conversations with the brilliant minds that this festival attracts.

8.       Any parting remarks?

Do you have a story burning to be told? Do you have a voice that must be heard? Then write. Because writing is no small calling. Otherwise, get back to your normal day job and save us the agony of watching our time being flushed down the toilet.

Thank you very much.
Babishai Festival will run from 24-26 August 2016 in Kampala.

Below are details of our two Babishai 2016 Poetry Competitions.

Saturday, April 9, 2016


Lantern Meet of Poets performed on Saturday 9th April, to what is arguably their best performance to-date. Poetry Will Warm Us, presented before the brimming audience at Uganda’s National Theatre, the show was spectacular, well coordinated and well thematised.

The writer with members of Lantern Meet of Poets

The writer with Sesanga Ernest

Carefully scripted poems by well-known poets like Surumani Manzi, Jason Ntaro, Guy Mambo, Elijag Wojji, Bagenda Remmy, Lillian Aujo, who won the 2009 BN Poetry Award and many others, were articulated with outstanding spoken word performances from an enthusiastic and talented cast. Poetry Will Warm Us was heart-warming and offered a reprieve from the familiar tones of anger, betrayal and mistrust towards political leadership and systems. The multi-facetedness of love has obviously not been exhausted.  Lantern Meet of Poets used three acts with various scenes where heterosexual couples vocalized their sexual lust in the most bizarre and wildly creative ways.

Cast on stage

With lines like, “Your silence is musical,” the production was a reminder that love has a million languages which  everyone can understand. The male characters, clad in black, used every overt gesture and description to flatter and pursue different ladies of their choice, the latter in white dresses and suits, each costume representing a single temperament, thought and feeling. Some men were fortunate enough to spend illicit time with the women but while the plot unfolded, their happiness was mostly short-lived, ending in a frustration that everyone in the audience knew only too well, with unrequited love. The background, set in a simple floral garden provided the simple setting for the theme. The tempo was earnest with incidences of dramatic duals for women, earnest desperation and neediness and plenty of humour. It was so frolicsome and yet believable, which only a performance with good direction can achieve. The entire cast moved as a single unit from one scene to the next, capitalizing on each strength. Surumani Manzi, one of Uganda’s most under-rated poets, burnished with several of his poems, carefully selected for the show, alongside his unforgettable performance. His use of the Shakespearean iambic pentameter style for one particular poem was impressive and while it’s encouraged to create one’s own style, one can appreciate that he is widely read.
The writer with Guy Mambo

The potency of the show was in the well-thematised structure, simple stage and costume, tightly woven stage direction and a time of 90 minutes, all of which were sufficient for the multiple ways to express passion, lust and unrequited love.

Lantern Meet of Poets is a brand. This show has the qualities to travel Africa. Audiences look forward to seeing them at the Babishai poetry Festival, from 24-26 August in Kampala, at the Storymoja Festival in Nairobi, at the Ak√© Festival in Nigeria and beyond. The show can be understood and enjoyed by all audiences and it would be Uganda’s privilege to experience Lantern Meet outside the National Theatre. With a young leadership whose faith in theatre and poetry is refreshing, it’s time for them to reach further.

The writer with one of the coordinators, Gloria Nanfuka
For details of the Babishai Poetry Festival and our two 2016 poetry competitions, visit us at www.babishiniwe.com or on twitter @BNPoetryAward. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016


 Adjei Agyei-Baah is the co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network, editor of Mamba Journal on Haikus, judge of the #Babishai2016 Babishaiku Competition and guest at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival in August.

Adjei Agyei-Baah (Courtesy photo)

        Babishai is so pleased that you took up the position as judge for our inaugural Haiku competition, or Babishaiku. As the co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network, which you co-founded with Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian, you hold strong values connecting Haiku to African language. Share a few please.

