So after covering the lantern meet of poets, we swore that come rain or protesting chipmunks, we’d go to Rwanda and cover Spoken Word Rwanda. Saying it was the easy part. What follows is a tale of loss, wandering, wondering, speed, no drugs, some drugs, mafia, professional dog fights and poetry. The tale is so grim, you might want to reach for a bed sheet to stem the flow.
I’ll start at the beginning; I was born on a Friday and they offered me milk and I cried…then they offered me a pen and I held it and wrote “I’m here tu stey niggz”. Fast-forward and was meant to take the bus to Kigali at 1am. But UMEME had done its thing so my short nap ensured that I missed the bus. A wild attempt was made to play catch but the bus was too fast…so all those movies where a boda chases a bus, catches-up with it and then two lovers run towards each other, embrace, kiss, bone…all those are lies.
So I squeezed into the three AM bus; i got that spot where you change the gears for the driver. He signals with an eye-twitch and you do the changing. I’ve been to Rwanda once before and that time the trip from the border to Kigali took a short time….this time however, it took days. When we reached what seemed like a busy park and people started alighting, I figured we’d reached. So I got off. After exchanging a few heavy words with Francois, who’d come to pick me up (I am here, where are you?! Je suis la aussi. Je te trouve. Je suis dans une taxi. Mayn, me for me I can’t see you! –slam down the phone and throw diva tantrum). Spirited investigations revealed I’d gotten off way too early. Almost 79km early. Like getting off in jinja. That phrase sounds wrong but I’ll leave it there. Of course my host dissed me. Of course I cried.
I got dropped off and I jogged round the hotel for good luck. I freshened up, threw on my cape and was taken to the venue. I found the festival underway; Doreen Baingana (Chairperson of FEMRITE, Uganda. Author of you-are-local-if-you-haven’t-read-it Tropical Fish) and Billy Kahora(Managing Editor of Kwani, Kenya) were on stage being interviewed and asked hard questions. (As a writer, what do you think comes first, night or day?). Tropical fish is a must-read if you want to live a long, full life free of warts. I was then called on stage to give a talk on self-publishing; I gave an animated 3-hour discourse, one during which I had to moonwalk and somersault to illustrate some points. I think the nods in the audience were from them agreeing with what I was saying; no one slept.
Then came the spoken word…seeing as I covered the lantern meet of poets’ recital last week, I was curious to see if that could be topped.
I was taken to school. The first performance was from a group that mixed dance, spoken word and music to make us stay in our seats long after they’d left. The distance between us. Is skin. Is breath. Deep in the night, nothing matters. You could be fat. You could be very fat. You could be a rabbit. It all doesn’t matter. They gave us a mind chao those people. I was seated next to Jason, of the lantern meet, and we agreed that a good course of action was to go and propose to the lady.
The bar was set h.i.g.h. The MCs were so at home…effortlessly funny, engaging an already warm audience and giving each one of us an adrenaline shot. Riddles. Mind games. Brain teasers. They had all these stuff to throw at us. They even gave us a particular way of clapping.
The poems were about everything but politics. Identity. Love. Africa. The delivery was intense. And there was a band on stage throughout, adding those let’s-give-your-tear-ducts-something-to-think-about tracks in the background for every performance. Some were in French and Kinyarwanda. Given that I’m only fluent in one of those languages (nope, not French), some poems I had to guess what they were saying. So that poem where she kept pointing at me and the audience laughed each time was probably about how she wanted to elope with me.
Jason the poet dropped three poems. From the audience’s reaction, I need to write some poems myself. Of course it was only right that Mark, Phoebe, Isaac, Ivan, Dante and I point out to everyone within earshot that he’s from UG…woot wooot!!
The audience was very diverse. It was like the UN in there. Kenyan photographer. Noise-makers from Ug baby. Some verse from an American. A question from a Nigerian. Another from a German. But things had to end.
MC: “You guys have been such a fab audience, I’m going to buy a drink for all of you after the show.”
MC: “Yeah, seriously. After here, let’s head to the bar…I buy the drink and you all share it”
Though there wasn’t much of an after-parre. Numbers dwindled quite fast. Even Doreen Baingana crept away early. As if she’s not Ugandan. But people! Even my repeated promises that I’d perform the funky chicken on stilts weren’t persuasive enough…
And yes it is true, there are no potholes.