Canaan

The other day, I witnessed a crime, on my way to work. Robbery. I saw this man put his hand inside another man’s pocket and walk away with just his nasal drops. It was sad,that at about 8 am, when most people were trying to get to work, one man was already stealing. It had me thinking, maybe, that is how he makes his living and he too has to get up early. The city is crowded; and passing through Kampala everyday, is enough to give one a headache. There is someone on every side. From a distance you can hear someone screaming out the price of a hanky and others are selling everything from shoes to ladies’ under garments. Transportation is also another story, at this time of the day, the taxis will not go beyond a certain point because there will be too much traffic jam, so one has to settle for walking.

That is Kampala’s central business district,crowded, everyone looking to make a living and not any ordinary living, people come to the capital city looking for a better life. But who says that is where it is found? On the streets, competing with about 10 other people to sell a handkerchief at a measly 500 shillings, what will that even do for you? The strange thing is, most of our peers who decide to go abroad seeking this thing called a better life end up in either similar or worse conditions, doing all kinds of work but determined to remain in the place that you think is the promised land. It is not uncommon to have a person be away from their family for years, missing all the important events simply because they are still trying to get their resident’s permit, so they cannot leave.

Ugandans are busy chasing the Kampala dream, it is not even the Ugandan dream because if it were, we would be ready and willing to embrace much more than the city center. I am a city girl, born and raised here and I often wonder if I would not enjoy myself else where. If I took everything I love about the city with me, to a less crowded place, would life end? Usually, by the time I get to work, I’m already exhausted because my journey, just like the Israelites, involved dodging armies that seem determined to end your life (taxis and boda bodas), rivers( you should see that place outside the former new park) and kinsmen who are so angry and it is every man for himself(everyone!)

I seem to just be ranting about what I go through everyday and I have no idea how to remedy this. Would life be any better for anyone if these traders were indeed chased off the streets? They are people too, they are simply looking for a better life. Shouldn’t we just take the things that make the city to other places so that no one feels the need to come here; only to steal nasal drops?

Do we love the city because of what it has to offer or do we just love being in the city regardless of how we make it happen?

The Developed World

Do you ever wonder about the origin of things? How what started and why? I ask myself alot of questions mostly on my daily commute from home to work and vice versa. If you knew the city I have to go through, one would wonder how I manage that but I do!

I am proud to say that I am a member at the amazing lantern meet of poets. A group of young people who have chosen that they will change their world through thinking and speaking and doing. They will not be silenced! They challenge the way I think not just about poetry but about life. They are my kind of writer, social concious without losing that essence that makes poetry what it is, almost a language of it’s own. The other day, we were talking with a friend, Edgar Kangere, a man I’m honoured to know and the issue of fashion came up. So he asked if any of us ever wondered about the purpose of the shirt. Why a shirt was designed the way it was. To be honest, I had never. This got us talking about architecture and then the inevitable, school systems.

Sometime back, a group of people came to Africa and with open arms or not, we embraced everything they gave us. To this day, theirs is the standard most seem to go by. What is the mark of development? I wonder. Does development mean we forget everything that makes us uniquely us? Where do we strike the balance between embracing another’s opinion and preserving our own? who decided that ours isn’t good enough.

I believe, before we go about discarding and disregarding what is ours, we need to understand it. A friend of mine Eugene Kavuma, recently started on a journey of telling the stories of things through photography; his first projet being Kampala.

 

Kampala, a city I have the previlage of walking /struggling through on a daily basis. It is easy to see the crowds, boda bodas, ditches in the middle of the roads and garbage strewn on the walkways like christmas decorations and think that’s all there is. But Eugene, is choosing otherwise. He is saying “Kampala si bizimbe, Kampala bantu.” Kampala is not just buildings, it is the people of the place.

Just like Eugene, I believe, Africa is not what it lacks or how far back it seem s to have fallen compared to everyone else. Above all else,Africa is the people, the culture, the heritage. This is what should inform everything made for and by Africa; the people.

So by the grace of God, I choose to display Africa for who she is, in my words, pictures and all that I am. I am African and I embrace it with all that I am.

