Book review: Boda Boda Anthem paints Kampala picture

Book Review: Boda Boda Anthem
Genre: Poetry Anthology
Reviewed by: Andrew Kagwa

At one point we have all tried to define Kampala. They say it is a city where people don’t sleep, some call it a hub of potholes and others simply say it is not a city for sleepyheads.

A new poetry anthology, Boda Boda Anthem, too, joins the fray by attempting to define, pay homage and share experiences about the city of seven hills.

The beautifully-knitted piece is a cover-to-cover read, featuring poems of people that have visited Kampala, heard of it or grown up in it. The book that was released during the Babishai Niwe Poetry Festival features the likes of Samuel Mwesigwa, Roxanna Aliba Kazibwe, Marjorie Nassolo and the amazing Nakisanze Ssegawa, among others.

Kampala City Yani, a title for a chapter and a poem, talks about Kampala belonging to all of us. But then the writer focuses on the boda boda cyclists as the only people that run around without following any rules.

Then he delves into the littering problem; an empty mineral water bottle shooting out of a moving vehicle, a kaveera competing with flies for the skies and all the stray things around the city – including bullets and dogs.

It becomes interesting especially with the way writers try to understand the people in Kampala, where some lie about being in Kisekka market yet they are, indeed, in Kireka.

Boda Boda Anthem’s high moment could be Safari City; a poem that compares Kampala to the wild: the lion as the shopkeepers that run the place and the hippo as the street kids playing without caring.

Well, this is not the most breathtaking piece in the anthology, but it was written by a 12-year-old Lydia Neeley. Overall, the Boda Boda Anthem is a mirror of the city we love so much. It is a book that makes many Ugandans that will read it to appreciate and loathe their place in equal measures.

Almost comically, the poets introduce all these filthy things we have known about the city but have somewhat deliberately ignored. But regardless of how long one has been in town, Boda Boda Anthem has a thing or two to teach.

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