There is a famous yet feared lecture room at the Makerere University School of Languages, Literature and Communication dubbed “Lecture Room 4” by those who know how words shape the world.
In 2016, ‘Lecture Room 4’ products were among the “Best New African Poets”, according to a list released by Tendai Rinos Mwanaka, a multi-disciplinary artist from Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe.
“Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology” has 251 pieces from 131 poets and artists in 7 languages (English, Portuguese, French, Afrikaans, Shona, Yoruba and Kiswahili) from 24 African countries and Diasporas, with South African and Angolan poets dominating the list,” said Mwanaka, famous for non-fictions, essays, poetry, plays, fictions, music, sound art, photography, drawings, paintings, video, collage, mixed media, inter-genres, inter-disciplines etc.
“We also have a healthy number of poets from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, and Nigeria, as usual,” Mwanaka said.
The “healthy poets from Uganda and Kenya” are mostly products of “Lecture Room 4” and they are:
Dennis brad Kunguru (Kenya) with his poem At the crack of dawn; Ntensibe Joseph (Uganda) with his poems Homage to once a family and To Elites; Kariuki wa Nyamu (Kenya) with his poems The Lunatic and her Brood and Postmodern Nairobi beggar; Rogers Atukunda (Uganda) with his poems Beyond Beauty and The debase and Andrew Herbert Omuna (Uganda) with his poem Ode to the yellow party.
Ntensibe is now teaching Literature and English at Rubaga girls secondary school in Kampala while his two former “evening classmates” Nyamu and Kunguru [ an actor too] all teach the same subjects in Kenya, where they continue to make their marks in the artistic world.
Omuna who satirises the Ugandan ruling NRM party in his [Ode to the yellow party] and Atukunda, a journalist and budding filmmaker, were in the same class [Day group].
Atukunda’s satirical poem [The Debase] ridiculing Uganda’s presidential candidates in the 2016 race was published by poetry editor, Halima Ayuba (Laura M Kaminski), as a stand-alone poem at Praxis Magazine Online, on request.
“I found “The Debase” [http://www.praxismagonline.com/debase-rogers-atukunda/] to be memorable. I would therefore like to offer to publish it,” Halima said in her email to the budding poet.
Lecture Room 4
As it is famously known, ‘Lecture Room 4’ is now at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences formerly known as the Faculty of Arts.
That lecture room has produced some of East Africa’s giants in the literary world including; Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan writer of novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children’s literature and the famous Ugandan poet and novelist, Timothy Wangusa, to mention but a few.
It has produced the finest female writers under their umbrella organisation Uganda Women Writers Association [FEMRITE] founded by Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut in 1995.
These famous female writers are; Lillian Tindyebwa, Hilda Twongyeirwe, Ayeta Anne Wangusa, Dr Susan Kiguli, Margaret Ntakalimaze, Rosemary Kyarimpa, Philomena Rwabukuku and Judith Kakonge (RIP), Goretti Kyomuhendo, Violet Barungi, Beatrice Lamwaka, Glaydah Namukasa, among others.
It has produced some of the cream filmmakers trained in “African Cinema”, including Dr Dipio Dominic, a Professor of Literature and Film at Makerere University, Cindy Magara, a film maker and a lecturer of film at Makerere University and Kennedy Kihire, another powerful film director on the Ugandan scene.
Other East African poets in the anthology
Other East African poets published in the “Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology” include Asiko Joan (Kenya): Dead skin; Gideon Chumo (Kenya): Bangui; a Poetic Coup~ I. Papa Pomp, Sunset at Westgate I, For the reign is falling; Brenda Juma (Kenya): The City Queens, Her, Culture; Michael ‘Wudz’ Ochoki (Sudan/Kenya): I write, Ka, The night; Linda Nabasa (Uganda): Hard Tongue Lyrical penetration, Deflowered; Ojok James Onono (Uganda): Peace in the radio; Pasomi Mucha (Kenya): Sycophanta; Tunu Ndanzi (Tanzania): That Talking Tree; Wafula p’Khisa (Kenya): neWS TODay, Fallen in love again, Once Upon August (for Martha﴿; Monicah Masikonte (Kenya): Naahidi Kukusahau, I promise to forget you; and Dime Maziba (DRC): Child Soldiers I write, Bye bye poet.
In his commentary on the anthology, Mwanaka writes: “The nationalist sense is the one that most predominates with its pink, blue and gray tints that are expressed in parallel with existentialist perspectives that in turn go hand in hand with love, desire, hankering, joy, sensuality that transports us to epic, lyrical, utopian contexts without being lost in fantasy, they are artistic lines sometimes with traditional and sometimes more innovative touches.”
He adds: “However, in contrast and to a lesser extent, almost as if there were resistant and with restraint we also find desolation, pain, negation that can be so sweet or so bitter that it allows the imagination to stop in a lament or end in resignation.”
Antonio Garcia, one of the contributors in the 2016 anthology is currently organising a reading of the anthology at New York University where he is a visiting scholar there, Mwanaka said.
He expects more readings of the anthology in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria etc, in South Africa, more readings in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, among other countries.