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The bravest thing you can do

Is hide, run away, remain unseen

Because it is all you have strength for…

Because maybe YOU must

Live to tell the tale

Of the fear

Of how it seeped in

Took over

Took over everything


The bravest thing you can do

Is watch the brave stand up and say no

Watch evil strangle life

Out of the brave

Choke them to silence

While you retreat

To the shadows and say

‘What can I do?’

But the time will come

When you can no longer

Be brave in that way

When your silence no longer

Gives you peace

When being unseen no longer protects you

Or your own

When you realize

That this,

this thing,

That is being broken, spat on, beaten, pissed on, shat on

Is the most precious


That if you do nothing,

Those you are trying to


Your loved ones,

Will slowly become

The thing that

Makes you want to hide;

Will become that which

Makes you freeze;

Will become lost

To you,



The bravest thing

You can do

Is do a little every day

Is say hello. I see you

Is to say Yes I do care,

Is say NO because it’s wrong

Is to forgive yourself and start again


the bravest thing

Is to refuse to soil your hands

Or to pitch in and do the work

Is to admit your wrong doing

Is to say sorry

Is to learn to stand up


The bravest thing to do

Is the scariest thing

Not to do.


Nairobi, September, 2017

5 things I have learnt about the journey from writing to publishing.

1. Size does not matter. It doesn’t matter how big or small your publisher is, what matters is their vision and courage. Modjaji Books has been a joy and inspiration to work with. Colleen Higgs has been running this little powerful publishing house for 10 years. And it is a courageous press that publishes what it believes in.

I love the fact that she was open to publishing my mix of prose and poetry without question. Many people have asked how I convinced her – I didn’t. It was never discussed. 

It was through Colleen and Beverly Nambozo of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation that I met my East African publisher, Nyana Kakoma of Sooo Many Stories. They are a new outfit – Flame and Song – is only their second book. But they have put her out there in style. I have learnt to use Instagram and Twitter, and more recently Facebook Live because of them.  

Both are relatively small outfits, run by amazing women. Both have open doors for my book to travel. It was great to have them hold my hand on my journey. 

2. A good editor makes a big difference. What I learnt was the editor shapes the book; helps the author tighten the story. It’s a collaborative process, and the editor helps the writer stand outside of their writing and see new possibilities.

I worked with Andie Miller. We deleted chunks, and brought some of it back in at a different place. There places in the text where she asked for more and others where she asked questions that helped me sharpen my work. And we sometimes disagreed. There were times we had robust conversations. 

Most times her questions, comments and suggestions helped become clearer about what I wanted to say. A good editor is not an option. 

3. Proof-reading is critical.  I learnt that the proof reader doesn’t just check grammar and spelling mistakes. They also check facts, and copy right issues too. They read with a new eye and point you to things you can’t see because you are so immersed in the text. 

We often call the proof reader an editor. Their tasks are very different. 

4. Titles are important – and they can change. For years, as I was writing, my book was called ‘She of the Ashes and Flames’.  It grew on me – and with one friend we referred to it as SOTAF. It was perfect – or so I thought. I loved it. When I started working with Modjaji I was gently asked to change it. So we decided that ‘Ashes and Flames’ would be the working title. It grew on me. I loved it. As we neared the publication date I was told we needed a new title. There was another book that had a similar title. It was Lauren Smith (I think) who finally came up with Flame and Song.  It has grown on me. I LOVE it!

5. And then there is design. Did you know that after you finish writing decisions have to be made about design: the font; the font size; the book size; the headings; the book cover and many more?  All these things impact on the look and feel of your book. And book covers can change. Did you know that? Flame and Song has two covers. 

The book is then laid out  and sent to the printers. 

The printers and publishers decide on the colour and quality of the paper of the pages; and of the cover. 

After this the book is printed. 


The debut: 5 August 2016

On the 5th of August 2016, Flame and Song made her debut into the world. Woman Zone had invited me to speak on a panel with Malika Ndlovu, Ruth Carneson, Ntsiki Sigege and hosted by Nancy Richards. This was part of the Woman Zone’s contribution to the Artscape Woman’s Festival. 

The book was HOT off the press, literally! In fact I read from a copy that I ‘borrowed’ from the Clarke’s Books seller at the event!!!

You see we really wanted to have the book at the festival, so we pushed VERY hard. And then Modjaji’s long loved printers and warehouse closed, and Colleen had to find new providers. She managed to pull it off and a few copies were printed just in time for the festival. 

Because of this I could only get the book on the afternoon of the 5th. The plan was that the Modjaji books intern (a student…) would meet me at UCT at 2 pm as I left a meeting, and she prepared to go for a lecture. Plans changed, the printers were running a little late, so we agreed to meet at Artscape. She was delayed at the printers, then went to the wrong place. Then she decided it was okay, she would deliver the next day and went home – lol!!!😡. 

So I phoned Colleen and told her what had happened. Took a deep breath. Asked the bookseller to lend me a copy and went in. 

We had a wonderful talk, and when we got out for tea my books had arrived. 

The Call – a repost from 2 years ago

There are gashes that cut through

generations gone and generations coming

no amount of scars and scabs can hide

for we have not yet wept.


