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Review by Jacob K. Lupai
The book, The Genesis of Political Consciousness in South Sudan by Arop Madut-Arop, is fascinating. It is a brilliant piece of work on modern history of South Sudan. The book is wealth of information that should be of great interest to students of history, to researchers and indeed to those who are interested in learning in depth about the nascent country that is the 193th Member of the United Nations and the 54th of the African Union.
The author is meticulous in presenting primary information on modern history of South Sudan without being politically biased. As a professional he bases his discussion on facts gathered through credible research.
The book is well structured. It illustrates vividly the colonial past, political development, the liberation struggle and ultimately independence to South Sudan. The book is commendable as it provides the reader with wealth of information to be knowledgeable about the political development of South Sudan from prehistoric times to what it is now, a modern independent nation. It is original in piecing together information on modern history of South Sudan. The book is also a piece of brilliant journalism and deserves a high commendation for its contribution to knowledge.
It can be emphsised that the book is a must to students of social and political studies, and for research for higher degrees. The book is also a must to professionals. It is therefore highly recommended for public libraries to enable individuals to increase their knowledge of political development of South Sudan. In addition copies of the book are recommended to be stocked in libraries of institutions of higher studies for the benefit of students, teaching staff and researchers.
As little exists in the way of documentation for the history of South Sudan until the introduction of Turkiya (1821-85) in the old Sudan, the book is particularly a masterpiece on social and political development of South Sudan from the land where its people were raided for slaves by the Arabs to the land of proud people who fought fiercely against all brutal actions for colonization and marginalization.
Finally the book brings the reader with interest in South Sudan and the well-wisher to a happy ending by describing the emerging of South Sudan, at last, as a free and independent nation after protracted long and bitter armed struggle against marginalisation.
Calgary, Alberta — Many people take the color used to describe them for their essence, their humanity. They don’t see it only as mere description, whether fitting or vilifying. Why are people proud of their descriptions (color) instead of their true essence: humanity? How would we call someone who’s simply proud of his/her Race?
South Sudanese prolific author and poet, Kuir ë Garang, launches his sixth book, Is ‘Black’ Really Beautiful? Dehumanizing and Intentional Ethics of Descriptions and Vilifying Philosophies of Naming, on April 6, 2013 in Forest Lawn Library (12.00 pm – 2.00 pm). The launch will showcase the book to the Canadian public and present a new angle through which Canadians should tackle Racism.
Racism is a phenomenon we all hate and would want to eliminate. However, long after the end of slavery, racial segregation and colonialism, Racism still shows its face in our everyday lives. This book redefines Racism and the essence of Color as related to people, and present a new angle through which our fight against Racism can be facilitated.
The book humbles those who harbor ‘racist’ feelings and gives a voice to those whose racism has been a continuous burden. The book also subjects everyone to self-re-evaluation in an attempt to humble humanity. A strongly inculcated and meaningful humanity can only be underlined by real humility. A humble self doesn’t discriminate.
The book is now available for sale on all online retail stores and will soon be available in book stores. The retail price of the book is 17.95 CAD.
Kuir ë Garang moved from Sudan to Canada in 2002 after having lived as a refugee in different African countries. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and has taken a number of graduate courses at University of Calgary. He has strong grasp of philosophy and Race issues.
Having lived in Sudan under religious and racial discrimination and moved to Canada to be subjected to some form of racial biases, Kuir has a wealth of information to share. Kuir also has over four years of experience working with immigrants from different racial, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. He’s now published six books and he’s editing two more manuscripts.
His personal experiences in racially diverse environments, his philosophical training and his work with immigrants of all races and religions furnishes him with information that will be valuable to Canadians and the world in general.
For more information about the book and the author, visit www. kuirthiy.info
I recently read the short story The Winner by Ugandan writer Barbara Kimenye. The story is included in the collection Modern African Stories edited by Charles R. Larson, published by Fontana Books 1971.
About Barbara Kimenye
Barbara Kimenye was born in 1929 in England but considers herself Ugandan by birth. Kimenye began writing at an early age and put together her first newspaper when she was 11. Kimenye studied nursing in London. She married a Tanzanian and returned to Uganda in the early 1950s.
Kimenye became the private secretary of the Kabaka of Buganda, Mutesa II. Kabaka is the title given to the king of Buganda. Buganda was once an independent kingdom in what is now called Uganda. Uganda is actually the Swahili term for Buganda that was adopted by the British. Buganda is the largest traditional kingdom in Uganda and is inhabited by Uganda’s largest ethnic group the Baganda or Ganda people. The Ganda speak Luganda. Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is located in Buganda.
Kimenye was encouraged to pursue a career in journalism by Kenyan politician Tom Mboya (Barack Obama’s godfather). Kimenye went on to become a columnist for the Uganda Nation and Kenya’s Daily Nation. Kimenye is considered to be the first Black female journalist in East Africa and is one of the first Anglophone women writers to be published out of East Africa.
The short story The Winner comes from Kimenye’s collection Kalasanda(1965). The stories in this collection and Kimenye’s later collection Kalasanda Revisited(1966) follow the ordinary lives of the inhabitants of the village Kalasanda in Buganda.
