Reading Uganda

This is the last day of the ‘Reading Uganda’ festival and starts with a free day. I visit some old haunts, walking all the way from Makerere to the National Theatre via the Ban Café and the Masala Chaat resturant on Dewington Road. It’s pretty hot with a clear sky and the city is incredibly busy. That extraordinary press of people going about their affairs. Sensory overload from all directions. A new Hilton Hotel – almost finished – dominates the skyline as I look south from Makerere. The news has been full of the independence of Southern Sudan all week. A new African nation. I run into Nancy Oloro Robarts – Femrite member and participant in the Uganda ‘Radiophonics’ project – just near the parliament buildings and we exchange our own news. Then the hot walk back to Wandegeya.

The evening event at the museum starts at 6.00pm and is a bonfire and reading with barbecue. A fire burns inside a circle of chairs and, despite the power cut, we have a PA system and one light running from the generator. I begin the readings, which go on all night, interspersed with the raffle and live songs from the MC. It’s a great atmosphere, though tricky to read balancing a microphone and a torch for most of the older participants! The traffic continues on Kieran road beyond the museum gates, and the yellow lights of cars, matatu and boda-boda sweep over us. A car alarm and the warning lights on an SUV parked above the compound go off at regular intervals all night, fulminating like a troublesome guest. By nine o’clock things are beginning to wind down and fruit bats are flapping out of the trees and over the roof of the museum. I take my leave, holding the present I’ve been given – a large batik wall-hanger with a poem by Mildred K. Barya. It’s a lovely gift, thoughtfully chosen and beautifully wrapped.

It’s been a pretty full week and Hilda looks exhausted by the end of it. So much to organize and worry about. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back to Uganda, but I’ve set some time aside on Monday to visit the Femrite office and discuss things with Hilda. Meanwhile I’ll be meeting Makerere academic and poet Susan Kiguli to explore connections there. Watch this space…

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