Pain seared deep

lulling us into a numbness

that forgot the rituals

that bring healing

that laid things to rest

And now the pain bleeds rage

and hate and a forgetfulness

of who we are, of who we were

of who we can be.

So we walk around in this

grotesque form of who we could be

contorted in pain yet

thinking we walk upright…

Still spat on and chained.


Let us now stand still

Let the pain

break away the brittle numbness

that lulls our hearts into forgetfulness

Let the water

of tears

long-held back

wash over us,

sweep us off our feet

wash everything away

for we do not yet stand on solid ground

Let us shake away the skeletons

that cling to us

Let our mouths open wide

and let us sound that grief

Wooiee, wooiee, wooiee.


Beat the drums my brother

let us dance away the grief,

let us not stop until

the wounds are clear

no more pus, no more pain

Let us dance again

until our children, my grandchildren, and their great-great-grandchildren

carry in their bones this healing dance

until all those who came before us know

that we have heard, and seen their pain

Wooiee, wooiee, wooiee…

Then wrap us in love

and let us sleep the deep sleep

of restoration

so that tomorrow our dance will be a dance of hope

that will vibrate across generations gone

and generations to come

Wrap us in love

let deep sleep restore these tired bones

breathe wholeness back

breathe back wholeness

wholly breathe

Holy breath.

namutebi 1 June 2015

To the Mum at Spur

She sat at the table looking at the little black kings and queens,   celebrating together one turning 3. Enjoying freedom and her hard earned money
Suddenly his red-face towered over them
His stance dismissing their very existence
Girded by centuries of lies that he, because of his paleness, was ‘the one’, the organ between his legs, the crown
Hurling abuse at Her
Propped up by his ancestors sitting on the bones of all Her ancestors who for centuries lost their lives, their loves, their land to his.
His misplaced anger and abuse raining on her children

She stood up fierce.
Lioness protecting her cubs
Propped up by the spirits of all Her ancestors
She who birthed civilization refusing to let her children be erased
When her calm words
Fell on deaf ears
And he vomited obsenities
She spat back his words – would not stand down
(It’s 2017, for heaven’s sake!! And this is MY land.)

Her rage, channeling the rage of so many –
Hitting back in his own words because men like him know no other way
Standing up, so her children know not to be spat on!
Taking back the bones of her ancestors,
Breaking down the lies that prop him up.

Breathe my sister, breathe!
Warrior woman, breathe!

© namutebi

22 March 2017

Storytelling performance – February 2017

Beginning Friday 17th February 2017 and ending on Friday 3rd March, the Centre for Biographical Storytelling will be hosting Friday evening storytelling at Erin Hall, Erin Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town.

The first performance, Braided Lives on Friday the 17th, will be by Sue Hollingsworth and Philippa Kabali-Kagwa.


Please see poster below for details.


Writing Home: an event on 17 Sept 2016


a gentle reminder to join us at the Story Cafe @ WomanZone Library on Saturday

September 17 from 2pm to 4pm.

The Story Cafe @ WOMAN ZONE
sessions held in August at the Women’s
Library during the Artscape Women’s Festival were terrific.

A very big thank you to everyone who attended!

Such was the success that we’ve decided to do more.
Once every two months – starting with
WRITING HOME on Saturday 17 September from 2pm to 4pm

Ugandan born storyteller PHILIPPA KABALI-KAGWA
talks about her memoir: Flame and Song (Modjaji) to heritage specialist
Deirdre Prins-Solani.

IMG_8027                              img_8292

The Open Mic session will be launched by Rwandan born Epiphanie Mokasano sharing her experience of ‘writing home’.

Then it’s over to you – anyone who would like to share their words about ‘home’, written or spoken, will be so welcome.

East African tea will be served courtesy Rita Foy owner of ‘The Meeting Point’ – a restaurant that serves Tanzanian /East African cuisine – 67 Strand Street in Cape Town.

DATE: Saturday Sept 17
TIME: 14.00 – 16.00
Free entry
VENUE: Woman Zone’s Women’s Library, ground floor Artscape, next to Box Office
RSVP: Beryl Eichenberger 0824906652
For more information or

More information:

Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa is a Ugandan/South African poet, storyteller, coach and facilitator. Youngest daughter of Ugandan poet and civil servant, the late Henry Barlow, while she is most commonly called Philippa, she always signs Namutebi at the end of her poems. “Namutebi is the creative side of me. She is the one who writes.” She has a passion for folktales and myths – the wisdom of centuries, the tried and tested imagery, the archetypal characters that give new perspective to the perennial questions that we struggle with.”

Dierdre Prins-Solani is South African born culture, heritage and education consultant who has served with many organisations both locally and internationally.

Epiphanie Mukasano is originally from Rwanda where she used to be a teacher. Living in Cape Town with her husband and children for the last eighteen years, she writes poems and short stories that have been published in various collections. Her own collection of poems titled Kilimanjaro on my lap was published in 2010. A number of her short stories have been published on the FunDza site.

Rita Foy is a businesswoman from Tanzania and founder of The Meeting Point specialising in East African food and hospitality.
Copyright © *Woman Zone 2016 All rights reserved. or


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