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Writing my memoir


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My memoir, which I had hoped to self-publish two years ago has been published this year by Modjadji Books http://www.modjajibooks.co.za/ – a small publishing company that prints women writers in Southern Africa. I am so excited. I worked very hard with my editor (between lapses into the world of work that pays the bills) – to finish. It is been challenging and I am really enjoying it and learning a lot about writing, publishing, and what happens after a book is written.

Knowing this year was going to be full of writing, I was so happy when my book club – Celebrating African Literature – decided that we needed to go on a writing retreat. At the end of January we went to the Volmoed Retreat Centre, in the beautiful Heme en Aarde Valley, near Hermanus and wrote. What a treat! 10 women ranging from age 24 to almost 60, writing memoir, travel blogs, academic work, poetry got together and created a safe space for each to write. We wrote, cooked for each other, laughed, sang, had Shabbat, and Moslem prayer, Yoga, Christian hymns, swam under the waterfall, witnessed a family of baboons crossing the property, had long amazing conversations…  And did I say wrote? Soon you will see the results of all of this. For me it kickstarted this last editorial process and has been invaluable. We will do it again.

Then the work began. A chapter a week, as far as we could, passing back and forth between the Editor and myself. Starting to understand how each one worked. All this was quite new to me and it took me a while to realise just how much work this was. I mean I have edited this many time over but this time it has been different. Questions asked trigger new thoughts, make me research more, or stubbornly stick to some of the things I have written. Questions bring new insights what I am writing, or why I am writing, or who I think my audience might be – and does that matter? Questions scratch old memories awake – some unresolved that I am not ready to look at – or had forgotten. And the writing continued.

April was a hard month. It is the anniversary of my mother’s passing, and it was the month that I was editing the chapter which deals with loss. As I wrote, though, I found that God works with you in mysterious ways. That month was the month my niece graduated in Johannesburg and her parents invited me to the graduation. Her father, Kitongo, is the son of my mother’s brother, and we had not seen each other since a week before my mother passed. We were able to spend some quality time reconnecting. And we remembered how, on that afternoon when he last saw my mother, we sat and talked for a long time. And every time he got up to go, my mother told me to call him back, and she gave him more instructions, or information, or asked him another question. We thought it was just old age, but… who knows? Maybe she knew she would not see him again.

The book is now finished. Yes! In print! It was called From the Ashes and Flames, but it is now called “Flame and Song: a memoir“.  It will hit the bookshops soon. And I will be at the Open Book Festival on Friday 9th September  and Saturday 10th September  at 6.00 pm, at the Annexe 1. http://openbookfestival.co.za/authors/philippa-kabali-kagwa-2/ .

I will also be in conversation with Deirdre Prins-Solani at The Story Cafe at Woman Zone Cape Town (next to the box office at Artscape) on Saturday 17 September from 2.00pm to 4.oo pm. The theme is Writing Home, and after our conversation there will be an open mic which will be kicked off by Rwandese poet Epiphane Mokasano. We will have a spread of East African tea and snacks, supplies by the meeting point, and my family in Uganda.

The official launch of the book will be at the Book Lounge on October the 4th.

Please do come to one or all of these events. The book will be on sale then.

 

Let Everything Happen


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Let Everything Happen

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

By Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated from the German by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy)

Telling African Stories Part One: ‘A Man of Good Hope’


leslie marmon silko on Story

Last night I went to watch a stong and beautifully sang performance based on the book.”A Man of Good Hope”. I was excited to watch an African story, told by an African cast (although the writer and director are not African) because this is the time. On the weekend I had watched ‘Mbuzeni’ by Koleka Putuma. A beautiful piece performed by 4 incredibly talented actresses. Although I do not understand isiXhosa, I got the gist of the story, and the audience was riveted. The story was a sad one, but there was a lot of humour, and love, and care in the story and the telling of it. So different from the stories the media tells. So I went with hope and great expectation.

The piece opens with a beautiful overture played by a marimba orchestra. The cast members are also the orchestra and they move seamlessly between their roles. The story is complex, and right from the start they give context. They introduce the main character and his family lineage which is important in Somali, and many other African cultures. And then go on to give a brief history of Africa – very creatively giving context – and then back to the young man’s story.Throughout it all they sing. The first time the full chorus sings their voices soar and we were washed in this rich and beautiful harmony. Their voices are strong. The soloists too are wonderful. And they narrate the story with conviction.

As the story unfolded I started to feel a little uncomfortable. The main character is Somali. He is Moslem. It is his story. And yet most of the songs, at important moments in his story, were in South African languages, mainly isiXhosa. And the dancing very South African. This did not sit well with me.It perpetuated the belief that Africa is a country, and that we all speak and sing ‘African’! It pointed to an artistic laziness – or South African arrogance – or maybe an African resignation to not being represented in all our fullness. With such a large Somali community in Cape Town, in South Africa; with the internet and the ease of getting things from other cultures something of the Somali culture should have been integrated into the musical score. It should have been a strong and central motif. Especially since, in the scene where they tell the story of the scramble for Africa, they represent the British with very ‘english’ singing, and in the story of the Russian occupation of Ethiopia the Russians are represented with ‘russian-style’ dancing and marching. How can we know so much about Europe, and not try to do the same about our own?

The story of the xenophobia, and the juxtaposing of the Somali shopkeepers with the beliefs of the South Africans was done very powerfully, and created a beautiful way to begin conversations around xenophobia. What might have been missing was the voices of those South Africans who helped the foreigners.

At the end of the show I wanted to cry because … if I stripped away the beauty of the music and the dance  and the strong acting – I felt cheated. This is supposed to be the story of resilience and hope. As a storyteller I felt that the story was incomplete – the pain was amplified, told and retold like the media does and not sufficiently balanced with what gave this man hope, what made him so resilient, what stopped him from running mad because anybody else would have. I think it was the  piece in the second half, with the character Death that really destroyed the rest of the story. It was not necessary. We understood. I did give a standing ovation for the performance because the music, the SINGING,  the conviction of the artists was strong, but I wanted to cry.

As an audience member I was distraught. As an African I was angry, pained, that a story that is potentially so rich, which could have been told in a more nuanced way, focused on what the media would. Some of the audience said that this is because I AM NOT THE INTENDED AUDIENCE. That the story is told highlighting what the audiences in England and Europe – where the play is going – expect and respond to: pain, gore, and a disinterest in which language is used, because at least the cast speak ‘African’. And the music covers everything else. REALLY?!!!!!

I woke up this morning with these questions: What gave him hope? Why do we tell African stories like that, when we know that is not the whole picture? What is our intention when we are telling these stories? What do we want to achieve? Why do we tell the story we think the West wants to hear, instead of telling OUR story? Are we not the first audience?

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: bookdash.org

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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

Region

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

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