Thursday, June 23, 2016


Poetry on The Mountain: On Mt. Rwenzori, there is healing

When the tour guide, Enock Owerangi, explains the different nature trails and the camps, it seems so effortless. He will tell you that you will reach the first camp, from where you will hold your poetry session. The truth is, Rwenzori is poetic enough and there’s no need to dramatise the experience. Starting at 1,400m high altitude, we begin this arduous expedition, full of curiosity, adrenaline and cameras.
We are beset with foliage reaching so high that the sky-line seems submerged. With 217 bird species in the Rwenzori region, there are so many choruses and this natural orchestra is one of the most striking sounds to behold. Only one of us Jackie Asiimwe, has reached the peak at Margherita, and Enock of course, who reaches Margherita at least six times a year. (Show-off, kekekeke). His uncle, Bagheni Zadekia, is also the first Mukonzo to reach the peak. Real family legacy right there.
Rwenzori, Africa’s largest block mountain and home to hundreds of animal and bird species, also has the transformative ability to make anyone gasp at the vastness of its awesomeness. There is a particular plant that is actually believed to eliminate labour pain. Every child-bearing woman deserves this. To be able to alleviate a pain more horrendous than suffocation, should be every woman’s right.
River Mobuku gushes below us, the purest water, clear and sparkling. In our lives too, the more transparent people are, the more clarity there is. There is room for everyone and no need to try and eat off someone else’s plate. Why fight for sloppy seconds when there is enough in the universe for all of us? The Mobuku’s untameable spirit, liberated and strong, makes me want to follow it to where it stops and build my home there. Being encircled by nature is a privilege in a world, besot by drudgery and destruction.
The three-horned chameleon, wide-eyed, elegant and endangered, is placed covertly on some tendrils, unrecognisable until the guide’s expert eyes, point it out. Its tail is coiled like a chocolate pinwheel but less tastier. None of us is able to ease the chameleon on our fingers as gently as Enock. For fear of killing the world’s only three-horned chameleon just out of sheer fright, we take our photos and move to the next place of admiration.
We’re getting more exhausted as we ascend more precipitous staircases, cross wobbly bridges and are told stories of undomesticated elephants. Maybe that’s what the gun, which one of our guides carries, is for. It’s not comforting that the path is too narrow to hide from an elephant. There are about five hours to Lake Mahoma, which is our agreed place for the poetry. Being the democrats that we are, we vote against this incredulous extra five hours and opt for the first base at Masiga. The humidity, the gruelling climbs and the perspiration are an excruciating combination. There are forty-five minutes to go. Now, forty-five minutes on Mt. Rwenzori, means that you will climb over several boulders, slip on the mud and trek through undergrowth that is thicker than the size of our cabinet.
While planning for Poetry On The Mountain, we romanticised about how we would have one spoken word after the other, while gazing at the snow-capped peak. This is what really happens. When you reach, you can barely stand and are so drained of energy that you wolf down every sugary biscuit in your sight, along with juice, fruit and almost, the inedible chameleons. The amount of calories burned is enviable for weight loss addicts but not the more adventurous poets.
Since we set out for poetry on the mountain, brushing off our crumbs, we begin to recite, perform and share stories of the Rwenzoris. In one captivating story, we hear that if a chameleon is killed by a human in the human’s younger days, if this person gives their unborn child a name of a chameleon, that child will be protected. Lukonzo is one of the most musical forms for spoken word. Let’s call it Lukoflow. The language is rhythmic and entertaining.
For our next trip, we’ll elect another gorgeous place in East Africa for a poetry excursion. Being surrounded by nature will teach us not to agitate destiny. This Rwenzori trip proves that once destiny has paved its successful course, destiny will always win.
At our Babishai 2016 Poetry Festival, which takes place from 24-26 August in Ntinda at Maria’s Place, opposite Victory City Church, we’ll be launching our next poetry trip for 2017. You’re welcome.

