Press Releases
Kwani Trust launch award-winning writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's debut novel Kintu

Press Releases

Kwani Trust launch award-winning writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's debut novel Kintu


Award-winning Ugandan writer, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will launch her debut novel Kintu in Kampala tomorrow on Wednesday, 18th June 2014. This bold and ambitious novel won the 2013 Kwani Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers. The book is the first of a series of novels coming out of the Kwani? Manuscript Project that will be published by Kwani Trust over the next two years.

On Friday 13th June, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was also announced as overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014 for, ‘Let’s Tell This Story Properly’ – beating regional winners from Singapore, the UK, Guyana and Australia.

Hailed by Doreen Baingana, author of Tropical Fish, as ‘the novel Uganda—and not just Buganda—has been waiting for’, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu weaves together multiple timelines, one that takes the reader on an adventure in the ancient kingdom of Buganda and another which navigates the realities of contemporary Uganda and its recent past.

Jamal Mahjoub, Chair of Judges for the Kwani? Manuscript Project, described Kintu as:

'An ambitious modern epic that takes in family saga and the history of Uganda, fusing the urgency of the present with the timelessness of myth.'  

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Kwani? Manuscript Project Series Editor commented:

Kintu is based on meticulous research. The book explores the complex relationship between the past and the present, the evolution of a society and the struggle one family faces as they seek to reconcile an unwelcome inheritance. It is a work of bold imagination and clear talent.’

Managing Editor of Kwani Trust Billy Kahora said: ‘The launching of Kintu is another landmark moment for Kwani Trust. This novel opens up another vista of literary content for us. For awhile Kwani? has been known for the short story form - publishing writers such as Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Mehul Gohil - and creative non-fiction with our post-elections issue. We have also been known for poetry performance through our regular Kwani Open Mic. We’ve however struggled to publish the novel form with any consistency until we announced the Kwani? Manuscript Project. Kintu is the first of six books that are part of our immediate plans to make that happen.’ He added that Kwani Trust has been working with Ugandan writers for several years - including David Kaiza, Doreen Baingana, Kalundi Serumaga - and that the production and launch of Kintu was part of Kwani Trust’s broader tradition of discovering East African stories. ‘The book is not only a great story. It is also great historical and contemporary content – something that Kwani Trust has always sought to develop – not only promote Kenya and East Africa’s literary spaces, but its untold knowledges and expressions, both past and present.’

Kintu will be launched on Wednesday 18th June, 6pm, at the National Theatre in Kampala as part of the Writivism Festival. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will read from the novel and be in conversation with writer Doreen Baingana, followed by an audience Q&A, book signing and drinks. The event, MC’d by Beverley Nambozo, will also feature poetry performances curated by FEMRITE.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will also be signing copies of Kintu at Aristoc Booklex (Garden City, Kampala) on Saturday 21st June from 10am alongside writers NoViolet Bulawayo, Zukiswa Wanner, and Nii Ayikwei Parkes.

On Sunday 29th June, 4pm, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will be in Nairobi to read from Kintu as part of Kwani Trust’s Sunday Salon. The event will take place at Kwani Trust’s offices and also feature readings from Etisalat and Man Booker prize-winning Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo and 2014 Caine Prize shortlisted Kenyan writers Billy Kahora and Okwiri Oduor.

About the Kwani? Manuscript Project
The Kwani? Manuscript Project was launched in April 2012 and called for the submission of unpublished novel manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora. The prize received over 280 qualifying submissions from 19 African countries.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu (originally submitted as The Kintu Saga) was selected as winner from a shortlist of seven by a high-profile panel of judges chaired by award-winning Sudanese novelist Jamal Mahjoub and including former Deputy Editor of Granta magazine Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, leading scholar of African literature Professor Simon Gikandi, Chairman of Kenyatta University’s Literature Department Dr. Mbugua wa Mungai, editor of Zimbabwe’s Weaver Press Irene Staunton and internationally renowned Nigerian writer Helon Habila. Kintu, was praised by the judges for its depth of vision and ambition.

2nd place was awarded to Liberia’s Saah Millimono One Day I Will Write About This War (to be published as Boy, Interrupted) and 3rd place to Kenya’s Timothy Kiprop Kimutai for The Water Spirits. Also shortlisted for the prize were Ayobami Adebayo, Ayesha Harruna Attah, Stanley Gazemba, and Toni Kan.

Kwani Trust plans to publish six novels coming out of the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2014, with Saah Millimono’s Boy, Interrupted following Kintu later this summer. Experienced editor Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, has been working closely with each of the writers to develop and fulfill the literary promise the prize identified in their writing. The Trust will also be partnering with regional and global agents and publishing houses to secure high profile international co-publication opportunities for these novels.

The Kwani? Manuscript Project has been made possible with the support of Ford Foundation, Lambent Foundation, Commonwealth Writers and Stichting Doen. The project was initiated by the Prince Claus Award to Kwani Trust in 2010.

About Kintu
In 1754, Kintu Kidda, Ppookino of Buddu Province in the kingdom of the Buganda, sets out on a journey to the capital where he is to pledge allegiance to the new kabaka of the realm. Along the way, a rash action in a moment of anger unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations.

Time passes and the nation of Uganda is born.  Through colonial occupation and the turbulent early years of independence, Kintu’s heirs survive the loss of their land, the denigration of their culture and the ravages of war. But the story of their ancestor and his twin wives Nnakato and Babirye endures. So too does the curse.

In this ambitious tale of a family and of a nation, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi skilfully weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break with the burden of their shared past and to reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future.  

The novel will be available in bookshops across Nairobi and Kampala from next week priced at Ksh 1500 / Ush 29,000 and is available to order here.

For further information, images, interviews or review copies of Kintu, please contact:

Kate Haines, Associate Editor, Kwani Trust

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Notes for editors:

  1. Established in 2003, Kwani Trust is a Kenyan based literary network dedicated to developing quality creative writing and committed to the growth of the creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing, offering training opportunities, producing literary events and establishing and maintaining global literary networks. Our vision is to create a society that uses its stories to see itself more coherently.

  1. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was born in Uganda and moved to England in 2001 to study. She now teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University where she completed her PhD.  Her work has been published by African Writing and Commonword.  Her short story ‘Let’s Tell This Story Properly’ won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014.  Kintu is her first novel and the winner of the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013. She is currently at work on her second novel.

  1. The Kwani? Manuscript Project launched in April 2012. Kwani Trust called for the submission of unpublished fiction manuscripts of between 45,000 and 120,000 words from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora.

  1. Kwani? Manuscript Project Series Editor Ellah Wakatama Allfrey is the former deputy editor of Granta magazine and began her career at Penguin before joining Jonathan Cape, Random House where she was senior editor. She currently works as a book critic, editor and broadcaster. A regular contributor to NPR, her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Observer and the Telegraph. She sits on the board of the Writers’ Centre Norwich and the arts selection panel for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre. As well as serving as deputy Chair of the Caine Prize for African Writing, she is a patron of the Etisalat Literature Prize. She has served on numerous judging panels including the David Cohen Prize, the Caine Prize for African Writing and the BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature. Her introduction to Woman of the Aeroplanes by Kojo Laing (Pearson, African Writers Series) was published in 2012. A Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Allfrey was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the publishing industry.

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