Renowned Malawi poet, Prof. Jack Mapanje, has called on the young generation to write innovatively. “The young generation should not fear experimenting and should write in their context. Today’s generation is not thinking and writing very creatively like the past writers,” he noted. Prof. Mapanje was speaking at his poetry reading session organized by the Department of Literature at Makerere University on 19th March, 2013.
He read from a number of his poems and explained to the enthusiastic audience his inspiration for writing them. The poems he read from included; “Of Chameleons and Gods”, “The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison” and “Skipping without Ropes”. Commenting on his poem “Skipping without Ropes”, written in memory of his experience in Prison, when the guards refused them to bathe, Prof. Mapanje said, “We resolved to jump like we were skipping so that we could sweat, then stink for them to be forced to allow us to bathe.” He further noted that when situations are tough, human beings have features that they can use to demand their rights.
Prof. Jack Mapanje was detained without trial for three years, seven months and sixteen days for his first book of poetry “OF CHAMELEONS AND GODS” that criticised fallen Malawi President Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorial regime. While in prison, the Department of Literature, Makerere University joined other African Universities to protest his imprisonment. Dr Mapanje expressed gratitude to the Department for the contribution towards his release.
In a speech read by the Ag Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Oswald Ndoleriire, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu applauded Prof. Mapanje for his continued commitment to improving African Literature despite the challenges he faced, more especially under the Kamuzu Banda regime. “We are proud to note that even after the harrowing experiences of prison and the fact of having to leave Malawi your beloved home, you continue to write, to teach, to inspire the young and old to think about issues of justice, matters of the conscience, and the greatness of Literature as a subject. I would like to say that Makerere University is proud of you and your great contribution to African Literature,” said the VC.
The Head of the Department of Literature, Dr Susan Kiguli, expressed gratitude to the African Writers’ Trust and the sponsors of the Uganda International Writers’ Conference, 2013 for enabling the Department to host Prof. Mapanje. Dr Kiguli described Prof Mapanje as a distinguished linguist, editor and scholar whose best accolade is his passion for poetry and his ability to craft it so well.