Do you recall what you were like at ten years? I do. I wished I had long hair like my Sindy doll. The Five Star sibling music group of three sisters and two brothers was my favourite and I was the fastest runner in my class. I should mention that I was absolutely loved to read and write. Enid Blyton probably had a lot to do with that.

Lillian Aujo, the very first BN Poetry Award winner. Photo Credits (Prophix Studios)

In 2019, the BN Poetry Award, which I began ten years ago, is celebrating ten years. It’s wildly crazy. The idea popped into my head like many of my noble ideas. I couldn’t keep still; spoke to a few of my close friends who knew better than to stop me when I was running with such high energy. I was like a circus clown on steroids.  If you had met me then, you’d understand why celebrating ten years is so important to all of us; in this space of poetry.

The award began, as a way to motivate Ugandan women into sharing their poetry to other Ugandan readers, lovers of poetry and hopefully, through a cash prize, these Ugandan women would feel encouraged that their poetry was valuable.

Purity the poet.

I started sending out calls for submissions. And guess what! People actually responded. This is what happens when you run with an idea that’s so important that you’d sell off your house to make it work. True Story! I sold my laptop to cover some of the costs. The first laptop I’d ever owned; an IBM, durable and magical.

The Ugandan women. Yes. I sent out the calls for submissions and as a first prize, was ready to offer $250. No one had done it before. I was as certain as anything that Ugandan women poets were at their prime of writing and just needed a platform to share their verses. The submissions came in as I started reeling out a plan. It was time to select a judges’ panel. Hilda Twongyeirwe, Iga Zinunula and other prolific poets, whom I knew tremendously well, and had participated in numerous literary events with them. I also knew that they would buy into this untamed spirit of mine.

Poetry on Mt. Rwenzori, 2016.

The BN Poetry Award, which by the way, was named after me, Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award, was gathering the interest of curious by-standers, some of whom relished the thought of a poetry prize and others who were waiting for me to fall flat on my ridiculous face. The media caught wind of it and I found myself answering calls for interviews and sitting before distinguished panels, sharing the idea of the award. When the judges unanimously decided upon their winner, Lillian Aujo, it was time to select a date and venue for this poetry award giving ceremony. I had just left my well-paying job, sold my lavish car and had no money at all. I was also a new mother, a pivotal point that spurred me into making lasting memories and worthy legacies.

What I had, stirring inside of me like molten lava, was priceless.

Contacting a few colleagues whom I had worked with before, I sent them proposals to support this grand award-giving dinner. Word Alive Publishers, based in Kenya, Uganda Health Marketing Group, Gilgal Media Arts and Uganda Clays Limited, each contributed financially towards the dinner, scheduled for Friday 21 August, 2009 at Fang Fang Restaurant. Femrite was my unofficial office at the time. I jotted down a guest list and threw a few names for Chief Guest. None was deemed worthy enough until I thought of Rt. Honourabe Rebecca Kadaga. At the time, she served as the Deputy Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament.

On receiving the call from her office that she would be more than glad to officiate at the ceremony, made me almost run around Kampala town like my feet were lit by burning charcoal. Like I said, I was a clown on steroids.

That dinner was the most marvellous literary event I had ever attended in my entire life. I was at the edge of my seat the entire evening just trying to hold it all in. The faces staring back at me; a reflection of a dream come true. The Deputy Speaker of Parliament right beside me like we were colleagues. Academics, publishers, CEOs of leading organisations, my family and friends. All of them.

John Wafula, CEO of Uganda Clays (RIP)

Rebecca Kadaga mentioned that she had received so many invitations for that date, 21 August, but the idea of the Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award, was so intriguing that she just had to turn down all her other invitations. There were over one hundred guests that sat in the chilly evening listening to the story of the Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award, who applauded Lillian Aujo, Catherine Kemigisha and Sophie Alal, the top three winners of this award. Over a hundred people, some of them from The New Vision and Daily Monitor, who retold the story and continue to retell it today.

We’re celebrating ten years. We have to. We invite you to join us.

On 26 January, there shall be a Luganda poetry workshop, first of its kind at 4Reign Office at Equatoria Hotel Lower Parking. The fee is only 50,000/- per individual and we have some of the most sought after Luganda poets, who shall facilitate. Lule Ssebo Lule, whose Luganda works have been published and Nakisanze Segawa, the latter who is a BN Poetry awardee.

From 21-24 March, we shall be in Kabale, holding our first festival of the year. Meeting students of Kabale University to train, perform and dialogue, launch books and spread the work of poetry from Kampala to beyond.