Kimenye has gone on to become a prolific writer of African Children’s Literature. Her most popular series is about a boy named Moses who attends a school for boys who have been kicked out of more reputable schools for misbehaving. Moses and his friends get in to all kinds of trouble but are not really bad, just mischievous.
The elderly Pius Ndawula has won the football pools. This has totally disrupted his quiet life. Now swarms of distant relatives have converged on his home and reporters want to talk to him about his good fortune. Pius’ closest friend, Salongo, also wants Pius’ money, but for the restoration of the tomb of a great Bugandan hero, of which he is the custodian.
Pius is particularly irritated with Cousin Sarah. He doesn’t really know her or the exact nature of his relationship to her (We later learn that she is the widow of a stepson of one of his cousins, hardly a close relationship). She has begun taking over his house as if it is hers, and remarking that Pius’ needs a woman to take care of his home. Salongo warns Pius that Cousin Sarah might want to trap him into marriage.
Pius has his own dreams for the money. He wants to add a new roof on his house or perhaps build an entirely new house out of concrete blocks. He would also like to extend his coffee shamba (garden) and invest in raising hens.
Pius was initially delighted when his close family members came to visit him after hearing the news about his winnings but was overwhelmed when relations he didn’t even recognize flooded his shamba. Salongo convinces Pius that he shouldn’t tell anyone what he wants to do with his winnings-including reporters. A reporter with a Ugandan radio station attempts to get an interview out of Pius but Salongo orders him to say nothing. Cousin Sarah ends up coming to the rescue and gives an interview on Pius’ behalf. Much to his horror, she states that she plans to stay and look after him for as long as he needs her.
Pius’ friends Yosefu Mukasa comes to visit him in the evening and is shocked to see how tired Pius looks and is also surprised to be greeted by Cousin Sarah who behaves as if she is mistress of Pius’ house. Yosefu offers to have Pius stay at his house and Cousin Sarah agrees that is it a wonderful idea and packs his bags. Salongo also thinks it is a good idea so that Pius isn’t left alone over night with Cousin Sarah.
Pius spends two days with the Mukasas being taken care of by Miriamu, Yosefu’s wife. While at the Mukasas, Pius gets the unfortunate news that there has been a mistake and he has not won all the prize money but must share the original amount he thought he won with 300 other people. Much to everyone’s surprise, Pius is not that upset.
Cousin Sarah ends up clearing all of Pius’ relatives out of his house but his shamba has been wrecked by them. When Pius returns to his house he finds that Cousin Sarah is still there and has plans for the repair of his house with his winnings. She also plans to bring over her own hens. By this time, Pius has begun to like Cousin Sarah but wonders why she wants to live with him. She tells him that both her sons are married and she doesn’t feel comfortable having another woman in the house. After seeing the news that Pius had won the football pools, she remembered Pius from her wedding when he had been very helpful. She decided that he needed her help to keep away greedy relatives and to take care of his house.
At the end of the story we learn that Pius gives Salongo some money for the tomb but, much to Salongo’s chagrin, Pius has decided to marry Cousin Sarah.
The Winner is an enjoyable read. It is a simple story but Kimenye manages to weave a few references to some dramatic changes in the social life of the Ganda peoples in post-Independence Uganda. For example, we learn that certain taboos around what women can and cannot eat are being challenged:
“Salongo and he had always said that there was money in hens these days, now that the women ate eggs and chicken; not that either of them agreed with the practice. Say what you liked, women who ate chicken and eggs were fairly asking to be infertile! That woman Welfare Officer who came round snooping occasionally, tried to say it was all nonsense, that chicken meat and eggs made bigger and better babies. Well, they might look bigger and better, but nobody could deny that they were fewer! “
Pius and Salongo, as representatives of an older generation of Ganda, are not happy about such changes but that won’t stop them from trying to profit off them.
The change in women’s eating habits reflects the changes in women’s position in Ganda society in the modern era which also relates to the “take-charge” character of Cousin Sarah. Initially, Cousin Sarah’s assertiveness is seen as threatening by Pius but eventually he warms to her and realizes that he needs her. Her assertiveness actually seems to rub off on him because at the end of the story Pius is able to stand up to his friend Salongo in a way we have not seen him do before.
On a side note, I wonder if Pius’ friends Yosefu and Miriamu are meant to be Muslims. These are Muslim names and there is a Muslim population in Buganda. In the mid-19th century, under the rule of Kabaka Mutesa I, a small but significant minority of Ganda were encouraged to adopt the practice of Islam from Swahili missionaries, particularly as it was seen to be advantageous to the Buganda Kingdom to have people who could read. However, as there is no other indication that Yosefu and Miriamu are Muslim it might simply be that they have taken the Swahili versions of the Biblical names Joseph and Mary.
To learn more about the origins of Islam in Buganda I recommend reading Buganda: Religious Competition for the Kingdom in Muslim Societies in African History by David Robinson.
