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Once upon a time a woman gave birth to a son, the first seed of her womb. When he was placed upon her breast, tiny and wrinkled, the weight of her hopes and dreams descended upon him. The crooning of family and friends who laid eyes upon him bolstered her hopes and she built formidable castles that gleamed in the Sun. Images of welcoming and feasting burst before her in glorious array; she the matriarch of a vast sea of sons. Maybe one beautifully lithe daughter, her splitting image, suitors lined up and clawing at each other to marry her. She envisioned adoring grandchildren racing through the corridors of her castle, their bubbly giggles rebounding off solid walls, full of the vigour of youth.
She basked in the praise showered upon her and bloomed in the validation given to her. She had a son.
She had not prepared herself for fear or desperation. She had not seen Death stealing glances at her precious bundle, it’s long greedy fingers reaching out of the veil to caress his cheek. “Mine,” it had whispered, sending a chill through the room that settled in her womb, scorching it with frozen heat so it would never bear another soul.
No one knew.
He brought a young girl home, “My wife…”
The castle gleamed, no one knew.
“You’re not welcome anymore, my wife…”
The castle dissolved into the image of a small cottage. She could not have forseen.
“You cannot see them, Mom. My wife…”
“I’m unwell, Mom. My wife…”
The cottage crumbled into dust that sailed on huge gusts of winds, scattered, and were lost.
The cold earth slips from her hands, dropping hollowly onto the cedar box. “My son,” her wreaked voice croaks.
“My son,” Death corrects, a fixed smile upon a terrible visage, a friendly hand intertwined with the woman her son had called, “My wife.”

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African Literature on Facebook

A few weeks ago a dear friend asked me if I could help admin a page on Facebook.



It has taken over my life! I LOVE IT.

Our little family has grown by leaps and bounds, and the people who have joined and are actively participating in discussions surprise me with their passion every day.

Africans have long been accused of being the bane of African Literature. We are accused of not reading it, not buying it, not supporting authors, not selling it, not distributing it… we are the reason it is not as successful as literature coming from other places.

The problem is we have believed these lies about ourselves, which is a pity.

While it is true that it is difficult to sell books on the continent, the reasons are not as clear cut as everyone would make it seem.

  1. English is a difficult language. The objects and verbs come in weird places in a sentence. But imagine interpreting one book in 55 different languages for just one country!
  2. Authors understand their audience and their point of view. It is difficult to sell a story to someone from the West unless it tells of war, of poverty, that explains some strange quirk of the culture they come from. This is not interesting to audiences in Africa (generally speaking). There is a reason why Nollywood is such a huge industry. Here are stories that the local population understands. 
  3. New books are EXPENSIVE and understandably so. Turning trees into paper is an expensive project, printing can be expensive too.  By the time all the expenses are tallied, the book agent, distributor, printer and publishing house get paid (oh wait! We haven’t counted the author and illustrator) the book is too expensive to purchase.

Africans are thirsty. We want to know, to read, to understand. What is someone from Zimbabwe thinking about something we’re all concerned about in Nigeria? What about the bruhaha over the other thing that happened with president so-and-so? How is the government in Mogadishu going to deal with the minerals they just found in  Seylac? 

We want to know and it is evidenced by the sheer number of people asking to join the group on a daily basis.

I hope someday they will all know, it is my honor to serve. Come and join us!

When it is good to be a woman

The past few days have been almost whirlwind like. Finally, one of my projects is complete and I’m proud to share it with anyone who thinks things like these are totally cool.

In doing the research I needed to compile my super duper list of African authors, I came across the story of an Algerian author.