In the ten years, we have published three poetry anthologies, A Thousand Voices Rising, Boda Boda Anthem: A Kampala Poetry Anthology and When Children Dare to Dream. We have organized four successful poetry festivals and held poetry in nature excursions from Mt. Rwenzori, Mabira Forest and Sipi Falls, This year, it’s Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale.

Thanks to the individuals, organisations, financiers, media, social groups and the communities in the diaspora that have held our hand. We Thank you.

All photos by Prophix Studios, except for Mt. Rwenzori.

Find us here at

Email us at







Poetry on The Mountain: On Mt. Rwenzori, there is healing

This article first appeared in sooo many stories. 

The Babishai Niwe inaugural Poetry on The Mountain trip on June 11 2016, was one of the most rewarding experiences ever. Mt. Rwenzori is Eden’s original version, untainted with lust for life and envy, because there is such an abundance of awe and wonder. Why isn’t Rwenzori recognised as one of the world’s greatest wonders?

When the tour guide, Enock Owerangi, explains the different nature trails and the camps, it seems so effortless. He will tell you that you will reach the first camp, from where you will hold your poetry session. The truth is, Rwenzori is poetic enough and there’s no need to dramatise the experience. Starting at 1,400m high altitude, we begin this arduous expedition, full of curiosity, adrenaline and cameras.

Rwenzori poetry

We are beset with foliage reaching so high that the sky-line seems submerged. With 217 bird species in the Rwenzori region, there are so many choruses and this natural orchestra is one of the most striking sounds to behold. Only one of us Jackie Asiimwe, has reached the peak at Margherita, and Enock of course, who reaches Margherita at least six times a year. (Show-off, kekekeke). His uncle, Bagheni Zadekia, is also the first Mukonzo to reach the peak. Real family legacy right there.

Rwenzori, Africa’s largest block mountain and home to hundreds of animal and bird species, also has the transformative ability to make anyone gasp at the vastness of its awesomeness. There is a particular plant that is actually believed to eliminate labour pain. Every child-bearing woman deserves this. To be able to alleviate a pain more horrendous than suffocation, should be every woman’s right.

River Mobuku gushes below us, the purest water, clear and sparkling. In our lives too, the more transparent people are, the more clarity there is. There is room for everyone and no need to try and eat off someone else’s plate. Why fight for sloppy seconds when there is enough in the universe for all of us? The Mobuku’s untameable spirit, liberated and strong, makes me want to follow it to where it stops and build my home there. Being encircled by nature is a privilege in a world, besot by drudgery and destruction.

The three-horned chameleon, wide-eyed, elegant and endangered, is placed covertly on some tendrils, unrecognisable until the guide’s expert eyes, point it out. Its tail is coiled like a chocolate pinwheel but less tastier. None of us is able to ease the chameleon on our fingers as gently as Enock. For fear of killing the world’s only three-horned chameleon just out of sheer fright, we take our photos and move to the next place of admiration.

We’re getting more exhausted as we ascend more precipitous staircases, cross wobbly bridges and are told stories of undomesticated elephants. Maybe that’s what the gun, which one of our guides carries, is for. It’s not comforting that the path is too narrow to hide from an elephant. There are about five hours to Lake Mahoma, which is our agreed place for the poetry. Being the democrats that we are, we vote against this incredulous extra five hours and opt for the first base at Masiga. The humidity, the gruelling climbs and the perspiration are an excruciating combination. There are forty-five minutes to go. Now, forty-five minutes on Mt. Rwenzori, means that you will climb over several boulders, slip on the mud and trek through undergrowth that is thicker than the size of our cabinet.

Rwenzori poetry 2

While planning for Poetry On The Mountain, we romanticised about how we would have one spoken word after the other, while gazing at the snow-capped peak. This is what really happens. When you reach, you can barely stand and are so drained of energy that you wolf down every sugary biscuit in your sight, along with juice, fruit and almost, the inedible chameleons. The amount of calories burned is enviable for weight loss addicts but not the more adventurous poets.

Since we set out for poetry on the mountain, brushing off our crumbs, we begin to recite, perform and share stories of the Rwenzoris. In one captivating story, we hear that if a chameleon is killed by a human in the human’s younger days, if this person gives their unborn child a name of a chameleon, that child will be protected. Lukonzo is one of the most musical forms for spoken word. Let’s call it Lukoflow. The language is rhythmic and entertaining.

For our next trip, we’ll elect another gorgeous place in East Africa for a poetry excursion. Being surrounded by nature will teach us not to agitate destiny. This Rwenzori trip proves that once destiny has paved its successful course, destiny will always win.

At our Babishai 2016 Poetry Festival, which takes place from 24-26 August in Ntinda at Maria’s Place, opposite Victory City Church, we’ll be launching our next poetry trip for 2017. You’re welcome.