Beverley: Poetry Is A Journey of Self-Expression
You determine the percentage but I’m sure that the biggest number of literary scholars will avoid poetry as much as they can.
In secondary schools, colleges and universities, teachers, tutors and lecturers avoid poetry to the highest degree.
And yet, here is a lady who finds poetry as obvious as the colour of her own skin or locally put, plain as water!
Is she Ugandan? Where does she come from? How possible is that? What does she eat? Who is she anyway, blah blah blah?
Well, that is why Chimpreports News Editor, Rogers Atukunda, recently “cornered” her to reveal the following details!
Chimp Corp: Who is Bev? (I’m the only one who calls her that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
Beverley: Actually it’s Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva. I am a Ugandan poet, author, actress, dancer and mum.
I love to travel, to explore new channels of creativity and spend time with people who laugh at what I laugh at.
I studied at Gayaza High School, Makerere College, Education at Makerere University and Creative Writing from Lancaster University.
My previous places of employment include The Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Institute for The Advancement of Women (EASSI), British Council, Power FM 104.1 and Rainbow International School.
I currently coordinate the annual BN Poetry Award and chair Transcultural Academy in Africa.
Chimp Corp: At home mum and stage actress; how does this work?
Beverley: It’s not that complicated. Being a mum never ends and so in all that I do, whether in the house or in meetings, on stage or emailing, I remind myself that I am still the same mother playing different roles.
Being a stage actress is a talent nurtured from being previously active in my drama group at church.
I enjoy theatre because it involves introspection, confidence, team work and a lot of fun.
Beverley can be that happy if she chooses
Taking on various personalities before an unsuspecting audience is all part of the thrill and reward.
Chimp Corp: Why poetry? Poetry to academics is like chemistry to secondary students!
Beverley: I respectfully disagree with you there. Poetry is, to academics, more than a session of notes.
It is a complex riddle which is layered with languages, music, rhythm, words that are both distinguishable and “undefinable”.
Poetry is expression first to self, then to others. It is the freedom to roam about in literature.
Academics have the same pleasures of poetry that spoken word performers have. Their own definitions and applications may differ but the experiences are intrinsically the same.
Chimp Corp: How does poetry come to you?
Beverley: I request the muses to do my bidding and the muses either scoff or respond in kind.
In writing poetry, I read a lot. I imagine myself in places unknown and I distance myself from the insanity around me to a place that is surreal.
Chimp Corp: What inspires you to write?
Beverley: I am usually inspired by convictions. I believe largely in poetry for social change and art for social change and so, I write along those convictions.
Intense emotions of love, anger, bitterness and also tranquillity inspire me to write as well.
Chimp Corp: Describe poetry in four (4) words.
Beverley: Journey of Self Expression.
Chimp Corp: Tell us about Babishai Niwe Poetry Awards (BNPA)?
Beverley: It began in 2008 as a platform to promote poetry amongst Ugandan women.
Its mission is poetry for social change. Its vision is a society immersed in poetry.
Chimp Corp: Who funds it?
Beverley: The major funders over the past three years have been Stichting Doen and Prince Claus Fund.
Other donations have come from Bayimba Cultural Foundation, Word Alive Publishers, Palle Moeller Foundation, Uganda Clays Ltd., Uganda Health Marketing Group and individuals.
Chimp Corp: What criterion is followed to judge winners?
Beverley: The judges usually use a guideline including but not limited to:- Relevance to theme, Rhythm, overall message and delivery and musicality of the poem.
These guide the judges, with the knowledge that poetry is an art.
Chimp Corp: How do you select the judges?
Beverley: Selection of judges is based on their body of work in literature especially poetry, their active participation in promotion of poetry at local and regional levels and their commitment towards BNPA.
Chimp Corp: What impact has BNPA had on Uganda and Africa so far?
Beverley: The winners are participating in a Fusion poetry project with Prairie Schooner, which is one of the leading literary magazines in the world.
