For the last couple of hours, days, weeks, and months – probably even a year, I have been thinking critically, writing in silence and creating new stories. Until one Sunday evening, a friend asked me what happened to my daily rants about Ugandan writers, readers and the people in the creative industry. I immediately retorted that I have no idea why I stopped typing. This is not because I cannot write to them like Paul’s epistles to different churches – by the way, Paul was a miserable pastor. I have been more argumentative of late, triggering emotions of different people. I have been in my den fighting my own demons too – the demons of self-doubt, and above all, why I should probably stop writing and concentrate on my imaginary village goats bleating in my head. That is how inconsistent I have been of late; jumping with shit from a pit latrine to an open defecation. I won’t censor myself today. I will type and type. The sentiments shared are nothing but the importance of self recognition as a writer. I think I have outgrown some things of late – many things actually.
You see, the danger of writing and creating is something I do not understand. You squeeze yourself at the walls of comfort, breathing life to something imaginary; something nonexistent, but you want to offer it a heart, lungs, eyes, ears and above all consciousness. Then later, the more interested in writing you get, the more you think about killing one or two more characters. Perhaps, you are pondering why there should be happy moments in your books. Many a time, moments in books we write encase our moods. For instance, I have never written any meaningful story while happy. I find nothing inspirational in happiness. In fact, I sometimes quietly ask why people are smiling amidst our suffering. I mean, what is there to smile about when we have failed to take our children back to school, failed to equip our hospitals with tools, medicines and personnel. I mean, there is something I hear mbu… mbu… I will not go in depth about such things but my point is: why are you smiling in the absence of progress in your country? Why don’t you write about such things to make a difference? I fail to write while happy because I hold the view that happiness is a distraction to what ought to be done. Could this be the reason many youth drown themselves in the drink? They party exposing their buttocks and forget the allegation that the white man found us naked and gave us clothes. Why don’t these youth donate their clothes to the people that actually need them? If you find solace in cosmetic happiness induced by chemicals, you are very sad! Fix the cause of your sadness rather than running away from it. Fix the mess and be at peace with yourself. Anyways, why am I writing today?
What an animal of a writer! I have critically thought about this for a few weeks now. There is a widely accepted school of thought that many writers write who they actually are. Should I believe this or trash it? My thinking is that sometimes writing is an idea; sometimes, it is the society we live in. I have read many quotes of Tolkien who is proclaimed for his love for flowers, learning and writing new languages. Well, I also believe Tolkien might have loved some little bit of darkness; his writings are never without darkness, death and bloodshed. Grapevine is that his works are banned in some states for allegedly being satanic and promoting the use of magic. Should Tolkien be declared Satanic? The illuminati theorists would be already burning their nails linking the traces of such to the mysteries of darkness or Satan.
By the way, my only quarrel is that readers have failed to love the imperfections of books and why every ‘mistake’ in the art is art. It is important for us to learn how to handle our heroes and graciously pamper their animosity. The culture of ‘woke’ in this genZ is killing the ability of many writers to write. A writer is caging their animal for fear of their story getting cancelled! How sad it will be, caging a story that needs to live! I have watched great animals of stories buried by good writers because they fear to be judged; they are not brave enough to stomach the societal eyes. They are afraid that their own people will disown them. That people will see them differently thereafter. This, however, wasn’t the case with Francis Asiimwe – now gone but not forgotten. He is missed dearly in the spaces of creatives. A wonderful poet who immortalized himself in poetry. He is the reason I am writing about an animal of a writer. Francis never feared to write what hurt him and his society.
Who is Francis Asiimwe? Many will call him the good doctor – a dermatologist. A few of us who knew him as a creative person, would also join the cue of debate to share how much we knew him. Francis prematurely succumbed to a blood clot in his lungs. I have been running away from writing this eulogy because I was still living in denial that Francis is still alive. Two months now. I feel lighter to write how I feel now and add something special about his life. With permission from the anthologist, Nassur Tab’an El-Tablaz, I was given exclusive rights to review Francis’ poem and the drama it aroused in 2022. I was busy with my postgraduate studies then when I read inbox (WhatsApp) that a parent was suing the anthologist for promoting homosexuality among students of one of Kampala’s high-end high schools. The letters addressed to the anthologist surprised me. The parent quoted Francis’ poem, ‘Gentlemen, I’ve a Ask’ which he claimed was spreading homosexuality vibe and an initiation of children! But is this the case?
The Anthologist began seeking the services of a lawyer to understand the the gravity of the matter. He settled for Eron Kiiza, a known human rights activist, who looked into the lawsuit and promised there was nothing to worry about. Today, the anthology isn’t a threat anymore! The lawsuit was nothing but a complete bluff. Amidst all these claims of Francis’ poem being a bad poem, many people have failed to understand how serious this piece is. In my opinion, a poem shouldn’t be caged, especially such a one that shares the different concerns the boy child faces. Did you ever sit under a tree to comprehend that a boy child could be raped? Francis, the good doctor, tackles the concerns of man being raped and urges us all to take action into the matters of rape; they silently affect the mental wellbeing of any human. The entire poem is very rhetorically argumentative. The poet navigates his prowess with quizzing [us] the readers who are compelled into a very spirited and passionate discussion of rape. The speaker very determinedly makes a case to the listening party. His heavy questions inform the listener not to take for granted rape amongst boys. He begins “Tell me dear brother, have you ever been late to get home and had to walk all the way alone in the dark after sunset?” We assume, the listener lives in denial, or perhaps lives a privileged life with stereotypical thinking that boys cannot be raped. The speaker wonders whether the listener understands the silent psychotic memories anymore. The bouts of pain. The relapses. Francis understood his journey in life. Perhaps it was his calling to tell us more about the plight of a boy-child. Francis still offered free counseling sessions for the victims of rape amongst Ugandan poets – including men/boys.
