How Ugandan women stole the literary torch from Kenyan writers
Posted Friday, January 25 2013 at 19:17
- Ugandan women writers have especially been prolific, capturing the pain their nation has undergone at the hands of semi-literate demagogues who came to power on the platform of giving succour to the poor.
- The eloquent lawyers and intellectuals shouting themselves hoarse about the legitimacy of people they know should not even be allowed to use a public toilet, let alone run for office, will be the first to be cannibalised when the aspirants come into office.
- Although Ugandan male poets such as Richard Ntiru, Timothy Wangusa, and Austin Bukenya are better known in Kenya, Ugandan Susan Kiguli is probably the best poet from the region.
- The future does not belong to the parochial nationalist or the tribalist who votes for his fellow tribesman and certified suspects.
As Kenyans appear hell-bent on voting in their popular street thugs and all manner of criminals and suspects in March, a few lessons from writers from our neighbouring countries would be in order.
Ugandan women writers have especially been prolific, capturing the pain their nation has undergone at the hands of semi-literate demagogues who came to power on the platform of giving succour to the poor.
Mary Karooro Okurut’s The Invisible Weevil (1998) obliquely uses the motif of HIV and Aids to depict a country steadily drawn to the kind of collective death instinct that seems to be gripping Kenya by the medulla oblongata.
The novel is a compelling coming-of-age story about a girl called Nkwanzi and her boyfriend Genesis, who are born in a country full of turmoil.
They end up joining a guerrilla force fighting to overthrow a dictatorial regime.
Nkwanzi preserves her virginity for Genesis, but she is raped on the eve of their wedding.
They still get married and have a beautiful daughter.
However, when Nkwanzi is appointed to the new government, Genesis feels neglected.
He takes up a mistress and dies of what appears to be HIV and Aids-related complications.
Despite the unfolding tragedy that it presents, the novel is humorous.
It satirises women’s dependency on men and a nation’s belief in frauds as messiahs.
It is also against nationalism, as the dictator is removed from power through regional efforts.
Okurut equates the ascendancy of demagogues like the semi-literate Duduma to general moral rot in society.
Although he is clearly a thug from the outset, Duduma is not without solid support from some sections of the public.
At the moment things have turned awry.
Alcoholism is on the rise, as the nation turns to illicit brews in places run by “women who hide drinks under the bed.”
People are dragged from their offices and “shot on the streets like dogs.”
To make matters worse, a guy in power just “has to lust for someone’s wife or girlfriend and their man is killed.”