I recently noticed that I have been reading a lot of Nigerian/ Ghanaian authored books and so I set myself a challenge to diversify my reading to other parts of Africa. Here are some of the books on my to-read list.
- Lyrics Alley – Leila Aboulela (Sudan)
- So Long a Letter – Mariam Ba (Senegal)
- Beneath the Lion’s Gaze – Maaza Mengiste ( Ethiopia)
- Flame and Song – Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa (Uganda)
Posted in books, Heart matters, home
Tagged book club, books, Books reading, Ethiopia, Flame and Song, Leila Aboulela, Maaza Mengiste, Mariam Ba, Philipa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa, So Long a Letter, Sudan, Uganda
Posted in books, Heart matters, home, life, marriage
Tagged Africa, baking, Being Black, Bible Study, book club, Cape Town, coffee, culture, death, hospitality, ice cream, Inspiration, Kampala, motherhood, natural hair, Uganda
Posted in books, design, Heart matters, home, life, marriage
Tagged 90s Music, ALU Mauritius, books, Books reading, decolonisation, education, faith, Kabali-Kagwa, Kenya, Kenyan elections, Kintu, marriage in Kenya, motherhood, music, Nigeria, photography, race, recipes, Refugees, Sunday Reads, Uganda
Posted in Heart matters, home, life, working
Tagged Africa, Christianity, DIY, Kenya, life lessons, motherhood, Nairobi, PhD, Podcasts, Refugees, Uganda
- If you are not a Longreads fan already, here is a list of their best articles of 2016.
- I am all about female friendships and stuff. I also love the authors idea of an article’s club.
- My friends and I have these kinds of conversations all the time. Why can’t I ever record them???
- Things people say after a miscarriage.
- Black Power!
- Kindness is the glue that holds couples together.
- What to choose when considering a Bible Study to join. We all need tips on how to improve our prayer life. Yep. At least me!!
- I guess con artistes are always looking to make a quick one so academia is also fair game.
- Short-run solutions to youth unemployment in South Africa. Can young offenders reform successfully?
- I love the aesthetics of this home!! This housing option seems quaint, but not for me.
- Helping kids to make New Year resolutions. Some help for adults too. More help from podcasts.
- Cool places to chill in Johannesburg. And in Uganda.
- On identity and what makes us, us.
- I watched the movie Birth of a Nation and liked it.
- Recipes: Cooking with soy sauce. Fragrant Chickpea Basmati Rice with Fresh Coriander.
Posted in design, good, Heart matters, home, marriage
Tagged 2017, about me, cartoons, cooking, Johannesburg, new beginnings, new year, parenthood, pregnancy, recipes, resolutions, Sharee Miller, Uganda
Posted in home, life, marriage, school, working
Tagged Africa, Cape Town, food, growing up., marriage, motherhood, parenthood, productivity, recipes, Uganda
Posted in design, Heart matters, life, marriage, working
Tagged baby shower, baking, books, growth, hair, marriage, motherhood, Uganda, women and work, women at work
As one of my goals this month is to read more African literature, these are the books on my bookshelf.
One Day I will Write About This Place – Binyavanga Wainanina (Kenya/Uganda)
Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhod out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colourful sounds: the hair dryers at his mother’s beauty parlour, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, the music of Michael Jackson – all punctuated by the infectious laughter of his brother and sister, Jimmy and Ciru. He could fall in with their patterns, but it would take him a while to carve out his own. In this vivid and compelling debut, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his failed attempt to study in South Africa, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya. The landscape in front of him always claims his main attention, but he also evokes the shifting political scene that unsettles his views on family, tribe, and nationhood. Throughout, reading is his refuge and his solace. And when, in 2002, a writing prize comes through, the door is opened for him to pursue the career that perhaps had been beckoning all along. A series of fascinating reporting assignments follows in other African countries. Finally he circles back to a Kenya in the throes of postelection violence and finds he is not the only one questioning the old certainties. Resolutely avoiding stereotype and cliche, Wainaina paints every scene in One Day I Will Write About This Place with a highly distinctive and hugely memorable brush.