Yes, Africa can ‘nativise’, and even translate and write haiku in our widely spoken indigenous languages like Swahili/ Kiswahili etc... in order to become part of our literature thought at schools and colleges. But I think connecting haiku to only our language would display a limited role and benefit and would be appropriate if extended to embrace our culture and values in its entirety. In fact, I still see haiku among the less explored arts that Africa can take advantage of in telling her story. Its brevity and power of delight can easily cause people to stop and read,especially in this technological age where people have limited time,to read lengthy texts and images generated by the various applications and social media platforms. In such situation, haiku then becomes a teaser or bait to entice people to pause and read for a moment.
     Surely, haiku can be used to record our daily observations and happenings in our environment. For instance the haiku below captures the pitiful sight of the deplorable state most Africa’s railway networks, which presently have their tracks going rusty, compared to the advanced Germany’s Sky and Japan’s Bullet Trains, which travel at lightning speed:

         end of road—/railway truck runs/ into earth
        And by this simple haiku, awareness can be created for people in authority to give such as   state the needed attention or becomes a call toinvestors to come downto salvage the    situation:

Similarlya haiku can be used to tell Africa’shistory to the generation yet to come, be it good or bad. In the haiku below, I share a rich historical experience with readers on my visit to the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana (formerly called the Gold Coast), where the colonial masters left forts and castles as colonial monuments after the collapse of slave trade that have become haunting structures of terror showcasing to some of the atrocities committed against the black race.

On top of these castles, remain their planted cannons, mockingly acting as sign-posts, pointing the direction were they came in and the route where they exited:

castle cannons― /pointing where/ their owners gone by

Indeed, haiku as art has so many benefits to Africa but would prefer to speak extensively about it some other time to come.

       The Mamba Journal is Africa’s first single Haiku publication. How have audiences responded to it so far?

Response have been so far great, in fact we received congratulatory messages from almost all international haiku journal editors/ founders like Shamrock, Heron’s Nest, Cat tails, Paper Wasp, Modern Haiku etc. and other haiku societies and lovers around the world. In fact, they were happy for our feat, in finding Africa a spot on the world haiku map. But from Africa have been few messages since the haiku art is not much known and even seasoned poets and academic institution have not been practicing it. Prof. Wole Soyinka was happy about our historic breakthrough and sent us his first haiku which we hope to publish in our 2nd edition, if he grants us permission.

       Do you write Haiku in any other language apart from English?
Yes, I have often translated my haiku into my mother tongue, Twi, the widest spoken language in Ghana. Fortunately for me, some of my haiku(s) have also been translated into Japanese, Romania, Russia, French and German. But I have the intention of translating my upcoming collection “Afriku” into Swahili and other international languages such as French, Spanish and Chinese for these countries to also experience and appreciate our unique seasons and settings outside their own.

      Ghana is heavily invested in the arts. Which arts and culture events do you always attend while there, and why?

I am devotee of poetry and spoken word, for I see these two art as channels to create social awareness, as a means of talking about the corruption and bribery in high places, the church taking advantage of poor, the commoner overburdened with taxes and also as a mean of providing entertainment to ward off our daily stress.

      How important is it, in your opinion, to conduct poetry competitions for Africans living in   Africa?

It is a smart way of telling the African story by Africans themselves to their unborn generations, rather than leaving it in the hands of foreigners who may record it with ugliness. It’s like making an effort to define oneself before someone else does it for him.

      You have been a judge before for a Haiku competition. Describe that experience.
Nope, this is my first time, but would say as a co-editor and aficionado of haiku, I have regularly been mentoring and editing chunk haiku everyday. The difficult part has always been sending a “rejection” mail to a submitter, it has always been quite hard. You have go about it in a “fine” way so as not extinguish the feeble fire of first-timers. Most at times too, there are friends, who want to take advantage of their friendship with you, to force you to accept “anything” they pen as haiku for publication. And here is where I stand my grounds, since a good editor need to be a bit ruthless, so as to separate the chaffs from the grain.

       Do you use Haiku to woo women?
Eish… I wish I could but not in its wrong sense but would rather want to entice them with it. In fact when it comes to haiku in Africa, its rather unfortunate that only few women are doing it.On the international scene, I can only point two heads, Celestine Nudanu (from Ghana) and Nshai Waluzimba (from Zambia) who are devotees and have received commendation for some of their haiku pieces.

         What diet is best for poets, in your opinion?
Hmmm, this is quite a tough one. Honestly I am stuck here. But I will recommend any food that ward-off stress and make them stay up refreshed at night and write their heart out.

      At the Babishai Poetry Festival this year, what three things do you expect?
I expect to meet new young African poets, not the same old faces we already know. A little freshness, will surely spice up the show. I hope to see a lot of books, more especially anthologies to get know of what is happening in the world of poetry in other Africa countries, most especially from East Africa. I think my people back home will be delighted to know about it and will as well love to witness some performances which I will personally love to perform one or two poems from my upcoming collection “Embers of Fireflies”.

