Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa is a Ugandan poet, storyteller, leadership coach and facilitator who has published poems and written four children’s books. Her Memoir Flame and Song is her story of growing up in post-independent Kampala told in shining prose interspersed with powerful poetry. In the book, warm close-knit family relationships are built even as the political landscape grows volatile and disintegrates. Families, Philippa’s included, are forced to flee and build their homes elsewhere. Flame and Song is an essential piece in fitting together the jigsaw puzzle that is Uganda’s post-independence history.
Philippa is in Nairobi for the Storymoja Festival and she spoke to Nation.co.ke about her literary favourites and fantasies.
Which one book do you hold so dear that it can’t possibly be lent out?
Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes and Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Your childhood favourite book?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
Who is your literary crush? (Not a book character but a real person you admire in the lit world).
I admire a number of people for different reasons – Mariama Ba because of her book, So Long a Letter which remains one that I love. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes because she makes me think about folktales in a deeper way. Ben Okri because often reading his words is like eating sweets.
What’s your greatest fear?
That I will wake up one day unable to sing.
Most embarrassing stage mistake ever?
Performing with a choir on a stage for a fundraiser. We had not practiced enough, and the fundraiser had been put together very quickly. We were part of many, many performers. We couldn’t hear the instruments properly, and we did not sing out best! Luckily the stage was not too brightly lit.
If you were to dine with three writers dead or alive, who would they be?
Mariama Ba and Warsan Shire.
Most unforgettable character from a book?
The Ugly Duckling.
Which book do you wish you had written and why?
The one that I am still to write – because we all have our own stories to tell.
Greatest craft sin you have committed?
Posting without editing.
If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?
My journal, a book of folktales, Starbook by Ben Okri
If you weren’t an artist or writer, what would you be?
Any other fun or interesting thing you’ve always wanted to tell readers?
Laugh a lot, climb trees, play with children, colour pictures – life is too short to be too adult.
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