Tino Akware

Tino was born on the 22nd of January and lives in Banda, a suburb of Kampala city, with her mother. She is the youngest of two brothers and three sisters. She attended Mt. St. Mary’s Secondary School Namagunga for her secondary school education and completed her university studies from Kyambogo University in Kampala where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology and Computing in 2007.

She currently works with Uganda Women Writers’ Association (FEMRITE) as the Programmes Assistant, a position she has held at the organization since December 2009.

As a writer, she has had two poems published in the FEMRITE poetry anthology, ‘The Butterfly Dance’. She recently began writing short stories. she also actively participate in the readers writers club that is a weekly peer review forum for writers and has been one of the editors of the FEMRITE online journal WORDRITE for the past 8 issues.

Tino is motivated by the need to turn challenges into opportunities and the opportunities into life skills and is currently working on a collection of short stories. She enjoys playing soccer and rugby with her friends and hanging out with her three lovely nephews as well as making colourful beaded necklaces.

 

Creative Work from the Sticking to my Footsteps Anthology

 

FLASHES

I was in the bedroom, about to shut the door when my mother passed by.  I might have heard her approach. After all it was a short distance between bedroom doors that never locked and a corridor that had been designed short by a self-learned architect. The corridor was not like the one in the old house that was long and narrow. My elder brother and I had stuck our little feet and palms to its walls and climbed all the way to the ceiling beams of the old house. My mother walked with a heavy step that I had come to recognise. Old age it seemed was giving her a new physique that made her move noisily. Although the loud bit had been consistent; it now just matched the physical to equal proportions. Wherever one went, the other dragged along.

‘Let’s take a photo,’ I said to her as I smiled and sat down on the bed.

I could hardly remember the last time or any time we posed for a photo together. My family had never owned a camera or been to the photo studio whose background was a beach painted on blue cloth.

She came in and stooped over one of two beds whose headrests were next to the windows that only opened on one side. The other side was chocked with a housing estate of wasps older than the windowpane. The wasp side of the window was where my bed was. I refused to open it because I feared for the wasps and their nesting.

My mother strained her eyes to look at what I was holding. Eyes can be interesting; one year they spy on children darting between raised dog kennels and the neighbours’ sigiris placed outside in the shared compound, and in the years ahead they strain at the adult you, almost still spying at the child you’re not.

‘What is that in your hand?’ She asked.

‘A camera,’ her voice almost sounded disappointed as she answered her own questions out of habit.

‘Hmm, dear girl why a camera when we can barely afford food?’

She reached out to touch it and I handed it to her.

‘Imagine how many kilos of beans and rice you could have bought instead,’ she said as she turned the camera over and handed it back.

It was not my camera but I did not say so and what did it matter that hungry nights were now friendly? This was not going to be the time for another petty argument.

‘Sit here.’

I tapped on my bed right next to me. She sat down and sank the foam mattress further into the bed.

I had not anticipated this moment, a mother-daughter reunion of sorts. It was a moment to express years of halted intimacy and prove that the limits to family bedlam did exist. I had put on some cheap foundation powder and maroon lip balm, the kind my sister criticized for being on the market but still insisted on buying. My sister sat on her bed – the one that carried three mattresses from three decades of sleeping and living – and she took the first photo of my mother and I. We were smiling wide and had our hands draped across each other like a comfortable and peaceful acceptance of being related. But the photo was blurred from the shades of the last evening sun rays floating away from this side of the earth and the electric bulb was too dim to light it up. Our shared room was small and darkened by the open closet that mostly held my sister’s neatly ironed dresses.

‘My lips are white,’ my mother said as she looked over at the vanity table.

She picked the lip balm and cleaned off the dust with her finger.

‘Really you girls, just wiping off the dust from the table defeats you?’

She got some tissue off the table and removed the dirt from her finger.

‘It’s such a bother especially since the road is being graded.’

‘But it’s simply a ten minute job and you’re done’

‘Only it has to be done every morning and evening because the hostel buses speed by and raise fresh dust’

I watched as my mother decided to put some lip balm on her aging lips. I was amused at how much scooped onto her lips and at my sister who sat on the other bed with blithe attitude, irritated at our exchange. It was a moment that brought a retrospect of lovely times.

As children, my mother was the fountain of our childhood. We longed for her touch when we saw her return from work even when we knew we would be caned for not mopping the house. But then we grew into teenagers and as we outgrew the years resented the misunderstandings about everything and nothing. She now had lots of grey hair on her head but not a wrinkle on her face to cripple that smile. Not even the three human lives we had been to her as children could undo that smile. You know lives that wring out emotions, tears and desperate parenting.

I stood up and got a black jacket from the open closet and wore it over my nightshirt. We were ready for another shot, smiling excitedly.

I loved the photo shoot but I never said so. It was our first, my first. I looked at the two photos that my sister had taken. I must have observed them for far too long I did not notice my mother get up and leave. I fancied the two people starring in the photos. One is me and the other my mother and in the photo I glimpsed their life, my life, holding still. The years past and locked up began to pile and assemble on the wall behind where they sat in the photo. The moment centered their situation and brought forth those years where they had sort of formalized growing up. The children and parents had both come of age at the same time but in different ways.

I can still see what was in some of those years: that death we all remember and we all forget. The day she stopped waking us at 6am to go to school and she to work. Our parents screaming at each other in the night and the cricket and firefly infested night not screaming back. New size 6 white sandals with metallic buckles and hard rubber soles that had been bought by our father in a quarter drunken stupor. Foreign flavoured milk that was packed in a dark green 30cm long can (my sister had measured) with the label made in Italy. A black colour television in a one T.V station country. I could see it all on the wall, the one my brother was finally going to paint. That wall in the picture was massive a sepia of memories.

I liked what the photograph made me realize, so I framed it. I was in the photo and then I was looking out of the photo, out to the life and the room and the house that I did not want to live in.  I could tell my mother and I were alike by looking into the photo. But really we had grown apart, the way the flame from the mosquito repellant candles burns out the wick from its blue bottom to the elongated yellow spikes. We were like sooner and then later.

It took a week to find a good spot for the photo. I took the framed photo out of the bedroom – my sisters’ and I – through the shortened corridor to the sitting room.  I placed the photo in a corner that had three other photographs. It was the right spot to reflect new changes in the house. Each photo revealed a coming of age moment for the parents. It seemed to me that they represented a first, second and third coming of age: the marriage, the births, the letting go of children. There was also the death, the forgotten one.

The photo faced the two in the sitting room that no one ever opened. Every morning and evening I was going to draw the curtains to nothing in particular except for four eucalyptus trees standing tall on the slope above. Between the trees one could see green, white, blue, yellow and red stained glass windows of St. Paul Catholic church.

I was sure then that I do not want to live as a memory in a photograph. You get captured in a moment and framed in varnished mahogany and glass. Imagine that: a flash to enslave and exchange life for still eternity.

I had wanted to belong to these framed people so I could distance myself from them, to know that they can be near but out of comforting touch. I turned the framed photo to face the new lime-green painted wall, the new addition, the new us. I wanted them who were frozen in eternity to see it: the new lime green wall. To see how we were changing. I wanted them to collect, assemble and pile their own memories that would keep them…until a new photo with a new maroon lip balm, new make-up, new memories joined them.