Inside the annals of Makerere’s literary world

One of the first places I visited when I arrived in Uganda was Aristoc bookshop on Kampala road.  I was surprised to find the entire Twilight series as well as copies of Shades of Gray on the shelves.  I’ve heard on some occasions that Uganda has poor reading culture or that people purportedly don’t read for pleasure.  Looking further into the subject, I came across a quote by  Kimani wa Mumbi, author of The Poor Reading Culture in Uganda: Causes and Solutions.  He offered this popular saying, ‘if you want to hide something from a black man, or an African, write it’. He attributes this phenomenon to Africa’s strong relationship with oral histories instead of literate traditions.  In Uganda you have further obstacles such as people not necessarily feeling comfortable with reading for pleasure in English, or not having an availability of reading material published in their native language.

While attending Makerere Uni, I had chance to visit the publisher of my Lwoo dictionary, Julius Ocwinyo.  Ocwinyo received a lot of acclaim for his best selling novel Fate of the Banished which touched on themes of  rebellion, religion and despair.  The Daily Monitor calls him ‘the former literary desert’s best fiction author ever’.  He would have been the perfect person to ask about the apparent absence of an established reading culture in this country.  However as life goes, you don’t always get to see the big picture (i.e. ask Mr. Ocwinyo about reading culture when you see him) until it is time to publish your blog.

I can just say that it was intimidating to meet somebody whose book is being considered for adaptation into film.  It was an even more humbling experience to have my language teacher encourage me to try out my Acholi on him.  Fortunately, the conversation turned to reading recommendation and my broken Acholi was quickly forgotten.  I can only imagine how well rounded this blog entry would have been had I put 2 and 2 together earlier.

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