The birth of Community Micro Libraries
By Sophie Alal
September 21st was a gloriously sunny morning in Gulu. It had rained heavily the previous evening, and storm clouds continued to threaten the signing of an agreement between United Youth Entertainment and Deyu African. The conclusion of the agreement later in the afternoon gave UYE stewardship of books donated by Deyu African.
On 16th September, children’s books were given to the community of Paibona Te Tugu. Wokorach Walter and his wife Everlin Lakot were pleased to host a micro library in their house.
Since Everlin is the mother of the house, she shall be in charge of the books. Walter was fine with the arrangement. After the evening meal, when every one was assembled at the Wang Oo or fireside, he said to his children and their friends, “You must read a lot if you want to have a good life. Your parent’s have already spent much on your education, but it is up to you to read seriously.”
Literacy is only effective when reading materials are available. For now, most manuscripts remain unpublished yet a considerable amount of work continues to be generated by local authors. Writers are rummaging through memory, and dreaming boldly too; producing mostly poetry, a few plays, and fiction.
“Locally authored books evoke nostalgia for the good old days when literary icons like Okot P’ Bitek, JP Ociti and Ukidi Lumedo, were releasing books.” says Ikeda James, a retired school teacher born in 1933.
At the Never Heard II, an evening of reading held on June 7th at TAKS centre, Justice and Reconciliation Project’s Nancy Apio led a story telling session. She also distributed copies of Adyebo, an anthology of short stories by women who had returned from captivity in the Lord’s Resistance Army. It candidly captured personal challenges faced by young mothers and their resilience in overcoming obstacles to the attainment of their liberty.
Ketty Lamwaka, who is described by her friend Omagor L’Emurot as, “soft spoken and very reserved,” read her short story Once Upon a Time in Atiak, which examines recent atrocities. Xera recited There was a Time, which was an appeal to remember happier times in Acholiland.
“Recently Ukidi Lumedo published a book on Te Kwaro Acholi (Acholi traditions). It sold out as soon as it was in the shops. Unfortunately it is out of print.” Ikdeda says.
It is also hoped that the proliferation of books from all over the world can inspire a critical mass of readers who can contribute to world culture. How right P’Bitek was in Africa’s Cultural Revolution (1973), when he counseled, “Africa must re-examine herself critically. She must discover her true self, and rid herself of all ‘apemanship.’”
Isaac Newton Ojok, author of The Talkative Man in Gulu says, “Reading books gives one bundles of knowledge about their heritage and bits of wisdom from the past. In this contemporary world, many things from the past are being lost, but reading historical books takes us back in time; so we know our history.”
Reflecting on the Never Heard II Isaac adds, “In one of my poems, Time in Africa, I said we may not be able to go back to our roots, but knowing our beginnings and greatness can shape our future.”
Sandra Aol, a poet affiliated to United Youth Entertainment says that the books donated by Deyu African shall definitely contribute to her writing. “I haven’t seen the books yet, but I know that reading them will improve my grammar. The novels shall also inform me about certain things that I am unaware of. ”
With Community Micro Libraries, Deyu African hopes to relieve the chronic shortage of books, and inspire the next generation of writers to publish work of high quality. It is best we start now.
Wang Oo. Literal translation is eye of the warmth of fire.