On our third night in Kampala, a young singer called AFRIE took to the stage at the National Theatre. When she opened her mouth, a hand stretched out from inside it, plunged into my chest and grasped my heart. It held on to the beating lump for the rest of the song and for the one after it, pressing gentle fingerprints into each pulse. This was not a new thing to happen to my heart in Kampala, for as soon as we landed, we were met with warm hands, un-stranged by their willingness to hold up these Saalehas all the way from Johannesburg. The only other time I have felt so soft and deep with salted gratefulness was on the Hajj. This too was a pilgrimage of a kind.
Of all the things that travel well, music and stories cover the most earth. We heard Avicii on our way to the airport and an acoustic version of Titanium while we sat in a workshop with Nigerian writer Samuel Kolawole. Stories written in Johannesburg, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda and beyond-beyond came to sit together at the same table. This was a week of myth-making and god-work; carding the threads we pulled from our minds, fashioning friendships and stitching up the beginnings of our next stories. More than winning a prize and collecting laudations, it was enough that Writivism brought Saaleha and myself to this space where people gifted of themselves and their work with such openness. I should probably stop right here, before I descend into a mawkishness I cannot climb out of, but I am even grateful for the mosquitoes that downloaded my DNA and hope that someday that blood will find its way to the Ugandan soil.
With our schedules full with workshops and other festival events, there was not much time for sightseeing, but we did eat of the food (matooke, luwombo), listen to the music and read of their written, and that is how we came to see all of Kampala.
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