Men of the South – Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)
In Johannesburg three men’s lives revolve around one woman. Mfundo is a struggling jazz musician. All hope of ever becoming famous end when he gets into a macho fight with an international R&B artist. No one is keen to employ him any longer, and Mfundo takes the role of house-husband. But his girlfriend Sli is not willing to be the ‘man’ of the house. Mzilikazi is a gay man in a heterosexual marriage. One of the few people in his life who do not question the decision he makes is his best friend, Sli. Tinaye is a Zimbabwean struggling to gain citizenship in South Africa hence his current situation – underpaid and overqualified. The only way to gain citizenship is to marry Grace. But then he meets Sli…
Coconut – Kopano Matlwa (South Africa)
An important rumination on youth in modern-day South Africa, this haunting debut novel tells the story of two extraordinary young women who have grown up black in white suburbs and must now struggle to find their identities. The rich and pampered Ofilwe has taken her privileged lifestyle for granted, and must confront her swiftly dwindling sense of culture when her soulless world falls apart. Meanwhile, the hip and sassy Fiks is an ambitious go-getter desperate to leave her vicious past behind for the glossy sophistication of city life, but finds Johannesburg to be more complicated and unforgiving than she expected. These two stories artfully come together to illustrate the weight of history upon a new generation in South Africa.
ASIDE: Claim to fame, the husband went to school with her Husband and we attended their wedding.
Happiness is a Four Letter Word – Cynthia Jele (South Africa)
Nandi, Zaza, Tumi and Princess are four ordinary friends living life in the fast and fabulous lanes of Joburg. Suddenly, no amount of cocktails can cure the stress that simultaneously unsettles their lives. Nandi’s final wedding arrangements are nearly in place so why is she feeling on edge?
Zaza, the “trophy wife”, waits for the day her affair comes to light and her husband gives her a one-way ticket back to the township; Tumi has only one wish to complete her perfect life – a child. But when her wish is granted, it’s not exactly how she pictured it. And Princess? For the first time ever, she has fallen in love – with Leo, a painter who seems to press all the right buttons. But soon she discovers – like her friends already have – that life is not a bed of roses, and happiness never comes with a manual . . .
ASIDE: Please read the book and/or watch the movie currently at the Cinemas.
Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)
Kenya, 2007. Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His sister, Ajany, and their father bring his body back home, to a crumbling colonial house in northern Kenya. But the peace they seek is hard to find: the murder has stirred deeply buried memories of colonial violence, of the killing-sprees of the Mau Mau uprising, and the shocking political assassination of Tom Mboya in 1969. When a young Englishman appears, searching for his missing father, another story, of love, or at least a connection, begins.
This is a spellbinding state of the nation novel about Kenya, showing how the violence of the past informs the violence and disorder of the present. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s memorable characters; Ajany’s mother, deranged with grief and past violations, the Trader, embodying the timeless nomadic traders of Sudan, and Odidi himself, who transcended his past, came to success, and then a tragic end, are enchanting. Owuor reveals to us a new Kenya, a Kenya of bloodshed but also of modernity, suffused with a spirit world only half-remembered. This is a country where the characters listen so acutely for what is not said, and for the voices from the distant and recent past.
Rachel’s Blue – Zakes Mda (South Africa)
After a few stalls of beets, kale and zucchinis, and of candles made from beeswax and shaped into angels by a beekeeper who is also selling bottled honey, Jason stops to listen to yet another busker . . . He concludes that it is not for her voice – rather airy and desperate – that her open guitar case is bristling with greenbacks. It is for her strawberry blonde bangs peeping out from under her hat, and her deep blue eyes, and her willowy stature, and her brown prairie skirt of plaid gingham, and her bare feet with tan lines drawn by sandals, and her black T with “Appalachia Active” in big white letters across her breasts – the entire wholesome package that stands before him. She is trying hard to make her voice sound full-bodied and round, but she was not born for singing. She loses a beat to say “thank you” after Jason deposits a single, and then she tries hard to catch up with the song before it goes out of control.
At that moment Jason recognises her. Rachel. Rachel Boucher from Jensen Township . . .
Athens County, Ohio, USA. When Rachel Boucher and Jason de Klerk meet again – five years after high school – they immediately renew their friendship. But for Jason their friendship is just a stepping stone to something more – a romantic union that seems to have the blessing of the whole community. That is until Rachel becomes involved with Skye Riley.
As Skye and Rachel grow ever closer, Jason’s anger at the relationship boils over into violence, violence that turns the community on its head, setting old friends and neighbours against one another. But this is just a taste of things to come as, it turns out, Rachel is pregnant . . .
The Texture of Shadows – Mandla Langa (South Africa).
It is 1989, a high point of hope in South Africa’s political history. The nation is abuzz with rumours of Nelson Mandela’s imminent release, the dismantling of guerrilla camps and the possibility of peace.
A band of exiled People’s Army soldiers returns to South Africa. After years in Angola they think the change they have been fighting for is finally about to become a reality. They have been ordered to carry and deliver a sealed trunk to an unspecified destination. It is a mission that makes them a target as different parties set out to separate the men from the trunk and its mysterious contents, setting the stage for several fierce conflicts.