Let’s trace the concept of rape amongst boys. Many times, our people misunderstand the difference between rape and homosexuality. Homosexuality is consensual amongst two adults of the same sex, which is completely not the case with rape. Rape is forceful, aggressive and wrong. Often times people consider rape among men as something mysterious – an abomination, unworthy. But the reality is that men are getting raped and our society is mute about the matter. We have read stories of men coming out to tell their ordeal of rape. How we laugh about it, and carry on with our lives. We consider it irregular or clout chasing but truly, men are raped by both men and women, and here is Francis drum-rolling and engaging us in this very spirited poem; asking us whether we actually care to look into the rape carcinoma in both men and women.
In the second stanza, the speaker emotionally asks very tough questions. He impolitely quizzes, “Did you get a whiff of fear, a grip of cold bones in the darkest patches of the lonely walk?” Many times, men do not worry about rape in such places – they only fear for their lives and property like phones or wallets. He proceeds to ask in stanza three, “Was the worry for the watch or wallet?” These two stanzas are juxtaposed, offering two minds of different individuals thinking differently. Stanza two plants an emotional idea of the possibility of a man being raped on a dark walkway home. He opines, “Were you afraid they would leap out and strip off your trousers, shorts and shirt?” This sounds an alarm bell; do you think you’re safe because you are a man? He adds, “grip, fiddle and bite your buttocks? Poke, fidget, harass and enter your tight anus till it loosened with each thrust to a rancid fecal red discharge?” Of course, the primary role of the anus is excretion. With vivid imagery, we visualise the listener covering their ears and shaking their head in denial that a man can’t be raped. The listener is determined to change the narrative that whilst he is walking home, he only fears getting robbed or perhaps lose his life in a scuffle whilst trying to save his property. Relief is provided in the line, “Let’s let the gross be.” As if to say, you don’t need to cover it up if it is happening! But this relief is shortlived as it is immediately followed by, “did you tremor to the teacher, lecturer or boss because you had to take off your clothes, part your thighs and buttocks for him to jiggle, hiss, nibble and lip?” The speaker explores the gross sexual exploitation in the job market, sex-for-marks et al. Do men also have to endure sexual harassment from their bosses? Do they fear to talk freely about it for society will point fingers? That is how I revere Francis’ ingenuity at the pen. He outdid himself at this poem. He is an animal of a writer. I am describing him in the present tense intentionally for I believe a writer never dies; they stay alive in their works. Francis is whispering in my right ear, telling me I should do justice to this masterpiece, and I hope I am doing the best in my ability to explain the need for an awareness campaign against the sexually harassment men, too, undergo.
This year, homosexuality has been a hot topic in all spheres of life in Uganda. Stringent measures have been put in place. But in all this, I realised that many times people don’t understand the gravity of openly addressing rape among men without attaching it to homosexuality. It hurts that when young men report these rape cases, they are labelled perverts, they lose their place in society, their prestige and respect. They become the bad apples, unlike their female counterparts. Society is forgetting to protect the boy child. Society thinks all men have big muscles and can fight anything that comes their way. This is one of the reasons behind the increasing suicide cases amongst men of late. No one is ready to listen. The details the good doctor shares in his poem are pertinent concerns we all need to pay attention to. He queries, “how many of your friends, brothers, ordinates and relatives have emptied their tears on your shoulders interrupting your plans and your brain?” Do we take off time to listen to a man who has been sexually harassed and he needs medical and psychological help? Do we listen to their experiences “of recurrent sickly sticky stench thoughts and whitened psychotic memories?”
My ex-girlfriend once revealed to me how she had twice been raped; once by a relative and the other time by an excited young lover in high school. She narrated her bouts of pain and how her scars never healed. How difficult it becomes to love after her innocence has been plundered. This is very unfortunate. I read Francis’ poem again and again and feel the plight of every rape victim. The “psychotic memories”! Should we call our Francis a truly bold man to talk about rape amongst men? I would crown him with a tiara for a job well excuted. I will reiterate to you reading this write up that this poem has never been about spreading homosexuality in Uganda. It is about creating awareness of rape among men. I would recommend that various NGOs in Uganda dealing in sexuality to make use of this poem. It is a societal obligation to be inclusive in our campaigns against rape in Uganda. It is quite a pity that I am writing this review after Asiimwe Francis leaving us. I should have done this earlier! He should have been around to read about himself. He truly deserved a bouquet of white lilies – my favorite flowers. The best eulogy I would give is not a speech, but a review of this poem.
Read the complete poem and many others in the anthology, “Sexual Perceptions, Culture, and the Law”. A copy goes for Ugx. 25,000. It is an amazing piece of work and a must buy for anyone.
There it comes,
Steals but still
No one believes it has stolen.
So, we wail until –
Earth blankets the vessel!
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