They will submit poems on the theme of Shoes which will be included on the magazine website for months, from 2015.
This exposure not only validates them as poets but raises their confidence, gives them an international platform and ensures their visibility as poets and for poetry from Uganda.
From the support of local and international media, Ugandan poetry has reached remarkable milestones.
Storymoja Hay Festival, which the winners attend, is one of the biggest literary attractions on the continent.
In 2012, the BNPA winners were the only Ugandans present and this helped raise profile for Ugandan poetry and art.
It also created excellent networking opportunities for the BN team. Since then, Ugandan poets have been selected on panels to discuss poetry from East Africa.
Next year, 2014, there are plans to announce the winner at the Storymoja festival with one of Africa’s most celebrated writers.
The impact of BNPA on Africa has been realised through the production of A Thousand Voices Rising poetry anthology.
This is an anthology of poems of the winners from 2009, established award winning writers from all over Africa and contains the more newer voices of poetry.
It is a journey of transculture and in 2014, there will be launches in East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
A wider impact of BNPA is the new collaboration with Transcultural Academy. This is an enterprise that seeks to promote Transcultural Literature.
With active members from Africa specifically Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa, countries like the U.K., Canada and U.S, Transcultural Academy has partnered with BNPA to conduct cultural exchange visits, create models of transforming literature and language curricula into palatable forms to understand Transculture and use it in daily expressions.
It is a long term vision whose objectives begin with launching the anthology and participatory discourse in schools.
Chimp Corp: Is it true BNPA puts women first?
Beverley: From 2009 to 2013, women were priority, given the economic discrimination, social stigma and cultural influences which left them in varied marginalised positions.
From 2014, the award is open to all Africans, living anywhere in the world. This inclusion of men does not mean that women’s work should be stalled but rather that we should engage with men in that important role.
Chimp Corp: Do you organise workshops and trainings in the field of poetry?
Beverley: Yes, I do, especially in schools during literary weeks and in the writers’ clubs.
Chimp Corp: Any sense of pan-africanism behind BNPA?
Beverley: Yes, especially through the poetry anthology, A Thousand Voices Rising, which extends to as many expressions from our beautiful continent as possible, including Africans in the Diaspora.
Chimp Corp: How do you intend to help upcoming Ugandan poets?
Beverley: By using the team at Transcultural Academy to translate the concept into reality through mobile libraries in open spaces, where book readings and discussions will take place on poetry and all literature.
Through trainings and debates which will take part in schools and other institutions of learning, poetry will become more of a liveable and conceivable reality and practice.
Chimp Corp: What are the future plans of BNPA?
Beverley: In 2014, we will launch the poetry anthology, A Thousand Voices Rising, in various African cities.
The anthology is a product of the winning poems from 2009 as well as poets from all over Africa.
We will also organise cultural visits every two months where East African poets will meet, share and network with Ugandan poets.
The first poet to visit on January 27, is Michael Onsando from Kenya. This collaboration is in partnership with Femrite and Poetry-in-session.
The poetry award for the first time will include men as well and extend to the entire continent. All Africans in the Diaspora are also welcome to be a part.
There are details on http://bnpoetryaward.blogspot.com and the facebook page, Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation. The winner will receive 1,000 US Dollars.
Chimp Corp: Who are your favourite poets?
Beverley: It is difficult to say, rather I will mention a few favourite poems like I Laugh at Amin by Dr. Susan Kiguli, If by Rudyard Kipling, Do Not go Gentle into That Goodnight by Dylan Thomas, Song of Lawino by Okot p Bitek, Soft Tonight by Lillian Aujo which won the first BN Poetry Award, I’m Nobody, Who Are You? by Emily Dickinson, The Weaverbird by Kofi Awoonor, and several others.
Chimp Corp: What makes Bev tickle?
Beverley: That’s a secret that only my husband should know.
If it were you, what would you say next?