      Any parting remarks?

Thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts with the world, in my quest to promote Africa to find her rightful place of the World haiku map.

Thank you

The #Babishai2016 poetry festival runs from 24-26 August in Kampala. Contact us at festival@babishainiwe.com

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Oprah Oyugi won the #BabishaiSZ Twitter competition run by Storyzetu in Nairobi. Her prize is a fully paid trip to the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival, 24-26 August in Kampala. We're grateful to Praxis Magazine for publishing these interviews.

Courtesy photo

1.       Oprah, we know you’re a film-maker and a writer. Which role came first?
I  knew I wanted to pursue filmmaking a few months out of high school and didn’t think about writing as a career till after I had finished my film course. However, I have written and have been writing since I was 7.
2.       In February, Storyzetu ran a one-month long Twitter competition for residents of Nairobi, which you won and now will be attending the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival.  What do you expect from a poetry festival?
Outrageously amazing poetry and poets

3.       What is the most remarkable deed you have done as a film-maker?
I’m only starting out and don’t feel like I’ve quite earned my stamp as one. But I’ve been selfish of my life and been very clear that I will follow Filmmaking and writing as a career in Kenya and Africa, no matter what… I hope many Kenyans and Africans can and will do the same. We have amazing stories hidden in our people. These are the stories that will liberate us from neo-colonialism and make us look inwards, love ourselves and grow. If I have inspired a fellow Kenyan/ African to do the same, I hope that can count as a good deed.
4.       Can you name some of your favourite African film-makers and why?
My favourite African films were directed by foreigners. We have to change this. Still, these guys stood out to me and I don’t think it’s coincidence most of them happen to be Writers/Directors

        Tosh Gitonga – Nairobi Half Life. If you haven’t watched it, you must. It’s pretty self explanatory.
        Lupita Nyong’o – I believe that she is where she is today because of her hard work, tenacity, relentlessness and determination. I reckon that’s what makes or breaks filmmakers. These are traits I’m working on having.
        Donald Mugisha – The Boda Boda Thieves. I loved this film.
        Yared Zeleke – Lamb : The heart, simplicity and empathy of this story just got me. I walked out of the cinema with a fire to make films after watching this one
        Gared Hood – Tsotsi : This was such a raw and gritty film that was so true to the setting and experience of many African slums. I could see and hear the people of Dandora, Kibera and Githurai  in this film.
      Abderrahmane Sissako  – Timbuktu. This one just shut me up. The film is paced in a way that makes you take in every action or inaction. The diverse cultures represented in the film are done in such truth and honesty. My films will definitely be influenced by his work.

5.       Are you doing what you dreamt of as a child?
 Well, there’s 2 answers that question. Always wanted to be a pilot – still have my sights on it. But since I was very young, I’ve always made things up in my mind and written. I was always that girl who had her composition read at the front of the class. My mom really wanted to publish them. I wouldn’t say I dreamt of it but I was a dreamer. I guess, some things just manifest. Go figure
6.       The Babishai Poetry festival theme is Abundance: Poetry from Contemporary Africa. What do you think this means?
Surplus, availability or lack thereof of what we as humans (Africans) want, need and desire.

7.       What is the best diet for poets, in your opinion?
Shitloads of stories, poems (reading material basically), an observant mind, an unquenchable desire to understand the actions of others and an environment bustling with human activity.

8.       Which African actors do you desire to have in any of your films?
Soo many but, off the top of my head:
        Paul Ogola – Nairobi Half Life/Sense 8
        Rachel Mwanza – War witch
        Maina Olwenya – Nairobi Half Life
        Timothy Njuguna – The Real Househelps of Kawangware
        Hamisi Bazili – White Shadow
        Nana Mensah – An African City
        Susan Wanjiru – Something Necessary
        Walter Lagat – Something Necessary

9.       Any parting remarks? No
Oprah is an upcoming filmmaker based in Nairobi, Kenya. She studied Creative Writing in Whitireia NZ and hopes to write stories and films that depict and look into the true lives of Kenyans and Africans. Her Short Play went through to the Wildcard finals in the Short + Sweet Festival in Sydney. She hopes to premiere one of her short films based on gangs in Kenyan universities in June this year.
Read more about her and check out her work on: www.oprahoyugi.com

 Thanks Oprah, see you in August.

Tel: +256 751 703226