Reading Uganda

Hilda picks me up at 8.00am and takes me through the manic Wandegaya traffic to the Museum of Uganda on Kiira road – a dim hangar-like space, though there are cotton tablecloths on the solid mahogany tables. It’s a slow start to my prose workshop, starting with a shy group of 16 that slowly swells to 24 during the morning. We go through a series of exercises aimed at focusing attention on the role of the reader in realizing fictional writing. Lunch is a full-blown Uganda affair: pasta, beef stew, matoke, rice and vegetables – an overdose of carbohydrate that I manage to largely by-pass.

I take some photographs of participants over lunch before an afternoon of writing first lines and then first paragraphs of new stories. At the end of the session an interesting discussion break about the use of English and the problems of vernacular usage and translation. That’s cut short by the evening session – 5 Ugandan writers, who read first, then a few poems from me, part of a story and an address about transcultural writing projects and CTWR at Lancaster.

There’s no mike stand, so I cut a hole in a cardboard box, stick the microphone in, and balance it on the podium.  It’s the first time I’ve ever taken my writing about Uganda back to Uganda, but the work is well received. There follows a long discussion about how Uganda can develop its reading/writing culture. As ever, the sincerity and commitments of the Ugandan writers is impressive. Hilda drops me off at the Guest House in the dusk, under a fine crescent moon. Connor’s hunched over his laptop, frogs and grasshoppers are calling and later dogs will howl deep in the night. It’s been a long day, but I feel back amongst it all now.


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