Hey good people, how do you do. If you have been an inhabitant of this blog land long enough you know why this calls for celebration. To think I promised to review this book last year and I am only reviewing it now isn’t something I can explain. I thought it only wise to first review Kintu before I get to her recent book Manchester Happened.
Brethren, a review.
Title : Kintu
Author : Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Published : 2014
“The ba kabaka did not give away their thrones like that.”
To most Ugandans the name “KINTU” echoes the mythological first being but to Jennifer Makumbi he is just another man. A governor of the Buganda kingdom in 1754 whose reckless act births a curse that traverses generations.
The book is divided into six parts with each bringing to life a member of the Kintu clan and how they fit in the puzzle.
Kintu kicks off in 2004 with a man, that is mistaken for a thief and brutally killed by a mob in Bwaise-Kampala. At first glance it is an isolated, unfortunate event but as we delve deeper, Makumbi introduces us to the bigger picture.
We are taken back to the 18th Century when a reckless act by the then Governor of Buganda , Kamu Kiddi, births a curse that haunts the Kintu clan for generations.
In this epic multi-generational tale Makumbi dramatizes the power of the curse in the African society and the struggles of the Kintu clan to wriggle from its grip. She also explores the myth that surrounds twins that trickles down from Kintu’s twin wives Babirye and Nnakato throughout the different generations.
Throughout the book we are given snap shots into the lives of the different characters, each living in different dispensations of Uganda and with differing personal stories and yet united by the burden of this curse.
The book gives us a descriptive account of the events that happened in the past and if you have never read history you might need to constantly remind yourself that all this is fiction.
Makumbi also takes time to question popular conceptions on gender, religion, mental illness and the burden of patriarchy on African men.
Reading Kintu for me felt like diving into familiar waters, probably because I am Ugandan. I kept nodding in satisfaction as I read her detailed description of some of the streets I’d traveled and the seven hills in Kampala. I also loved that she uses precolonial names for the hills and different places in Kampala.
For non Ugandans the introduction by Aaron Bady got you covered. He gives you a preamble of the book and clears out all the things that would have otherwise turned out to be confusing. Also it might not be easy for you to remember all the Luganda names and places but lucky for you they don’t play a significant role in the story line.
I am going to say it here. Jennifer Makumbi is not your ordinary writer, in fact she is not your ordinary anything. She has been described as doing for Uganda what Chinua Achebe did for Nigeria and after reading this book you will understand why. I love that she writes Luganda with the same authority writers write French or German. She doesn’t pause to interpret but by the time you finish the sentence you are home.
I also enjoyed her blend of metaphors and satire in some parts of the book.
All in all Kintu is a beautiful read that one is guaranteed to enjoy especially because of Makumbi’s impeccable writing style, and how she effortlessly pens out Uganda both in the past and present day.
A definite must read!
Photo credits to my amazing friend Maysura Asher Farzia.
Bellows of love
©Tales of a Curious mind