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Author Archives: Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa

MAD DASH Moments

A perspective on Book Dash, March 2016 – thanks Nancy.

Lucky enough to have witnessed the recent BOOK DASH at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town, where in just one day, a whole bunch of ‘creatives’ wrote, illustrated, edited, designed and produced no fewer than 12 uniquely African storybooks for children – thought I’d share some of the moments…..
The Writers Circle 003 - Copy
The Overview 006 - Copy
The Old School Equipment009
The New School Equipment 038
The Brainstorm 014
The Buzz 016
The Rubbing Out 029
The Colouring In 031
The Lunch Read 033
The Chaos 036
The Order 048
The Madness 052
The Magic 056 - Copy
The Proud Parents054
Great work guys! Loved it xx
There will be more Book Dashes – elsewhere in the country, soon. But for all the info, check their site:

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‘Little known’ tourism treasures in eastern Uganda

Edward Echwalu - Documentary Photographer

Well, lets start it this way.

“Uganda, was declared” Best Tourist Destination 2012” by Lonely Planet, the Leading and largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world.”UNDP-1

“NIGHT FISHING on Lake Victoria. For generations, people on the shores of Lake Victoria in East Africa have been using kerosene lamps for night fishing according to Wisions. The fishermen begin work at 6pm in the evening and finish at 6am in the morning braving the long cold nights.

“Kidepo Valley National Park has been voted the third best tourist attraction on the African continent by CNN Travel 2013.”

“Uganda was declared Africa’s preferred Birding Destination in 2013 by Africa Bird Club swelling with 1050 bird species- more than three-quarters of all the birds ever recorded in sub-Saharan Africa.”UNDP-2

“World War II grave yard in Jinja”. The Daily Monitor in a recent article describes the cemetery as a “Well kept “piece” of England…

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2016 Africa Reading Challenge

2016 Africa Reading Challenge

Kinna Reads

Welcome to the Africa Reading Challenge.

This will be the fourth time that I’m hosting the Africa Reading Challenge.  Details and requirements are the same this year as for the 2012 Africa Reading Challenge, which started with: “I have absolutely no reason for hosting nor urging you to participate in this challenge save for the joy of discovering and reading African literature!” Here are the details:

Challenge Period

January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016


The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia “list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa”. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal

5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are…

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TBR Dare

Source: TBR Dare

“Power” by Audre Lorde

“Power” by Audre Lorde

In this difficult time with violence birthing violence, with those who could refusing to listen, with all the things that batter my soul at a very personal and very global level, I am searching for words to express myself… Today Kinna and Audre will do it for me

Kinna Reads

Audre Lorde 2

Audre Lorde died on this day 23 years ago.


The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop…

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12th OAU Summit – 1975


In 1975 Uganda hosted the 12th summit of the OAU.   It was an exciting time for us.  I was in P6 (in primary school).  For a while our curriculum, and the games we played, focused on general knowledge about the continent.  We had to learn the names of all the countries in Africa, their capital cities, recognise their flags, their presidents – we were all caught up in the preparations. As part of those preparations Government decided that certain primary and secondary schools would take part in a ceremony at Nakivubo Stadium.  The secondary schools would take part in marching and gymnastic displays.  The primary schools would be part of creating huge, colourful murals as a back ground to the older schools.  If you school was involved it was compulsory for all P5, 6 and 7 pupils.  If you were absent you would be expelled.  At least, that is what I heard – and being expelled was not an option.

Weeks, maybe months before the ceremony we would go daily to Nakivubo to practice.  It was always overwhelming!  There were crowds and crowds of children, and soldiers.  Our parents dropped us quite a distance away from the entrance and we had to somehow find our way to our school group.  I was afraid of large crowds and even more afraid of the soldiers so those few minutes while I looked for my school group were always excruciating.  Once we were all together we would go to the stands, opposite the main VIP building.  Each school had particular rows assigned to them and each pupil a row and seat number.  There were hundreds of us!  We were each handed a large A3 book with your row and seat number.  It was made of cardboard with brightly coloured, numbered pages.  Our job was to turn the pages at a particular time and thus create the murals.  Our ‘conductor’ was positioned behind the seats of the VIPs, and they would signal to which page we should turn and exactly when we should turn.  We practiced until we could turn them as if we were one person.  Each time we turned a page the mural would change, in synch with the marching and gymnastic activities on the field below.  We worked every day, all day, in the sun, and hid under the stalls if it rained.

As the days went by we got to know the other children who were there.  We began to make friends with the children near to us.  We also began also to recognise the secondary schools and other role players.  There was one group that stood out  – the recruits to the army, or Kurutus as they were being called.  I was terrified of them – even though they were not really Army men.  Over the weeks we began to notice a kind of rivalry between the ‘Kurutus’ and the boys from one of the local high schools.  It must have been Kololo High or Kampala High.  They always seemed to be taunting each other.

