The inaugural Writivism anthology was some activism by a panel consisting of Hilda Twongyeirwe, Beatrice Lamwaka, Harriet Anena, Ernest Bazanye, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Ceris Dien. It sparked some literary spasm across Uganda’s young writing prism from 15-25 years of ageism under the mentorship of some fine African writers on a ship. They were expected to write on the themes Identity, Diversity and Equality but they somehow managed to get homosexuality and Lesbianism Writivism in a majority. Without any euphemism, it means a man fucking a man and a woman fucking a woman activism. Below is some literary reviewism and criticism intended for some colloquium with the hope that it will be followed like plant tropism. The winning short fiction for 2013’s Writivism is “Picture Frames” by Anthea Paelo together with four other flash fiction pieces on the Shortlistism coupled with eight other prose pieces on the Longlistism.
Picture Frames by Anthea Paelo: The writer uses the flashback technique a lot in this brilliant winning flash fiction which gives it suspense. It’s about a woman called Rose who is having reveries of her husband and deceased son who was gay. The gay issue creates conflict between Rose and her husband Daudi, an aloof, insatiable man who wants to erase every memory of his son because he was a homosexual. She hopes he would change but he doesn’t and the realization by Rose that he will never change is the central epiphany of this story.
The Sidewalk by Nassanga Rashidah: A story about orphaned disheveled kids on the streets begging for money. Kima an albino child evokes sympathy from the alms givers and it stirs jealousy in another begger, Mamadou who plans to get rid of her. Appollo’s ensnaring act on Kima springs a pleasant surprise at the end. There is stigmatization, begging, jealousy and blackmail up in this one.
Together by Kathryn Kazibwe: A flash fiction piece about family neglect, about two sisters who were once close but had suddenly grown estranged and arguing with each other. In a slow deliberate release of the plot elements, the writer hatches the story’s egg which unveils their past differences. When the protagonist reveals that her actions were largely caused by the fact that her baby died, her sister’s sympathy and love brings them back “together”.
The Shadow by Emmeline Bisiikwa: It is about a man in an affair with another woman to the point that his wife becomes a shadow. There’s parental pressure from the man’s mother for him to get a son bringing to mind many African mothers. And as Jessica the wife leaves with her daughters for good, she commits a desperate act that gives the story an unexpected turn. It’s my favourite among the five stories.
Emotional Rollercoaster by Paul Kisakye: David who is gay consoles his best friend, a girl called Sanyu who has been cheated on so she’s hurt and in tears. Sanyu then seduces David and he also cheats on his gay partner Joel by sleeping with Sanyu. I call it the double infidelity story. But where these two really best friends? Or had an unsung love for each other? Sanyu just got him quickly baam like manna in the desert. What I also like about the piece is that, it firmly places itself in modern day digital Uganda, facebooking and texting.
There were eight longlisted stories and I didn’t quite get the first one, “Butterflies come at dawn” by Solomon Manzi so I’ll keep mute about it. In “The New Politician”, Angella Namwase beautifully delves into a tale of politicking, a political process and election results for a post of women affairs. “Choices in danger” by Emmanuel Ssebaggala introduces to us a bright student who was born different -to think like girls. In Europe, he falls in love with a boy and the relationship triggers his wife’s death. There’s letter writing in this one. Muhwezi Simpson penned “Grandpa’s story” which is inspired by the oral storytelling tradition by the fireside of many societies in Africa. The poignant story is narrated by Grandpa and it is about forced marriages. “A chance encounter with Jack Bormont” by Robert Ssempande pricked me nicely. It’s partly written in the American Ebonics dialect and the protagonist is a famous American who encourages a Ugandan wanna-be Americanah to be patriotic about his country. “Stolen Innocence” by Faith Nadweny is about a girl who is being maltreated by a wicked stepmother and attacked by a man who claims to have been sent by the wicked woman. “True to nothing” by Mildred Apenyo is about Atim getting out on the road, frustrated by motorbikes and traffic and goes after love making pleasure. Nora Kirabo’s “Of love and Sisphean tasks” is an infidelity story where the main character’s lover has an affair with another woman. She gets emotionally distraught and considers a break up and concludes she’s going to do it. And that also concludes the 2013 Writivism anthology.
On a criticism note, I think a brief biography of the various writers would have been included. We don’t know anything them. The editing was good, almost all the words are in place. But the book’s compilation and printing feels rushed. The page structuring was not well done. Some pages appear which have been printed twice and others are blank except for a few words. Anyway, judging that it was a first, I have no doubt the anthology will be done better this year from last year’s experience. The Ugandan writers are young and their works show potential and I was impressed. However, they can and should raise the bar with better prose from flash fiction to short stories and why not novels? Writivism 2013 was Ugandan breakfast. But I definitely know Writivism 2014 is going to be amazing lunch, different palatable meals from all over Africa on our lunch menu for the written word hungry. Yes, for after Writivism comes Readivism. Good Reading y’all! And good job Centre for African Cultural Excellence for this great initiative including the Co-founder, the man with “new names” (all about letter e), Bwa Bwesigye Mwesigire de l’Université de Makerere et de Cace parce que vous avez travaillé.
Short Bio: Nkiacha Atemnkeng is a Cameroonian writer and blogger. He was shortlisted for the 2013 Mardibooks short story competition and was a finalist for the month of October 2013 at the Africa Book Club. He was invited to the 2014 Caine Prize Writers Workshop in Zimbabwe but couldn’t attend because the plane he boarded went missing in the Sahara desert.