As far as weird sports go there’s planking, there’s free running and then there’s train surfing. In the documentary, Surfing Soweto, featured at Hackney Picture House this November as part of the Film Africa 2011 festival, Director Sarah Blecher explores why Soweto’s young, black, male population is fascinated with the extreme adrenaline sport of train surfing and risking life and limb performing acrobatic displays atop, beneath and alongside trains. High tension electric cables and the rising death toll aren’t deterrent enough.
It all started in 2006 with a rail guards’ strike. And with Bitchnigga, renowned in Soweto as the father of train surfing. What Blecher noticed back at the time were the one-liner obituaries: “young black man found dead on train tracks” and their growing frequencies in the daily newspapers. What she found out in the course of the four years it took to filmSurfing Soweto is not only that the cause of these deaths is train surfing, but that the sport has become rampant among adolescents in Soweto, has attracted a large female following, that their arena is the rooftop of the 9373 morning train conveying workers from Soweto to Johannesburg, that three boys – Bitchnigga, Lefa and Mzembe are the city’s champions, and that the sport claims the life of one in three participants.
The documentary opens with the image of a train surfer atop the moving 9373. A monologue recounting the fatalities serenades this unlikely gymnast as, with legs splayed, he contorts his body to a rhythm in his own head. With legerdemain he avoids the high tension cables overhead – one graze and he is a goner. He maintains grace unexpected in his life- threatening circumstance, His reed thin body barely acknowledges the force of the wind. Like a jewellery thief dancing within the infrared barrier protecting some valuable piece, he has his sequence down-pat – a flex here, a slide there, then arms spread wide. Only this time the stakes are much higher. And the reward is not riches, it is admiration from the teeming congregation of adolescent females who have turned out to watch his performance.
Over four years, Blecher follows the tortured existence of these champions. Bitchnigga is a heroin addict who hopes to open a hair salon. he knows he could do well if he applies himself to education but train surfing and drugs beckon. Lefa’s mother and sister dread the inevitable phone call, that one that will confirm the fears they’ve carried around since Lefa’s addiction to train surfing was established. Lefa is the only surviving male in his family, he has inherited a love of All-Stars trainers from his father, as well as a penchant for violence towards women. Mzembe has impeccable pedigree. Mzembe’s grandfather is a successful livestock merchant, he educated his eleven children from the proceeds of this trade. Mzembe’s father was in the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement, he died for his cause and his memory is etched in grateful hearts. Mzembe is an alcohol addict; drink and the devil push him towards the trains. A life of crime goes hand to hand with their lifestyles. In explanation of their alcohol and drug binges, their crimes, the illicit stolen-goods trade they conduct with Nigerians and their deleterious past-time, they all have come to one conclusion: “It is Satan.”
But they are not impenitent; in the face of growing fatality they are compelled to swear off this dangerous lifestyle. For Bitchnigga, “being the father of train surfing is one thing. Inspiring kids who end up as bloodstains on train tracks is another.” When a campaign kicks off against train surfing, all three sign up. It would accomplish three things: deter would be surfers and in a sense correct the wrong trend that they had set in motion; it would help force their own wills to renounce train surfing, and it would be a way of earning money and turning from their life of crime. Everything goes well… until one of the campaign members (none of the three) dies train surfing, and the whole thing is called off. Inevitably, the spiral into old habits is a bottle, a joint and a train station away.
In the course of this documentary, which makes copious use of train surfing videos, interviews and historical evidence, and diary-entry type quotes from its subjects, one worries that the boys seem too comfortable being filmed. Are they playing up to the camera? Blecher explains that for the most part they filmed themselves, “They are letting you see their lives,” she says. “And a lot of it isn’t pretty.” equipped with basic cameras and the skills to operate them, they make us privy to their private thoughts and actions. We accompany Mzembe to his grandfather’s house, and with him make tearful acquaintance with a half sister he never knew existed. With Bitchnigga we utter a prayer of salvation by candlelight, and we feel the agony of loss when Lefa searches in vain for his father’s unmarked grave. He had died of Aids while his son was away.
Surfing Soweto is an expansion of Blecher’s shorter piece, and is about the extents to which the human spirit can stretch in order to cope with present circumstances. When they are on top of a train concentrating on not getting hauled off by an electric cable during a daring stunt, knowing that missing a beat can cost their lives, they can block out the rest of the world. With many fathers lost from apartheid, there are few role models to teach the youth of Soweto how to become men. And diseases like HIV and its opportunistic illnesses are claiming breadwinners and forcing the young to confront stark financial realities.
The documentary concludes by affirming the death statistics – “for every three, one dies.” For the young men of Soweto the future is bleak and life is short. Maybe it is not just an unfortunate omen but a recognition of his “Leviathan” reality that prompts Lefa to beg his sister to dress him up in a suit and make him look like a “decent chap” for his funeral. Like many of the youth of Soweto, his days are numbered unless drastic measures are taken to improve the social standard. Unfortunately, the system seems to have disclaimed them. Maybe train surfing isn’t quite so puzzling after all – it’s their way of going out on their own terms – gangster style.