…but who is still fully dressed in this country?


Before the people (s) who invented clothes invented clothes, humans were strutting their things in the full glare of the sun – without care, without shame.

Then we were struck by the evolution lightning and suddenly our Lacomi was not big enough to cover our loins anymore and no piece of cloth could wrap our breasts well enough. We needed dresses, gomesis, trousers and all manner of attire to keep our privates out of public eye.

For most women, the longer the outfit and the more skin you covered up, the more claps you got – for being morally upright, self-respecting, a real ‘mother’ etc. A woman who wears a mini skirt or bares her skin beyond ‘acceptable proportions’ earns herself the title of Apoli, Malaya or a cheap, desperate seductress and many more.   

Among my people, a woman could only reveal her nakedness when she is really angry…like when her son starts behaving like an asshole and ignores all advise, his mother will wag her breasts at the son, invoking a curse; or if the woman feels wronged, she’ll strip before her kinsmen – to express her frustration and helplessness. Nudity thus became a weapon, a trumpet that once sounded couldn’t be unsounded. But that too is now frowned upon by many.

That’s why when in April 2015, women in Apaa, Amuru District stripped  before ministers, government officials and investors in protest against the grabbing of their land, the nudity weapon had been taken out of the granary; only that many didn’t feel amused by the action – it was an outdated practice, uncalled for.

I won’t go to neighbouring Kenya where in 1992, environmental activist Wangari Maathai led a group of women who protested nude against the detention of political detainees by the Moi regime, or the 1992 police station invasion by a group of women led by Muthoni Nyanjiru in protest of the jailing of Harry Thuku.

It’s important to note that behind most (if not all) nude protests by a woman, there is a man. Which begs the point that while has society fashioned women as the weaker sex, nudity makes them slap back the cheek of their male tormentor, it strips their aggressor of their power (at least in many cases).

So when I woke up to a video of Dr Stella Nyanzi protesting naked against her eviction from office at Makerere University, I was not very shocked, mainly because I know Stella is not one to be caged. Her only option is to die fighting, it doesn’t matter how.

The commentary that have followed Stella’s nude protest is what has amused me.

  1. Many have said striping was not Stella’s last resort, that she has a pen, a brain (a PhD for god’s sake!) and many other ‘civil’ and less shameful avenues through which she could have sorted out her employment problem. So the point is, a PhD-holding woman is over qualified to protest nude. Leave it for the Amuru women whose butts hardly touched desks in school.
  2. Then there are those claiming temporary blindness because of Stella’s breasts – the breasts have ‘fallen’ and should not have been exposed to the public, they say. Actually a friend of mine says if those were his breasts, he would bathe with clothes on. Another is utterly disgusted at the professor for spoiling his week with her unpalatable breasts! In other words, if you want to protest nude, make sure you have pointed breasts, firmer than adolescent oranges. But there’s no guarantee you will pass this test with ‘saluting’ breasts though. Some may find them too small, too big or just not their type. See, even Anita Fabiola hardly passed the boob test when her nudes leaked!
  3. And of course most people will think the strings in your brain have been eaten by weevils, or that you are a pathetic attention-seeking loser, a disgrace to womanhood. So don’t console yourself that maybe some of those condemning your nudity during day have the quickest hands to tear off clothes behind closed doors. And in this era of nude pictures and Rihana-style outfits, don’t imagine that just like most people bow to nudes in the comfort of their phones, they will bow to your day-time nudes.

Anyway, when all is seen and said, no one, especially in this our republic, should pretend they are not naked. When an MP votes to have their pay exempted from tax, they take off your blouse; when the ruling party holds a billion-shilling celebratory party while you try to touch the bottom of your pocket, they take off your pants; when you go visit your sick mother in hospital and there’s no blood for transfusion, no machine to scan their aching bones, or no radiotherapy machine to burn cancerous cells from their body; they take off your undies; when you wake up to headlines that your taxes have been eaten by termites or that it’s become a debris in a shoddily built dam or road, they leave you bare to the stare of a government that doesn’t care…

Unlike Nyanzi and the Amuru women who have the luxury of taking off their clothes, ours is an involuntary by a government blind to our nudities. And even those eating from the table with the emperor, may not realize they are naked, but when god comes to their Garden of Eden one day, their eyes will open to their nakedness.

