UGANDA: WHAT IT MEANS TO HARRIET ANENA FOR WINNING THE WOLE SOYINKA PRICE FOR LITERATURE, 2018

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The pocket sized anthology, ‘A Nation in Labor’

“I am a politically conscious person as you can see from the title- ‘A Nation in Labor’. This is a politically laden title. When we were growing up, we didn’t sleep at home at most times but we would sleep in swamps because we would fear being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels whenever they attacked the town center. If you don’t hear news that rebels have attacked, then you stay and sleep at home that day”.

 

GULU-UGANDA:Ms. Harriet Anena, a novice poet whose maiden book, ‘A Nation in Labor’, is the co-winner of the 2018 Wole Soyinka African Price for Literature Award together with tested Nigerian Professor Tanure Ojaide; who already boasts of twenty titles to his name. The two shared cash price of $10,000. The runner-up of this prestigious award, Mr. Sarvio Gbodamosi, is a PhD student.

 

“It has been great shaking the hand of the man, Wole Soyinka, for the first time.  I had the opportunity to take some photographs with him. It was incredible winning this price together with people with PhDs.  I first saw Wole Soyinka in Nairobi, Kenya on stage in 2015 when he was giving key note address during a writers’ symposium” says Ms. Anena.

 

Ms. Anena, who was born and grew up in wartime Gulu district of northern Uganda, began her writing career as a high school student of literature in 2004. She says at that time she had not yet thought of publishing a book until 2010 when she attended Femwrite ‘Book Club’.

 

Femwrite is an association of female writers in Uganda which mentors, encourages and supports young upcoming female members like Ms. Anena in publishing their works.

 

“I am a politically conscious person as you can see from the title - ‘A Nation in Labor’. This is a politically laden title. When we were growing up, we didn’t sleep at home at most times but we would sleep in swamps because we would fear being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels whenever they attacked the town center. If you don’t hear news that rebels have attacked, then you stay and sleep at home that day”, recalls Anena.

 

Most of the fifty-three short poems in this book are her recollections on experiences she went through during the LRA war which engulfed the region at the time she was born and the post-war recovery challenges. The shortest poem in this collection is only four lines with eleven words while the longest poem is just thirty-four lines.

 

“When you write every day, you feel something is amiss. You have to write. Reading is important. It can be lonely and discouraging if you don’t see the fruit”, says Anena.

 

Writing the Foreword of the anthology, Professor Laban Erapu of Bishop Stuart University, said this book is not a conventional collection of poems by a young untried poet but it is a mature collection by a seasoned poet who displays the mastery of a wordsmith.

 

“What makes this an outstanding collection of poems is the valiant spirit that is the godfather of this prodigious talent that eloquently speaks for itself from the first page to the last. I am proud to be a part of this work and humbled to have been asked to witness its birth”, writes Professor Erapu.

 

Who is Harriet Anena?

 

Ms. Anena is the fifth child in a family of eight children of retired civil servant, Mr. Moro Samuel Jackson. Her mother is a housewife.

 

Ms. Anena began her education at Christ Church Nursery School before joining Gulu Public Primary School in 1993. She went to Sacred Heart Secondary School in 2000 for her Ordinary Level secondary education before moving on to Gulu Central High School in 2004 where she studied Literature for the Award of Uganda Advance Certificate of Education (UACE).

 

She joined Makerere University in 2006 offering Bachelors’ degree in Mass Communication and she joined the same University for a Master’s degree in Human Rights in 2012.

 

She began her working career at the Monitor Publications Limited as a Correspondent based in Kitgum, 442 kilometers north of Kampala before moving on to work with the African Center for Media Excellence (ACME) in Kampala as the online Content Editor.

 

She lives in Kampala where she runs a company called Word Oven, a Ugandan editing firm.

 

With the Wole Soyinka Award, Harriet is focused to publishing other books which she hopes will emerge as future best sellers.

 

 

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