The Texture of Shadows explores a world of hardened guerrilla fighters, corrupt police officers, ex-political prisoners and the victims of abuse of a system of bannings and beatings. But there are also cracks in this steel-edged world that hope, love and beauty can fill as the reader is swept up in the story of Chaplain Nerissa Rodrigues and her fellow soldiers.
Will post reviews as I read them!
Posted in books
Tagged African writing, Binyavanga Wainaina, books, Books reading, Cynthia Jele, Kenya, Kopano Matlwa, literature, Mandla Langa, South Africa, Uganda, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Zakes Mda, Zukiswa Wanner
- The pitfall of comparing yourself with others
- More on female economists and their returns to solo vs group publishing of papers (Hint: publish solo or with mixed genders)
- … and a follow up of initial thoughts and opinions on the article.
- A healthy alternative to eating wraps!
- Slay Taraji, slay!!
- As a follow up to last weeks post on what the Brady/ Bundchen bunch eat, here is a list of recipes to adopt.
- Free downloadable calendars: one and two.
- The NYT recently published a list of 100 Notable books for 2015.
- Good to know that Uganda doing well on the front of palliative health care – effectively and cheaply.
Posted in books, design, home, school, working
Tagged books, calendars, design, economists, Feminism, Gisele Bundchen, goals, health, healty eating, home, life, palliative care, reading, school, Seth Godin, Taraji P Henson, Tom Brady, Uganda, working
… from the Motherland, no less
Posted in design, home, life
Tagged design, East Africa, Eddy Kenzo, home, Kadongo Kamu, life, music, Sitya Loss, Uganda, Utake
Happy Birthday Uganda!! 53 today and counting 🙂
South Africa has a Public Holiday on the 24th of September – Heritage Day. There is a bit of a history of this day. There is also ill-feeling around the fact that this has now been White-washed to National Braai Day which cheapens the day. Be that as it may, I would like to commemorate my own Heritage Day and share part of what makes me, me.
- I am not a refugee. I remember being in lower primary at school and hearing people call me one and I had honestly never heard that phrase and when I dutifully went home and asked my parents what it meant, I saw the disgust in their face and honestly thought it was a swear word. My parents moved to Kenya as part of the East Africa Community and they got jobs in Nairobi. Yes I am a foreigner, but a legal one and really a labour migrant.
- The same thing applies to my status in South Africa. I am proudly foreign but also extremely legal and here by choice. Weirdly, I had my own status prior to marrying a local boy. Yes I am aware that marriages of convenience do happen but by the time we got to settling down, they had tightened up all of those loopholes. And they continue to do so even to date. Don’t even remind the number or height of hoops we had to jump through to get married.
- Growing up in a very Ugandan home but in a foreign country, was never confusing. Not in the least. Without much explanation, it was always known what happened at home and what was non-negotiable and the level of influence that we could pick up outside and bring home and you just knew what fit where.
- Some non-negotiable Ugandan aspects? We always knelt to greet my parents and other visitors, we proudly bore only our Ugandan names- my mom was particularly clear about us using our first names that identified us as coming from my fathers community and not our middle ones that are from her community. Our foods always had groundnuts, we had groundnut sauce, sweet potatoes, amukeke (dried and steamed sweet potatoes), matooke (plantain), atap (millet), firinda (beans), obutusi (traditional mushrooms), smoked and dried beef and fish. Just brought tears to my eyes and loads of salivating as I remember some of these meals.
- We also learnt Kiswahili and Sheng’ that was spoken by our contemporaries. We adopted chapati (flat bread), ugali (steamed maize flour) and sukuma wiki (kales). We wrote local exams and went to local schools living and mingling with predominantly Kenyans. My accent? How many times have I been in Uganda and had people walk up to me and refuse to accept that I am Ugandan because of my accent. I think it is now a confusing thing because the most I get is, “Are you from East Africa?”
- As I have gotten older, I have learnt not to question too much what makes me me. I have certain core beliefs that I hold dear to me and surprisingly, a lot of them are inspired by my Christian faith as I view that as my first and biggest cultural lens. Thereafter, in light of what makes the most sense to me as an African child. Some cultural practices differ from community to community and indeed nation to nation but for the most part, they are summarised by respect for all, care and regard for all and your enviroment and in some cases, there are gender expectations that you must adhere to.
- In planning the wedding, it did get confusing but even then it played out how I order my worldview – get all the requirements for the Church wedding out of the way and then get the traditional/ civil stuff finalised. The traditional stuff was a mix of both my mom and dad’s practices and you would expect it to be similar but it wasn’t and as long as I was told where to stand and what to do,I did and it got done.