The act of stripping is always deeper than what we see on the outside.

While you cringe over nudity by the Stellas of this world, have the clear-headedness to realize yours too is an Adam suit, just in another colour maybe!

Posted in Commentaries | 15 Comments

#LastTerm


My lover has screwed me so hard, for so long I feel his semen rise in my throat

And now I walk with a stagger, drunk on fermented manhood

Waiting for my middle finger to dig out the vomit lingering in my throat

Last time I zipped up my womanhood he said,

 Come on beloved, stop the defiance

This is my last term in your State House

Posted in Poetry | 3 Comments

Teach Me How To Loot


(Extract from a novel in progress)

BY HARRIET ANENA 

The mouth of Aswa River is full, its stomach rising and falling against panting waves.

By its banks, an army of men, women and children stand in a line, their hearts beating loudly in their mouths.

Their eyes shift from the rope in Commander Ocan Bunia’s hands, to the expanse of water ahead of them.

Their legs tremble. Their eyes turn misty. They wait.

When the rope is securely latched from Tree A to Tree B on the other end of Aswa, everyone takes a deep breath. It could as well be their last. They wait.

“It’s time to go,” Commander Bunia bellows.

Holding onto the rope tightly, Commander takes the lead, wading through the water, balancing his weight against slaps by waves until he’s at the other end.

The rest follow, slowly, as they wonder what’s quaking more – their bodies, or the neck-high water around them.

Fifteen minutes later, everyone is on the other side, except Lapwony.

He grabs the rope, starts the walk, slowly until he’s in the middle of the water. Then the rope starts to give way. He can hear it crack, and then snap.

“He’s going! He’s going!”

He can hear the voices getting louder, then they begin to fade until what’s left are whispers from the waves.

His kicks to the stomach of Aswa yields little. It swallows him instead. And he swallows it back – the water.

By the time Commander Bunia drags Lapwony to the shore, his stomach is a river, bulging and drowning his breath, one minute at a time.

When he finally snaps out unconsciousness and sees the pairs of eyes scanning his body, he knows this journey will be as difficult as castrating a dog.

Posted in Every Day Life | 2 Comments

#TheBloodOnMyDress


Auntie, there’s blood on your dress.

Where?

There…

Listen, don’t tell anyone about this, Okay?

Yes, Auntie.

It’s our little secret, hmmm?

Yes Auntie.

Akello dashed into the house, even though her legs suddenly felt like dry leaves being rustled by the wind.

Once inside, she took off her white dress, raised it up like an offering to a powerful being, a being residing beyond the ceiling of her house.

How could you do this to me Father? How could you?

The sermon from the early morning Sunday service came rushing back to her mind, Pastor Mark’s voice drowning her sobs.

“Praise His Mighty name!”

“Amen”

“Praise Him, for He is the author of miracles.”

“Yes He is!”

“Whatever your heart’s desire, consider it fulfilled today. Because He is able!”

“Yes, He is.”

Didn’t your servant say you are able?

How long must my shoulder carry this load?

From her eyes to the floor, tears rolled. From between her legs to the floor, blood flowed, abundantly.

It was the fifth miscarriage in three years.

 

Today, Kiden sits under a mango tree in Grandma’s home and remembers Auntie Akello.

She remembers their blood on your dress secret. She smiles.

Then she remembers the day Auntie taught her how to mingle millet bread, how to eat sugarcane without getting a cut on the lips, how to winnow, how to cut onions without tearing, how to put the right amount of salt in the food, how to tell that the potatoes cooking on the stove is running out of water…

Her reverie is cut short when the twins come running, chasing a ball.

They roll on the grass, grab the ball, throw it against the wall and run again to catch it. Their infant voices tear pierce the sky, the energy in their bodies, abundant.

