(Credit: Ronnie Kijjambu)
KAMWE KAMWE NIGWO MUGANDA
Here is a book that celebrates people that you probably have never heard about, but which, once you start reading - you might not want to put down.
Kamwe, Kamwe Nigwo Muganda… and other lessons from my father is a “collection of essays” by city advocate Rita Kenkwanzi; a telling tribute of a daughter to her beloved father, told through traditional folk tales and old Bakiga wise sayings.
It is the story of the life and times of Chris Kataama, a certified accountant turned businessman - through the eyes of his close family and friends. But rather than do a random compilation of the old man’s life, Kenkwanzi picks on episodes in her own life, where her father played a key role in supporting and shaping her values. And not just her, but also her siblings and other relatives.
At some point, it seizes to be one man’s or one family’s story and turns into a story of many of us, because some experiences told therein are somewhat relatable. This though does not strip this touching account of its unique familial fabric because every person that has been raised or helped by Kataama, somehow becomes part of his family.
This is how the book came about
As her father’s 65th birthday drew closer, Kenkwanzi thought about a perfect present for the man who has nurtured, inspired and loved her. She decided that writing a book that celebrates her old man’s life and contribution would be the most appropriate gift.
She stealthily embarked on a mission to compile reminiscences; recalling old family moments, secretly interviewing several members of her family and some of her father’s close friends and associates. It was supposed to be a secret birthday present.
And while we are not told how Kataama reacted to this most precious gift on his birthday, the thoughtful, warm-hearted nature of this endevour is not lost on us the readers.
There is everything to celebrate about this book.
First, the fine prose that runs through the fast paced storyline. A combination of old Bakiga tales and proverbs and well-coined English words, laced with powerful imagery and rhythm. The pictures to illustrate the moments. But it is the human values passed on by the author that will make a more lasting impression on the reader.
The boundless love that flows through the actions of Kataama, who reaches out to so many people with his generosity; the virtue of hard work and humility exemplified by Kataama, his daughter and many of his friends.
The meaning of family as a set up that transcends the confines of the nuclear unit, resilience and grit and many life lessons. There are humbling experiences such as when Kenkwanzi fails her bar course, thanks to her self-confessed complacency, then finds a teaching job, which, in surprising ways takes her back to the law profession. There are tales of mother and daughter moments that are endearing.
It is those and so many other well-woven fables that glue you to the narrative, guiding you through experiences that could easily have been your own and teaching you how to go about life’s challenges.
In many ways, Kamwe, Kamwe Nigwo Muganda… and other lessons from my father is a book as much about Kataama as Kenkwanzi herself. This might set you wondering about the focus of the author. But then, how could she have done it otherwise.