- As I am getting older/ maybe in the last four to five years, I have seen an increased interest in my traditional dress (ssuka) and I delight in wearing it to special occasions. As a married woman, there is also additional jewelry that I get to wear it with which makes it even more special. An interesting finding for me was also the fact that I asked my dad whether my grandma took my granddad’s surname and he told me two things: (i) in our culture, before the wazungu (White man) came, we didn’t typically take on surnames because it was taboo to name someone after yourself unless the baby was born when you were going to die or were at war and were expected/feared dead and (ii) names in our culture are indicators of a clan and since a man would never marry a sister (a fellow clanmate) it was never expected that you would take on the new (clan) surname. On that note, I figured why take it on then?
- Something I do ask is what is Kenyan culture. What of that background contributes to me. A friend asked me recently, when you say you are going home, where do you mean? Unequivocally, Kenya. I KNOW the people, the context of stories, the language, the setting, so many firsts and memories singly and with others. It’s a whole part of my life and a part I love with such intensity, it is both exciting and scary. But is all mine to pick and play with.
- So happy heritage day and here’s to all the things that make me,me. Cheers!!
PS: If you are from Uganda (the Motherland), please let me know if my spelling of the food is fine – prior to now, I have never had to spell them out.
Posted in home
Tagged about me, Africa, belief, culture, East Africa, food, Google doodle, heritage, home, Kenya, language, Sheng, South Africa, Uganda
Over the next few days, I shall be reviewing different aspects of the wedding. Please stick around and let me know your thoughts.
So you know how you meet a boy at school, think his difference is fascinating, get to know him a bit and then you say yes when he asks you to marry him and the difference in culture suddenly becomes stark? No? Well, this is what I learnt from planning the wedding about the difference between a wedding in the East (of Africa) and those in the South.
- Something as simple as how does the bridal party make their entrance into the reception. In EA, the guests come and join in a single dance with the bridal party and they all dance in together. In SA, the bridal party has to perform a routine that they rehearse and all the guests look forward to. In hindsight, it wasn’t too bad but as I don’t really like to dance, it was a bit of a bummer in the period leading up to it.
- Dowry. Obviously both communities pay dowry and I am actually not opposed to it’s payment in case someone wants to comment about how backward/ sexist or whatever else. In Teso, the girls family will usually pick 100% of the dowry from the boys home and that’s the traditional ceremony. Only men are involved and particularly from the paternal side. In SA, the malumes (maternal uncles) can and often get involved, there are quite a few stages to it, gifts are given to the girls and boys family and part of the dowry is paid. This was a very contentious issue and I shall not say anything further about how it was resolved.
- Parental involvement. I thought this was more of a family than a South African thing. My parents weren’t super involved in the planning, they just asked about the highlights and the mega details, his parents and family were VERY involved. In EA, we plan weddings with peers who give time, money and their effort to make it a success, I can’t speak of what they do in SA as I never found out.
- I found out at the traditional wedding that in Tswana culture, the bride and groom have to spend some time at the boys home following the wedding. I have never heard of this practice back home ! It’s nice to know we can stay over but in reality, we will probably drive home in future rather than stay over at the in-laws just because home is not that far away off.
- I always knew that the groom kinda saunters down the aisle with his groomsmen, not so here where the mom/ a sister or special cousin gets to walk him down the aisle.
I am sure there were so many more lessons and I might update this list at a later stage/ as they occur.
As promised here are my thoughts on this book.
- For some reason, it is ridiculously priced at Exclusive Books and that’s if you can get it. I ended up getting it from Amazon at half price.
- A part of me wanted not to compare her to that other famous Nigerian Writer and I tried most of the time.
- The stories are divided into two parts – stories in the first half are based in Nigeria and the latter in America.
- The predominant themes to her stories are religion, migration or identity, family dynamics and unexpectedly lesbianism, which begs the question, how many lesbians are there in Nigeria? (This scares me because of the traffic that will be lead to this blog ala this.) But in light of the recent anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda, it does raise the question of how difficult it is to be gay/lesbian in Africa. Culture notwithstanding.
- She writes very simply but poignantly. A lot of the time, I had such strong feelings after most stories. Which to me is not necessarily a bad thing because I have to react to my stories to truly enjoy them otherwise it’s just not worth it.
- I loved “On Ohaeto Street” because the description of where they lived reminded me so much of the estate I grew up in back in Nairobi. Very beautiful intro to the book. As with any short story, I was left wondering whether they got back together again?
- The second story very touching as the wife had to go through the VERY public and then an equally private shame. Interesting also that it had to be the wife with a problem conceiving and not the guy. Like no one ever considered it could be him.