Yasmina Khadra (Arabic: ياسمينة خضراء‎, literally “green jasmine”) is the pen name of the Algerian author Mohammed Moulessehoul.
Moulessehoul, an officer in the Algerian army, adopted a woman’s pseudonym to avoid military censorship. Despite the publication of many successful novels in Algeria, Moulessehoul only revealed his true identity in 2001 after leaving the army and going into exile and seclusion in France. Anonymity was the only way for him to survive and avoid censorship during the Algerian Civil War. 
The irony of this is completely incredible!
For those who have not had the privilege of studying African literature, many authors from the 70’s were very vocal about corruption and the state of their countries. They were subsequently jailed, killed or forced into exile. This was about 10 years after Europeans decided it was time to stop fighting so hard to control people and give them their independence.
Almost every author I know who was sent into exile was a man and in reading Moulessehoul’s short biography, I see why. Maybe the words women wrote were not considered quite as powerful, or subversive. Even today women struggle trying to get their voices heard. They write and speak and invent titles meant to instigate others and force them into conversations about issues they find important.
On the other hand we have a man, using a woman’s name, in order to say what he wanted to say.
I wonder if this is still where we are. Ignoring female voices because their words do not weigh as much as a man’s words would. Maybe not.

Unpacking my Afrocentricity

I was born and raised in Uganda. A few years in the middle were spent in Canada. I came to consciousness in Uganda, first fell in love there, bones were nourished there… I consider myself Ugandan even though I do not live there right now. I’m not sure how else to exist. My identity is not confused or mixed, my people live in the land where my great grandparents were buried. They’d have moved around, but Berlin Conference circa 1884.

Subconsciously, Uganda comes first, then the wider continent, then the descendants of African people spread throughout the World, then the rest of the World. I’m not sure I can change that so easily. I’m Ugandan-centric, then Afrocentric. I look for and celebrate the achievements of African people. In a circle of “others” they are practically my cousins.

Somehow I am now representative of all Ugandans in an international arena. I have learned to carry my responsibility with pride and honor. I’m an Ambassador.

I’m going to excise the accusatory tone of Afrocentricity from it. I have to be. It is weird to ask me to be something else -centric.

Old Poetry

Because I’m feeling it today.

walking

For Your Love

I see you, Dark Chocolate
Swinging your hips to the throom throom of this foreign music
Your skirt so short, my imagination is unnecessary
Your titties jiggling in your dress like the many eyes trying to keep up with them.
Know that I love you, no matter what
That the tears of your pain and loneliness stain my pillow.
I know if I fell in love with you
You could shatter my soul with your passing interest
And the sweet succulent love I was encased in
Would pass to another.

Hey there Tangy Caramel
Swinging those dreadlocks to the beat of my heart
You have me arrested in those wide brown
Deep pools of cinnamon chocolate.
You cling so steadfast to the notion that your voice is drowned out
You yell so loud, to be heard, to be remembered
I love you sweet Caramel
I hear your words, golden drops of honey
Reverberating in that beautiful throat.
I cannot let my heart be swayed
Your passion would drain me completely
Overwhelm me till I am just a shell of the woman I used to be.

Tall glass of sweet dark Ebony
Strong long legs strutting to your own internal beat
Polished like well worn wood, reliable, sure
Your essence is so fragrant wafting behind you
Every eye stretches completely as you Tyra stomp by
Your beauty prostituted for the attention
Of the least of people.
I adore you, dark coffee, filling my senses
With your soft and tender embrace.
Don’t you dare touch my skin
I’ll be tingling forever with the memory of you
And ache to be touched again…

@ndungi2012

Thankful to all my subscribers

The African Literature Magazine on Flipboard has gone from strength to strength. What a journey!

Thank you for being a part of the journey in 2014 and for continuing strong into 2015.

With 15,491 subscribers catching up on stories coming out of Africa, it is easy to forget where we started.

flip Feb 25 14

With humble beginnings in Feb 2014, I just wanted to collect stories about African Literature in one place. I wanted to fill my tablet with these books and read them without much fanfare. Then 6 people subscribed to the magazine. That was so startling, but also VERY informative. Other people were looking for these too!

flipb june 2014

By June it was obvious that people were searching for this content online. But it also meant that I had created a baby that needed caring for. It was exciting, and daunting, and so very, very humbling.

 flipb august

By August we hit 10,000 + subscribers! Every day was like Christmas, checking to see how many more of you came to the magazine for more stories. It was wonderful.

Now we’re in 2015 and I’m still committed to bringing you the latest from my sources. Invite your friends, invite your relatives, invite your enemies. As we continue to write our stories, lets make 2015 the biggest year yet!

Happy 2015!

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