That energy reminds Kiden of Auntie Akello again. The day Auntie delivered the Opio and Acen, she was possessed by the mother of all energy. She pushed even when the TBA told her to wait a little. And when she pushed the last of the twins out, a calmness descended over her.

The sweat that had dotted her face, started drying off, like dew exposed to the morning sun.

Then she breathed, a loud, lengthy breath as though it would be her last. It was.

Looking at her grave stone now, Kiden finds herself smiling – smiling that her Auntie didn’t die a child-killing witch like Laliya Village believed.

She died a mother.

******

#HappyWomensDay

Posted in Half Long Stories | Leave a comment

Kampala, beloved


Omera,

Kampala is a lover with bad breath

Edible lips,

Firm hands that know how to cup a face before a kiss

Then

He’ll breathe that thing Besigye hates into your eyes

But…

You’ll love the pearl of seven hills that dot his compound

The Lake Victoria Jacuzzi in his backyard

The flashy cars that defy potholed roads

And…

His deep pockets make many hold hands in awe of his wallet

 

But don’t forget

He’s a late riser. 9:00am on the road for a 7:30am strategic meeting

Respect his right of way. Even on that jam-packed one-way street

 

Omera,

Kampala is my sweet hopeless lover

Can I bring him home?

Posted in Every Day Life, Poetry | Leave a comment

PICTORY V.2 #17 – WE’RE A CRIME


My #FlashFiction

KIMANIWANDAKA

image

I’m pregnant, Mum.

I know.

Then why haven’t you said anything?

I was waiting for you to open up about it.

Okay.

So who’s responsible?

I’m also getting married, Mum. End of month.

What? What’s the hurry?

We don’t want our baby to be illegitimate.

Who’s the man?

Ahm…you’ll attend the wedding, won’t you?

Of course baby, but who is…?

I’ll go try on my gown tomorrow, will you come with me?

Yes. Yes…

Cool…and you don’t mind giving me away on D-Day, do you?

Shouldn’t your Dad do that?

He would have, if he wasn’t my baby’s father too.

A week later, I found Mum sitting with her back against the swing, the same spot where she gave birth to me in 1990. Grandma said I came too fast. There was no time for hospital.
On her white skirt, Mum had scribbled, “Sorry I’ll miss your wedding baby”.

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Posted in Half Long Stories | 2 Comments

Want Museveni to lose election in 2016? Have him kiss Janet


Once upon a time in 1996, Norbert Mao and Betty Bigombe (fondly called Atuku) wrestled for the Gulu Municipality MP seat. I was in Primary Four at Gulu Public Primary School, a short distance from Kaunda Grounds in Gulu town where Mao and Atuku would woo voters during their campaign rallies.

I don’t remember much from the political muscle-pulling then, but a chant coined by Mao against his rival, stuck in my mind, not that I knew its significance then.

Cam Atuku, bol ki Mao .i.e., Eat Atuku and vote for Mao, became a political courtship chant, urging voters to eat whatever money or goodies Bigombe would give them, turn up at her rallies even, but when it came to ballot day, they should cast their vote for Mao. The voters did just that: They ‘ate’ Atuku and voted Mao to Parliament.

Watching the crowd donate money and other items to presidential candidate Kizza Besigye on his nomination day reminds me of 1996. The only difference is that Ugandans eat Museveni during campaigns and get eaten at the polls.

But, will Ugandans eat Museveni now and give Besigye the ballot in 2016, or will the good old Doc only go home with a sofa, avocados, and bananas come 2016?

I’m no seer, so I will let you answer that.

But, there’s another way out. In 2012, Museveni let a huge secret out of the bag. He said if he kissed Janet in public, he would lose an election. How about Besigye, Amama and the other ‘wanters’ of the presidential seat do some magic and have Mzee kiss Janet the next time he shows up in Namboole, complete with Tubonge Nawe ballads in the background!

Hmmm! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the politics of crowds and watch as others give, and others are given.

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