Wednesday, July 19, 2017


19 JULY 2017

The three esteemed Babishai 2017 Haiku judges, Adjei Agyei-Baah, co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network, Mercy Ituri, a landscape designer and award-winning haikuist from Kenya and Emmanuel Kalusian, editor of the Mamba Journal, had an uphill task of selecting the shortlist of the 2017 Babishai Haiku prize.

This upheaval task, with over twice the number of submissions as last year, was an evident reward, with a significant increase in the interest of the African haiku.
The shortlist is filled with unwavering talent, intricate African imagery and recognizable brilliance. Congratulations to all those on the shortlist, who come from various parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Below, in no particular order, are the shortlisted:-

1. Charlotte Akello from Uganda
2. Usman Karofi from Nigeria
3. Kariuki wa Nyamu from Kenya
4. Anthony Itopa Obaro from Nigeria
5. Ahmad Holderness from Nigeria
6. Fred Kweku Forson from Ghana
7. Acen Miriam Carolyne from Uganda
8. Kwao Jonathan Tetteh from Ghana
9. Nnedi Ezenwa Ohaeto from Nigeria
10. Alawonde Theophilus Femi from Nigeria
11. Justice Joseph Prah from Ghana
12. Osemwengie Zion from Nigeria
13.  Kuadegbeku Pamela from Ghana
14. Abubasam Fahad Mutumba from Uganda
15. Akor Emmanuel Oche from Nigeria
16. Dan’bala Umar from Ghana
17. Obaji-Nwali Shegun from Nigeria

You may read the full winning haikus from here
The winners will be announced on Sunday 6 August at the Babishai 2017 poetry festival dinner. Three winners will receive cash prizes, will be published in the Mamba journal and participate in selected literary festivals around the continent.

Festival programme is here:-

The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation Organising Committee
Tel: +256 703147862
Twitter: @BNPoetryAward


The Babishai 2017 Poetry Festival runs from 4 - 6 August.



Below are the Babishai Haiku 2017 shortlisted pieces. Congratulations to all those on the shortlist.

drone season
from the harmattan mango
a fly calls flies

Justice Joseph Prah

at dawn
the sky denies a lonely moon
a place to plant a foot

Osemwengie Zion

moon circle
palms into palms
an armless child breaks the ring

Kuadegbeku Pamela

market square--
the town crier's voice
summons a crowd

Akor  Emmanuel Oche

A slice of the moon
swimming in the calm night pond--
another festival

Charlotte Akello

unseen broom sweeping

Anthony Itopa Obaro

Ugandan road...
a shrivelled leaf flies in
a cloud of dust

Abubasam Fahad Mutumba

waterfalls from rooftops
pouring into buckets


abandoned mirror-
the crow finds company
with its own image

Fred Kweku Forson

migratory birds
black news fly
out of Zululand

Ahmad Holderness

the drunken cockroach
reels around the verandah-
rooster chuckles

Acen Miriam Carolyne

under the bright moon,
fairy tales bring chill bumps
around log-fires

Kwao Jonathan Tetteh

crickets' chirps
break the quiet of night:
an old man deserts his armchair

Nnedi Ezenwa Ohaeto

harmattan mango
the first ripening
in the midday sun

Justice Joseph Prah

gaunt vultures nipped
a zonked drunkard 

Obaji Nwali Shegun

savannah hunt...
vultures rush to the kill
before me

Alawonde Theophilus Femi

in different fonts
an old school wall exhibits 
aliases of past students. 

Dan’bala Umar

the modulated chirping 
of hidden crickets

Akor Emmanuel  Oche

July rain. . .
my child traces her name 
on the car’s windscreen

Usman Karofi

last night’s rain
in the morning mud 
fresh toad prints

Kariuki wa Nyamu

an owl hoots
we rush to papa's bed
too late

Alawonde Theophilus Femi

The award ceremony takes place on Sunday 6 August in Kampala at Humira Resort. Cards are on sale.

Monday, July 17, 2017


                                                            THE BABISHAI 2017 POETRY FESTIVAL PROGRAMME
Monday 31 July 2017  
5:30pm to 7:30pm
Femrite offices, Kamwokya
Discussion of the Babishai 2017 shortlisted haikus
Open entry

Wednesday 2 August 2017
8:00pm – 8:45pm Uganda Time
Facebook live chat with Phillipa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa
From her face book page.

Friday 4 August 2017
Departure from 7:30am in Kampala for Najjembe Eastern Uganda
Trek across Mabira, lunch, poetry performances.
Fee: Two Hundred Thousand Shillings (200,000/-)
Payabale by Monday 31 July to George Kiwanuka on +256 703147862

Saturday 5 August 2017
10:00am to 11:00am
Re-Launch of the African Poetry Library
32 Degrees East/Ugandan Art Trust in Kansanga, opposite Bank of Baroda

Saturday 5 August 11:30am to 1:30pm
Poetry seminar for youth from 19-29 years,  by Mbizo Chirasha of Zimbabwe
Free entry
Register for workshops by sending 100 word bio and photo to
Participants will be certified.
Saturday 5 August 2:00pm to 6:00pm
Poetry performance by leading Ghanaian poet from Ghana, Oswald Okaitei
Maisha Garden in Buziga
Entry fee: 20,000/-


Sunday 6 August 2017  11:00am to 3:00pm
Launch of children’s poetry anthology
Children’s performances
Babishai champions
Uganda Museum Main Hall
Free entry

Sunday 6 August 11:30am to 1:30pm
Poetry seminar for adults from 30 years and above
Uganda Museum
Entry fee: 5,000/-
Register for workshops by sending 100 word bio and photo to
Participants will be certified.