One day, as we ate lunch the taunting became worse.  One minute they were jeering each other, the next there was a fight on the field.  Boys fighting with young men in army fatigues. Boys running away from the Kurutus.  Blows being exchanged.  And then the Kurutus picked up the big sticks that they had been using as guns in their marching and started chasing the boys and beating them up… Some of the boys were hiding behind a stack of cases of Soda and they started throwing soda-bottle-missiles to the Kurutus.  We ran screaming under the stands huddled together, watching in horror as the Kurutus circled a few boys and BEAT them up.  I believe that one of the boys died – I don’t know for sure – but he was beaten up so badly that an ambulance took him away.

That was the first time I saw the army unleashed on civilians.

We went home shaken that day. My parents told me that I should stop going but my fear of being absent was far greater than my fear of what happened.   I thought that the powers that be would come home and take me, or hurt my parents, and nothing would put me at ease.  I was hysterical at the thought of being absent.  And so I went back, as did many of the other children – and whenever I saw a soldier or a Kurutu, I would take the longer way to wherever I was going.

On the day of our performance we were all there bright and early.  Clean uniforms, polished shoes and sunburnt faces and arms peeling, our hearts still bruised with the loss of our innocence. We watched them arrive in the new Mercedes Benzs, guessing by the flag who was arriving.  Our performance for the Heads of State went well – they were so impressed, and none of them knew the what it cost us to be there.

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Love in a time of Ebola


I heard your wail ricochet across the land

the day they told you that your child was gone.

For days you had wiped his sweat-drenched brow

cleaned his vomit

until at last you wrapped him on your back

walked to the hospital

hot sun testing your strength.

Your rhythmic movement

comforting his ravaged body,

Your voice soothing

reminding him of his name, of who he is

Wrapping him in mother-love.

At the hospital you found

alien-clad in mask, overalls, gloves and glasses

Healers in a time of Ebola.

They wrenched him from your arms

‘Patient no 1029’.

Stripping him of his name.


The cold metal trolley rolled him

squeaking into a

bleach-cleaned room that only they could enter.

Then they

sprayed you clean with bleached water

and locked you up

for 21 days.

With only the clothes on your back

You sat.

One question forming and unforming:

“How will he heal without a mother’s touch?”

You wanted to speak

But the words stuck to your throat, tears carving a valley inside

creating a pool so deep you were starting to drown within.

Your hands burned with healing love that even the tears could not drench.

Then one day they let you out.

“Go home in peace.”

You asked to see your child.

“He is gone. May he rest in peace”

You stood very still for an eternity.

Then you asked

if you could wash and dress him one last time.

If you could take him home to spend his last night

In his father’s house.

You wanted to send a message home so that they could prepare his resting place.

Alien-clad they opened the book and said,

“He was buried this morning in a special bag, with the others.”

They walked you to a field not so near,

Pointed to a mound of soil, marked by a small cross with 1029.

The wire around the field held you out.

That is when I heard your wail

entreating us

To hold you lest you drowned in your own heart.

As each one heard we sang out

a song of mourning

while our tears beat out a dirge on the dusty ground below

and our feet danced the earth soft.

And our sister-circle grew.

The song travelled slow and strong through the earth

And just as you fell to the ground

It rested beneath you, holding you, softening the ground

On which you lay beaten and lost.

We sang and Mother Africa held you to her bosom

Until the pool of tears welling up within burst open pouring

Into the earth, and slowly you stopped drowning

You stood up,

Called his name, danced his farewell then

Walked back home

Back empty

Carrying the heaviness of this emptiness

In your heart.



The Miracle of Life

Yesterday my youngest turned 6.  He is a “laat lametjie”  – came into our lives 14 years after the brother he follows.  As I have been preparing to celebrate and counting down the number of ‘sleeps’ to his birthday I was taken back 6 years ago to the time of his birth.  I realise again that though our journeys into and through life are not always easy, many miracles and blessings happen along the way – every day.


I was an ‘older mum’ – in my mid forties, and so from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I knew that it might not be an easy journey.  And there were challenges on many levels – my age, I had pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure…), the challenge of the unexpected pregnancy, a husband in shock, a daughter in Matric, and son just starting high school, etc.  Quite early into the pregnancy I decided that I needed to do something creative to carry me through this time – to be my soft place to land.  One Tuesday night, as I drove my daughter home from choir, Balu Nivison, whom I had sent a one sentence email saying a mutual friend said we should meet, called me and invited me to join her ‘Moving Arts’ course that was beginning the next day.  I started a 12 week process of movement and reflection and art that ended in a friendship that I treasure.  At some point in the 12 weeks, I could not dance because my blood pressure was high but I continued with the art, writing, reflection and support within the group because it  gave me a deep sense of peace.  At the end of the course I knew I had the strength and peace of mind to handle anything.

A few weeks later, about 7 weeks before the baby was to be born I woke up with a strange, pain around my stomach – a ‘belt of pain’.  It was not a contraction – just a slow, steady, dull pain – more in the background than anything.  At first I thought it was just muscles stretching but it continued.  After no change in two days I decided I would go in to my Gynae just to make sure all was well.  I called Agnisia, my friend and ‘sister from another mother’ to drive me in.  After the check up he decided that I should be admitted for observation.  The ward said they would have a bed at two so she took me home to pack my suitcase and prepare myself.