The Origins of things

These things that we write with our flashlights; trying to borrow from the many movies where the hero and his passion stayed awake after lights out…

Our hero is usually the mis/un understood kid at boarding school or the inmate who isn’t just a crook, he has dreams too. Well, it is lights out for me as well. UMEME has pulled one on me. So, I use the flashlight on my phone; indeed I have got my money’s worth with this one.

So(another so?) many things running through my mind as my tongue runs across my teeth; not to clean them, no, to try and recapture the taste which was so real only moments ago. I know why Africa is not the origin of forks! We were originally hunters, as I’ve been told, then we discovered fire. I am not sure of the order but I’d hate to imagine the taste of raw elephant. But muchomo…now that is another story. Allow me tell this tale of heaven on earth. In science class, we were told that meat was smoked & salted as one of the many ways to preserve it.

However, what they neglected to tell us was that it is only the best way to eat meat! Yes, smoked, roasted, drawing out all its meatiness from its depth to the surface. The smoke serves to wet your appetite and a tease after to remind you of what once was.

There’s only one way to eat muchomo/roast, whatever! With your bare hands. Yes, both of them. It is even more delicious when you don’t have any of these modern things mbu tables. No, settle yourself on the ground, shut out the rest of the world and make love to your food. Cooked things are not always the best to go with chomos (yes, I am affectionate like that) simanya cassava and friends. The raw-er, the better. Fresh tomatoes, cabbages…those ones.

Life must have been awesome before this gender equality misunderstanding. I mean, the women pick the tomatoes, cabbages, the men bring the meat. Why would that marriage end?

It is totally acceptable to lick your fingers and make smacking noises as you do so. The occasional moan and groan as flesh meets tongue is to be expected. They were a happy bunch, these Africans. All that was required for dates was for you to show up and eat meat! I want to go back in time.

Luga-flow analogies

I have things on my mind that I have to put down. I love my country Uganda. I love rap and hip hop. I love poetry. I love words. Now, I believe some Ugandan musicians are quite talented the same way lil’Wayne is talented. Once you get past the tatoos and swear words, Lil’Wayne actually does have some serious rhymes. Back to my home boys and more recently girls and their music. There are many people who will argue that some of these songs lack lyrical content but of all the genres on the scene, hip-hop, according to me at the moment is the most authentic. There is this ‘luga-flow” rapping in one of our beautuiful languages, luganda. But poetry is poetry, poetry did not start with William Shakespeare and tragedies that made people conclude that it is only true love if you end up dead! Actually, poetry began with Adam, not Levine and not Lambert, Adam, of Adam and Eve, garden of Eden fame.

Recently I was listening to a new artiste and found that I like him ,a lot! Contrary to what you might be thinking, it has nothing to do with his literary prowess. I love his silliness,the ease with which he makes rhymes out of everyday things and they are funny. Actually, his lyrics are now major contributors to our slang dictionary. This just goes to show that people are listening! They are identifying and they are learning. I am not the biggest fan of our education system, I do believe we could use a lot of help but I am a big fan of learning. I did not offer literature as a subject but I have recently come into contact with a group of amazing poets from whom I learn. Our reading list has a lot of the writers who passed on before we were even a country and we use their work to teach ourselves how to write about ourselves. It is no wonder some people may fail to connect because they just do not see how William’s (Shakespeare) issues are their issues. Our system, if I’m to quote a friend whose work I am a fan of, is  “cram or get caned”. It does not encourage creativity,innovation or originality; then we have the audacity to complain about “chinese” products, at least they figured how to duplicate that!

Most luga-flow artistes have known the trick; rap about things everyday people understand like cheesy pick up lines, news headlines and trending fads. We get more lessons on creativity listening to these almost senseless songs than we most cases do seated in a classroom being told how to write like someone else. Dear Mr. whoever is in charge of our curriculum, I think you should take sometime off and listen to some of these flows; maybe then you will appreciate that we need to learn a lot more than integration of fractions and what on earth was modern physics about?