Jennifer Makumbi’s tale of Kintu

Saturday August 2 2014

Jennifer Makumbi receives her Commonwealth 2014 Short Story Prize cheque from Romesh Gunesekera at Kabira Country Club, Bukoto, Uganda. Photo/Michael Kakumirizi

Jennifer Makumbi receives her Commonwealth 2014 Short Story Prize cheque from Romesh Gunesekera at Kabira Country Club, Bukoto, Uganda. PHOTO | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

The title of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu evokes the legend of the origin of the Baganda people in central Uganda.

The Baganda believe that Kintu was the first man on earth and therefore epitomises how creation, trouble, unhappiness and death began.

Kintu won the 2013 Kenyan literary journal, Kwani’s? Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers, it revolves around the great Kintu Kidda, Ppookino (governor) of Buddu Province who brought a curse upon his descendants after he unintentionally killed his adopted son Kalema (Kalemanzira).

The 442-page novel is a tale of how Kintu’s descendants seek to break with the burden of the curse and to reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future.

The novel explores the power of a curse African society and the myth and power that surrounds twins. It describes how the princes of Buganda fought and killed each other for the throne and the role of the Queen Mothers in this power play.

It reaffirms that homosexuality has existed in Buganda from time immemorial. The conduct of traditional weddings and how young men and women are groomed to fulfill their conjugal rights, and the prowess of polygamous men in bed are all documented.

Makumbi described Kintu as a Ugandan story told from her perspective and a fictitious historical novel that traces Buganda’s history from the 1750s before colonialism. She researched and wrote the novel between 2003 and 2011.

“Most of our written history begins with colonialism. So I wanted to prove that Buganda has a rich history that predates colonialism,” she said.

Makumbi’s story, “Let’s Tell This Story Properly,” won her the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.