I called my husband and sent out a few sms’s to let my daughter and son and a few other people know what was happening, ate lunch, and returned to the hospital.  This time Mr. B, a pensioner who drove the kids to and from school, dropped me at the reception.  I walked in and started to fill in the admission forms, feeling  so alone and wishing there was someone with me.  And as I finished, I turned around to see my friend Veronica walking towards me.  It was like seeing an Angel!  She sat with me while the nurses hooked me up to machines – foetal monitor, blood pressure machine, the funny thing they put on your finger to measure oxygen (or something) – and pricked and prodded me.  A steady comforting presence.

A little while later my Gynae, Jannerman, came in.  He checked a few things, while a nurse held my arm and pricked, and watched the blood, and pricked again…  She looked at the Dr and said, “No. ….”(I cant remember what else).  Jannerman stood at the foot of my bed and said, “Philippa, we are going to have to operate now. The baby is in distress, and your platelets are dropping.  We are just waiting for the blood from Tygerberg and then we will go on.”  I did not fully understand the seriousness of what he was saying but I knew something was wrong.  I had had an emergency cesear before and I knew they were doing this to save my life and if possible the baby.    I just said, ” I was sort of expecting this.”  He cleared his throat again and said, “And I am not going to be able to keep my promise to you.  I can’t do an epidural, we need to put you to sleep and work as fast as we can.  And I am probably not going to make a bikini line incision either but I will try to make it as neat as possible.”  At that point I decided this was not the time to ask many questions.  I had to prepare myself for the operation.  I gave him a half-smile and said, “I guess you have to do what you must.”

I was disappointed that he could not keep his promise – that he would make sure that I was awake to welcome this my very last child into the world.  I had been completely under for the delivery of my first two children – the first an emergency caesar, the second an epidural gone wrong.  I wanted to be awake to welcome this last one into the world.  Now it was not to be.  I breathed in thought, “God, if this is what you want, then let it all go well.”  What I thankfully did not realise at the time was that my pre-eclampsia had evolved into HELLP SYNDROME.  The dropping platelets meant that my red blood cells were breaking down and my blood was slowly losing its ability to clot.   There was a strong likelihood that I could bleed to death, or have stroke.   (For more info go to

It was around this point that my husband arrived at the hospital.  We spoke for a bit, and then left to get dressed to come into the theatre with me.  He walked me into the theatre and then said he was going to wash his hands. (What he actually did was go and sit in the waiting room which was better for the doctors doing the procedure.  They did not need the added pressure of a colleague watching them operate on his wife and child – especially under such difficult circumstances. Again I am glad that I did not know.)

I woke up hours later to see my son, daughter and husband in the room with the news that I had had a little boy and he was fine.  One of the nurses sent a message to all the people on my phone to let them know (sorry for those who did not know me that well). I was groggy with pain drugs for quite a while.

The next morning I woke up with a feeling as if I had just been through a very difficult time.  There was a different quality to the air and light. That day, or the next, I got up and went slowly to the neo-natal ICU  to see my baby – I needed to know how he was.  He was small – weighing I.7kg.  As I held him and breast-fed him the Peadiatrician came by, and as she left she told a colleague that Chris was her miracle baby.  I asked, “Why is she saying that?  There are much smaller babies in here.”  That is when nurse told me that she was in the theatre when Chris was born.  He was blue and did not move – 1/10 on the AGPAR score.  They resuscitated him, and on the second measure he was a 7/10.  (  They gave him oxygen for the first 24 hours, but did not need to intubate him.  He was a miracle.

3 days after his birth I wrote this prayer and put in his cot in the ICU:

Prayer for Christopher – from Mom.

Bouy Christopher up

with Your breath

as he begins his life

Oh God.

May he dance to the

sound of Your voice

and be drawn forward

by the beauty of

Your light.

May he be cradled

in Your heart, Oh Lord

and protected by the

shield of  Your

softest Love


My prayer was answered.  Today he is a tall, strong, loving, talkative boy with a great imagination.  I am grateful to all those who supported us, all those who cared, prayed, and took care of my family.

Looking back I realise how important it is to have a great support system, and how important it is to know what you need to do to take care of yourself, and to prepare yourself for lifes challenges.  For me creativity, friendship and prayer are very important – and these things gave me the resources to support the miracle that was Chris.

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There is only one you…



“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. “
Martha Graham

For a long time I have grappled with who I am and what my work is – especially at this point in my life.  I am drawn to working with story, and with voice, and I also feel strongly that I have skills as a facilitator and a coach.  The conversation within me has been about being one or the other, until I realised that all of this is me – all of this and more, and it is my responsibility to bring this combination of talent, skill and experience into the world.  It is so wonderful to arrive at this place.  May you also find that place, and keep the channel open.


Philippa in Maama's dress - laughing

The Call

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

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 us

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

Woowee, woowee, woowee.

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, our 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 and honoured their pain

Woowee, woowee, woowee…

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

breathe wholeness back

restore these tired bones

breathe back wholeness


Holy breath.

namutebi 1 June 2015

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