The 2018 Writivism Festival Celebrates Ugandan Arts and Literature

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By Mitchel Tumuhimbise

 

May be you are already satiated with the knowledge of The Annual Writivism Festival as Africa’s fastest growing Lit Fest—as much as it is the biggest Lit-Fest on Ugandan soil. 

Someone indeed should tell you that we were there. We who knew that the award-winning, Ugandan movie ‘Kyenvu’ would be screened at The Square Place on Saturday night were there.

We who knew that Akadope, and their music, would be resonating the sky above The Square were there. We danced and sang along, with those who couldn’t sing or dance along falling into a reverie they only wished not be awaken from.

We laughed and entertained ourselves to the sound of Ugandan-made melody. We mused on our Ugandan poetry and, at the spell of untied, witty tongues, let the air of our lungs erupt away into the wind.

Of course you still have the FOMO. You saw the twitter hashtag #Writivism2018 was most trending in Kampala and thought of how you had struck a raw deal elsewhere. Sure, you need no better lessons on that. Next year, you just need to be there.

An ecosystem of Uganda and African creativity

Books. Music. Dance. Fun. Film.

Akadope, #KLAART, The Kitara Poets, 40 days and 40 nights, #UgandaBlogging will tell you that you need not again let the news of the Writivism reach you over some rumor-wind. But sadly this only happens once in a year.

Expectedly, like on the previous festivals, our panoramic arts and literary environment was graced with giant, olden and new, names on the African Literary scene as with the best hangout for those that would live and die by the arts and creativity:

From our own Ugandan folk; Prof. Taban Lo Liyong who vivified the sage in African poetry at the National Theatre with his mind-boggling opening key note “Jawbones and umbilical cords”, Hilda Twongeirwe and her closing key note that screened the invincible journey of Ugandan female writers and their fight against female seclusion from Ugandan Literature, Beatrice Lamwaka—judge of The Writivism 2018 Short Story Contest and two-time nominee for the Caine Prize, Goretti Kyomuhendo and Sophie K Bamwoyeraki to the kin-league of contemporary African writers; Nigerian writer Dami Ajayi who had his poem-collection “A woman’s body is a country” published in the festival, Dr. Jama Musse Jama, Shadreck Chikoti among others.

 

The Writivism Legacy

What makes Writivism and the Writivism Festival rare standouts in the African literary and creative arts aura could be largely due to the fact that time and time again, Writivism—a child of Center of African Cultual Excellence (an arts and literary initiative born of Ugandan Lawyer Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire, Kyomuhendo A Ateenyi and Naseemah Mohamed Ogunnaike)—has been proven as the biggest voicing platform for emerging African writers. Surprise has no role to play in the magnetic effect Writivism has on the fresh blood and bones of Africa; something we can bet our hopes on that, by no strange-luck, Writivism is the next generation platform for rising literary stars and artists.

It is evident in the habitually increasing numbers of participants in the Writivism Writing prizes awarded in the areas of Short Fiction and Creative non-fiction. For a young African writer or creative artist, there’s a steady assurance that their voice will be added to the old and new writers of the continent.

At the climax of this year’s festival which enclosed a gallery of arts and literary activities—from the reading sessions in familiar places in Kampala such as Butabika Hospital and Nakawa Market, the discussion panel sessions on the ultimate topics in the African literature such as writing for freedom, African Speculative fiction, Ugandan diaspora-writing to the book launches of “Dear Philomena” by Mugabi Byenkya and Ijangolet Ogwang’s “An image in the mirror” as key debut novels from Ugandan-diaspora—was the Awards night for the writivism prizes.

Mbogo Ireri from Kenya bagged the 2018 Short Story Prize with his story “Hopes and dreams” told in one child’s voice about a family going through the transgressions of a father who loses both his work and integrity. Chasang Makuka got the non-fiction award for her story “Belonging”—an account of an African child’s quest for home in a country they should be treated as their own.

The prizes were awarded to those writers “who have written what transcends race, age or culture”. These stories and many more over the years are the reechoing realism to the remark Prof. Taban Liyong concluded the festival with.

“The literary desert is disappearing. This is proof!”

Writing immortality; ‘NEVENDER’ Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa’s writing

The story of Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa known to the many dearly beloved as “Nev”, “Nevender” monumentalizes the reality that writing is a bridging, a transcendent intercourse of the bright/dark of one time into another, an unfading unison of tones that unites into one song sang beyond age. A song that makes a creed of its own.

We were reminded by Mbogo Ireri this year’s winner of the Writivism Short story reminded us that "Writing is screaming in the dark, hoping to be heard.”

Yes it is true, the future being a hollow of darkness is always apparent to us. But what if the rays of radiance in our hearts are the illumination that keeps us going, an eternal nourishment that keeps the human soul alive and immune to brooding of dullness and mediocrity.

“Pumpkin Soup” is an almost surreal collection of poems written by Nevender which was launched posthumously by his family and friends at this year’s edition of Writivism Festival but a pinch mere pinch on his being. Nev’s legacy brings to mind the fact that well as we live once, we also die once and would that we live on and on through our undying legacy, the live-memory of our contribution to the best benefit of mankind, a sharing of our life that lives on as numerous pieces of pearl in unnumbered persons.

He is the epitome legacy, the legacy Writivism is here to help more emerging African writers and artists build.

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