Sunday 6 August 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Workshop by Kagayi Peter, leading poet, performer and trainer from Uganda
Uganda Museum
Register for workshops by sending 100 word bio and photo to
Participants will be certified.

Sunday 6 August 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Babishai 2017 poetry festival sumptuous meal with sumptuous poetry
Humura Resort Kitante Close
Dinner cards at 40,000/-
Call George Kiwanuka on +256 703142867 for your card.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Haven't you desired to recapture the wonder of Eden?
Have you ever looked above 74,000 hectares of green perfection?

We all need time away from the insanity of our daily work lives, to free ourselves by replenishing our spirits with nature.

Mabira Forest is all that. Home to Uganda's largest forest, Mabira is an experience for the curious, adventurous and unafraid. On Friday 4 August, The Babishai Poetry Festival team launches their third festival with a trek across Mabira Forest.Poetry and nature are the perfect remedy after a long week at work. We will explore new terrains, roots and trees of thousands of years in age, be part of a chorus of birds that will not be found anywhere else and relive perfection.

The team will depart at 7:30am on Friday 4 August for Najjembe, Mabira. During the journey, we will begin shooting a documentary. There are those arriving from Eastern Uganda and Nairobi, whose arrangements will be detailed to them. Email babishainiwe@babishainiwe for specific information.

On arrival, an expert tour guide will meet us, take us on this dauntless trek, where we will stop for poetry breaks and refreshments. The documentary will continue.

After the trip, there will be a large buffet spread, during which the poetry performances will begin.

We will return to Kampala not later than 6:00pm.

We all need this!
The minimal investment is Two Hundred Thousand (200,000/-), payable by Monday 31 July 2017 to George Kiwanuka.
Call him on +256 703 147862.

Poetry@Mabira is your chance to explore, become enraptured and empower yourself again.

The Babishai Poetry Festival covers three days from 4-6 August.
Follow us on Twitter @BNPoetryAward

Monday, July 10, 2017


We have three #Babishai2017 poetry festival workshops, that require registration by 31 July 2017. You will receive certificates afterwards.

Date: Saturday 5 August 2017
Time: 11:30am to 1:30pm
Trainer: Mbizo Chirasha, leading poet from Zimbabwe, conducting a poetry seminar for 19-29 year-olds. Entry is free
Venue: 32 Degrees East/Kansanga, opposite Bank of Baroda

Date: Sunday 6 August
Time: 11:30am to 1:30pm
Trainer: Mbizo Chirasha, leading poet from Zimbabwe, conducting a poetry seminar for 30 years and above
Venue: The Uganda Museum
Fee: 5,000/-

Date: Sunday 6 August
Time: 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Trainer: Kagayi Peter, Ugandan performer, published poet and trainer, conducting a poetry workshop for 16+
Venue: The Uganda Museum
Fee: Free entry

Register by sending a 100 word bio and photo to by 31 July. You may attend more than one workshop.

Monday, July 3, 2017


The #Babishai2017 poetry festival team is conducting a series of intervies of interviews towards the festival, scheduled from 4-6 August in Uganda. During that time, we will conduct several interviews with poets and writers. This interview was first published in Brittle paper.

Mugabi Byenkya, author of Dear Philomena. 