Monday, June 6, 2016


On 4th June, the team at the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, launched a new business program for artists,mainly poets,. Over the years, reflecting on how challenging it has been for poet to professionalise, value their work, conduct market research and monetize their performances, it was time to overhaul mindsets and set new precedent.
Gyaviira Kyaka, photo by Dilman Dila

Gyavira Kyaka, our main speaker, has over fifteen years' experience in sales and marketing with Coca-Cola ad Hima Cement and currently works at Vivo Energy. He is also a John Maxwell leadership trainer.

On an unforgettable Saturday afternoon after Uganda Martyrs' Day, we sat at a round table discussion, over-looking the lush gardens of Mrs. Betty Mugoya in Mpererwe, the hard talks began. Do we, as poets, carry out intense market research, before we produce our work? Or do we produce the book and then hope that our creative promotion will make people buy? Marketing tells us whether or not we should even produce the book.

As people, we are the first brand and our packaging must match the product. Are the consumers of poetry today, the same as they were ten years ago? If they are different, we need to acknowledge that. Who is our target? Who are the biggest influencers?
Dorothy Kisarale, communications consultant, photo by Dilman Dila

As artists,we also need o reinvent ourselves to remain relevant , otherwise we will wake up dead. we really know our customer? What is their age?
Whats their income level? What is our unique value proposition? As poets, how do we create a sellable product?

The hosts of any event must introduce as properly, as honourable members of society.

Present at the meeting were Dorothy Kisarale, Communications consultant, Crystal Rutangye and editor and publisher, Dilman Dila a filmaker and author, Caesar Obong, a spoken word oet, Anna Nakitende, a banker, George Kiwanuka , a law student, Rosey Sembatya, an educator, Denis Lumbasi a journalist, Beverley Nambozo, a writer and leadership trainer and Gyaviira Kyaka, the main speaker. Bbashai will be holding such business talks regularly.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Brian Banda, Zimbabwean Entrepreneur Ready for the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival

Brian Banda is an entrepreneur and trainer based in Harare Zimbabwe. He is a guest at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival, 24-26 August in Kampala and passionate about artists making money from their work.

courtesy photo

1.      We look forward to hosting you at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival in August.  As an entrepreneur, what do your work towards daily?
I have a passion to see young people in the creative sector being able to employ their energies towards putting bread on the table. Most of Africa today is facing serious unemployment problems yet there is lots of talent laying around, so every day I thrive to assist creative people realize the business potential that lies within them.
2.      When you conduct trainings, what do you look forward to most in your participants?
Openness and huge willingness to learn and share. I appreciate very energetic participants who are more than motivated and active. Their energy and responsiveness keeps me going and assures me that my session is worth their time.
3.      What is challenging about entrepreneurship amongst artists?

The very fact that most artists do not know how much their art is worth, thus most of the time they are taken for granted and always settle for less. Its only until artists themselves place value on themselves and their work that the public will commit in spending on artistic products and services just like they do with any other profession.

4.      How can poets, writers and other artists begin to look at their work as a business?

By organizing themselves into strategic business units, documenting, quantifying and evaluating their  work every step of the way, from planning, brain-storming, rehearsals, production, performance or exhibition. Creatives  should create relationships with cooperates , their audiences and other stakeholders including governments. Also  they need to adopt new attitudes towards their work and set clear cut monetary and substantial goals.

5.      How do you feel about artists receiving sponsorship from donors, against funding their own events?
Artists can never survive in isolation, in most instances financial support is critical to any arts venture. However the problem comes when funders impose and influence artists sensibilities and ideology to an extent of stifling creativity. Artists should rather seek investment  into their work  instead of donations, this way, they retain autonomy and serve their true purpose and mandate to society.

6.      What do you expect at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival?
To network , share experiences, empower and motivate artists and most of all to learn a lot from the Ugandan experience
7.      If there was a specific diet recommended for poets, what would it be?

Kkkkkhahaaa …..anything marijuana and alcohol free kkkkk

8.      When you think of poetry from Uganda, what comes to mind?
An anthology by Beverley Nambozo and others entitled Boda Boda, I bumped into it last year in Kenya and fell in love.
9.      Any parting remarks?

Can’t wait  for my first visit to Uganda, may the good Lord be with you in all your preparations…Asante

Thank you Brian.