By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published July 1, 2016
After years of writing, performing and managing poetry entities, a leading Ugandan wordsmith has finally put out a poetry anthology.
Titled The Headline That Morning, Peter Kagayi’s collection of 51 poems tackles a wide range of issues: the loss of African cultures, greed, pain, death, hope, love, abuse of power, corruption, and poor public service delivery.
The collection bemoans poor parenting in Uganda that has resulted in the neglect of children, profanity, drug abuse, prostitution and abortion.
Kagayi’s poetry that is published by Kampala-based Sooo Many Stories Limited is full of imagery in its interrogative, persuasive, provocative, captivating and refreshing attempt to capture contemporary Ugandan life.
In The Modern King Leopold, Kagayi takes on neo-imperialism and the African dependency syndrome. The writer does not stop wondering at the ‘kindness’ of a character he calls Mr Foreign Aid who has listed Africa as his favourite target. Mr Foreign Aid wishes the tropical atmosphere should be permanent, less of its inhabitants, but should be left to its ever-so-kind-imperialistic-visitors.
Mr Foreign Aid craves sending Africans to their graves; and he has also made African children believe in the mannerisms of sexual consumerism; and got Africans trapped in dependency.
In When Tongues Light Bonfires, Kagayi laments about the poor social, economic and political situation in Uganda. Ugandans are yet to resolve the Asian, land, constitutional and Luweero massacre questions.
The poem concludes, thus: “When tongues light bonfires/My country is a badly taken selfie/We must not delete – but keep – And (as a walking man seeking rest for my feet)/I only have to accept her deformities.”
“You ask me to love my roots/My culture/To make space within me/And fill it with that gibberish of language/Customs and taboos, but for what?/It will not get me anywhere/At least not near you patronizing me,” the poem No, I Have No Culture, goes.
The power of the woman is captured in Woman and seeks her guidance and direction. “Woman, mother of earth/Come own your world/I am on a journey but I see no path/Cannot see so take my hand/Show me the path.”
“We are lost and we need your light/To journey back to our immortality/But the path is dark/And if you do not shine/We shall be lost for eternity.”
As to the title–The Headline That Morning–Kagayi says “it was the kind of title that invited everyone who comes across the book to relate with easily, because we all come across news headlines every day.”
“Poetry in Uganda, compared to other genres of artistic expression is still limping but a few years ago, it was in limbo. Beyond the cursory academic perspective it had worn for over 50 years, there was nothing worth of note. Ten years later, we have a poetry festival; regular poetry events (at least four a month); a publishing house bold enough to publish a poetry collection; the National Theatre fills up during poetry performances; teenagers are now forming poetry bands; a high school poetry festival has also been launched this year,” Kagayi observes.
Kagayi, who has served as the Anglophone coordinator at Writivism, president of Lantern Meet of Poets and founder of Rhymers Poetry Club, says the major challenge facing poetry in Ugandan is lack of a general philosophical outlook of the art.
Founder and curator of the regular poetry platform, The Poetry Shrine at the National Theatre in Kampala, Kagayi started writing poetry and performing it with Lantern Meet of Poets while at Makerere University in Kampala in 2008. After graduating with a law degree he has taught poetry and trained high school students in poetry performance. Some of his poems have featured in theatrical productions by Latin Flavor, Uganda National Contemporary Ballet and various poetry shows.