What were some of the pivotal moments that shaped your path to the arts?
Mugabi Byenkya
The year was 1994. I vividly remember running up to my siblings after lunch, super excited to play. To my dismay, my siblings were all curled up on chairs in the sitting room reading. Reading. I was like "Lets play!" And my siblings replied, "No we're reading." Reading. What the heck was this reading thing that it could more fun than playing with me? I thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread and couldn't fathom anything being preferable to playing with me. So I went to my mom and asked her to teach me how to read.
Several months later, after slogging through numerous intense reading lessons, I discovered the one thing that was indeed superior to playing with me. Reading. After months of more intense lessons, I discovered the one thing that was superior to reading. Writing.
Is Dear Philomena an extraction of your biography?
Mugabi Byenkya
Dear Philomena is not an extraction of my biography in the literal sense. It is the story of one year of my life but it is not told conventionally. The novel employs magical realism to tell the story and therefore cannot be fully interpreted as a direct extraction of my biography.
What were some of your most rewarding moments when writing the book?
Mugabi Byenkya
Catharsis. The book was incredibly difficult to write as I share some of my most vulnerable moments and deepest fears. I had just been through one of the worst years of my life when I started writing the book. The writing process was a way to process all the pain I had experienced and putting all that pain to paper was an incredibly catharthic experience.
What were some of your most challenging moments when writing the book?
Mugabi Byenkya
While initially writing Dear Philomena, I could barely write for fifteen minutes every other day. Fifteen minutes of writing on alternate days would induce violent seizures and migraines. I often wondered if it was worth it. Now that I've built up my strength and endurance, now that I could write a whole book, now that I could share my vulnerability and story with the world, I honestly still don't think it was worth all it put me through. However, at least I got something of substance and meaning out of it that has impacted so many people and causing the start of so many important conversations on vulnerability. 
What are your thoughts on art for social change?
Mugabi Byenkya
I believe that art is part of a multifaceted approach for social change. I can’t speak to the relative importance of art versus other mediums for social change such as politics, economics, science and the inherent/intertwined art within these mediums. Art has always been political and a medium for social change; nonetheless, not all art is overtly political. Not all art should be analyzed through the lens of social change.  
What are some of the most encouraging comments on your book?
Mugabi Byenkya
Some people who have read my book have cried several times while reading it. The fact that my writing elicited such a visceral reaction touched me more than they know.
What have most readers misunderstood about your work?
Mugabi Byenkya
Most readers haven’t necessarily misunderstood but have had varying interpretations of the character of Philomena. This is what I had hoped for, as I deliberately left her to be ambiguous.
What are three things your book mostly wants to portray?
Mugabi Byenkya
That Vulnerability is strength. That some things can never be surmounted. That it’s okay not to be okay.
Is writing and completing a well-received book, everything you dreamed it would be?
Mugabi Byenkya
I’ve been dreaming of writing and completing a well-received book for 21 years. Even writing down the fact that it was well-received feels strange because a part of me is still in a state of disbelief. The other part of me has ingrained Baganda modesty inherited from my mother and is cringing over the admission that my book has been well-received. It honestly still feels surreal and hasn’t fully sunk in. I don’t know if it ever fully will but I do know that it is an even more sensational feeling than I dreamed it would be.
Who are some of the writers whose works you admire?
Mugabi Byenkya
Isabel Allende; Louis Sachar; Brian Michael Bendis; Chris Claremont; Stan Lee; G. Willow Wilson; John Keats; Doreen Baingana; Oscar Wilde; Neil Simon; Bell Hooks; Nasir Jones; Fatimah Warner and Victor Byenkya.
At what age should creative writing be introduced in a child?
Mugabi Byenkya
As early as humanly possible 😊.
How can Ugandan writers become more relevant to the global market?
Mugabi Byenkya
Eish. That’s a tough question. I’m honestly not sure of how Ugandan writers can become more relevant to the global market, save by telling a good story in an original way and not being afraid to experiment. I feel like writers who carry any sort of "ethnic" label are burdened by the struggles and stories of their people and feel a need to represent on behalf of their people that a lot of Western white writers don’t feel. Don’t be afraid to experiment with things labeled "stereotypically un-African" like science fiction. Tell a good story, tell it well, market it well, promote it well and sell it well.
Should we blame our Government for the limited literary infrastructures in our country?
Mugabi Byenkya
I’m not the best person to answer this question as I have spent the majority of my life not living in Uganda.
If you had unlimited resources for a day, how would you use it?
Mugabi Byenkya
Pay off the education and medical debts my family has accrued as well as the debts of everyone I possibly could. This may lead to economic issues down the line but the burden of debt is crushing and the ability to provide some relief to that would be amazing.
If your book were a drink, what would it be?
Mugabi Byenkya
A shot of whiskey neat mixed with Tabasco sauce.
Any parting remarks?
Mugabi Byenkya
“Be who you want to be, not who you are.” Many thanks.

Monday, June 5, 2017


5 JUNE 2017


The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation is holding the third Babishai Poetry Festival in Uganda. It's a three-day poetry buffet from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th August in Uganda. Poets, poetry publishers, poetry performers, poetry teachers and poetry admirers, will converge in various locations across Uganda to conduct workshops and transform young minds.

In their signature style, the #Babishaipoetrynatureseries launches phase two. The team, with adventurous artists across the region, will trek across Mabira Forest on Friday 4th August. After the success of the 2016 Poetry on Rwenzori Mountain excursion, this year there will be another trek across the green enchantment of Mabira forest.
Poets from all over the region are encouraged to participate and cultivate the practice of orature in organic spaces.

On Saturday 5 August, Tontoma Poetry Jazz will orchestrate traditional poetry performances and at the same venue,32° East/Ugandan Arts Trust, there will be a relaunch of the African Poetry Book Fund Library. Published poets are invited to read from their work and donate their books towards the enrichment of reading poetry. Maisha Moto will host spoken word performers and storytellers across the older generation to a much younger one later on that day from 2:00pm.

There will be a full children's day at the Uganda Museum on the final day, Sunday 6 August, master-classes to groom older poets and finally to close the festival, an award-giving dinner within the city at Humura Resort. Dinner cards are on sale at 40,000/-.

If you're a published poet, distributor of poetry, or bookseller of poetry, come and exhibit and market your work. Uganda needs you.
For more information on the festival, dinner cards or book exhibition, please contact

The Festival Coordinator
George Kiwanuka
Tel:+256 703147862
Twitter: @BNPoetryAward