- I also loved “America”. Quite a lot. I felt of all of them, this had the most potential to be drawn out further but maybe if it was, it wouldn’t have that same feel to it. Possibly. But reading this story, I did ponder on the issue of brain drain and how it was/is to some extent today that you haven’t quite made it in Africauntil you have gone overseas and studied/lived/worked. You can be great BUT and that’s a huge BUT.
- As an eternal foreigner “Shelter” made me so sad. To be in a bad way and stuck in a foreign country without help or family. Worst nightmare.
- “Tumours and Butterflies” almost made me wail like a sick kid. I was probably quite emotional on the day I read it but it gutted me. Parts of you feel sorry for the mom that she is a battered lady, then you wanna feel sorry for the dad because he has Cancer and then you see him treat his daughter like that and you wanna get in there and beat him up. I thank God I am not a battered wife but her decision to side with her husband over her daughter I cannot even contemplate!
- The title of the book comes from the story “Grace”. I felt like this story dragged on unnecessarily. However, is Happiness always fleeting … “maybe it is all about being on the verge of joy and similar small moments.” To me happiness is fleeting and joy is perpetual.
I loved this book, which is rare because I cannot be paid enough to read short stories. But this one, I would certainly give a proud 4.5 out of 5.
I have tried to come up with a weekly serial that I could do here with little success, largely because I would always pick something so complex that would be difficult to replicate in subsequent rounds. This time, I decided to do something simple – talk about the simple things that struck me that week.
Sometimes life gets so busy and we forget to smell the roses and notice the little things. And in the last few months, I have become very guilty of that and so this is a call to myself to go back to basics and start noticing the little things once again.
What little things have caught your eyes recently?
A friend of mine came “out” this week – out, as in of the proverbial closet. Well, he was an acquaintance from Church and he led worship as part of the Praise Team.
- I wasn’t really shocked at his coming out and his statements around it because for the longest time he had been posting very provocative articles on homosexuality and I figured that it maybe because he is currently in Uganda (homophobe capital of the world). On this day he decided to speak plainly and talk about how gay people are out and about and more common than we imagine and thereafter I saw the Christian backlash and response to it all.
- I stand by the Bible (God’s) position of homosexuality – it is a sin and it is outside of God’s plan for mankind. I am unapologetic about this. However, there is a clear distinction between the man (as indeed we are all fallen) and the sin. The latter is abhorrent to a Holy God while the former is beloved to Him.
- In portraying this distinction, it is vital that fellow man portrays love and understanding. Love that stems from the knowledge that before God, we all fall short in many areas and the understanding that to God, sin is sin and no one’s is better or less than another’s. Bearing this in mind will guide your language and approach. Otherwise, we are no different from the Pharisees!
- Personally, I feel for my friend because this is not an easy path he has selected: i) A large part of his past/present life is Church and he has the dilemma of serving a loving God who does not accept his lifestyle and ii) it’s illegal in East Africa – obviously no one has been convicted as successful prosecution requires that the accused be caught in the act.
One of my first (fast) friends from High School was in town this week and despite receiving additional work just before the planned rendezvous, I am glad that we still made time to have dinner and catch up.
- Seeing each other after so long resulted in a general acknowledgment that we have all grown up. She is planning a wedding in June and has a little daughter that turns 5 later this year – about as long as I have been with my person. Besides the fact that this November will be 11 years since we finished high school.
- In reminiscing about high school, we both agreed that if we could go back, we would relax more and do more extra-curricular activities. We did go to one of those schools where success was guaranteed and we should have been equipped instead to know how to better deal with the pressures of success and how to unwind. More importantly, how to fail and get back up. From conversations with some of my other classmates, it’s hit me that it does take us such a while to get there.
- About having the strength and the foresight to leave a job when it stops feeding that inner part of you that ticks and makes you who you are. And not feeling like a failure at the same time when it does not work out. In determining what to do post-high school, few of us really interrogated the options available to us and presently some of us are going through a period of asking whether this is what we want or not. A very important phase that might improperly be read as being radar less and shifty.
- The most significant thing she did say to me – women need to be authentic with each other and in the process know when to give yourself a break. In our different roles: daughters, sisters, partners, colleagues … we must know when to ask for help, when to speak up, when things aren’t working out. If women were more honest with themselves …. Who knows how that sentence might end but I will try and find out.
Have you had any interesting conversations this week.
Posted in Heart matters, madness, marriage
Tagged authenticity, bible god, faith, female's friendship, Heart matters, homosexuality, madness, marriage, Uganda
Happy 49th birthday Uganda ….. God bless and keep you always. Bless our land, our leaders and people.