Interview with Nakisanze Segawa on her novel ‘The Triangle’


Nakisanze Segawa

Nakisanze Segawa was born in the Luwero Triangle, Uganda. She is both a fiction writer and a Luganda performance poet. Her poetry and short stories have been published by Jalada and FEMRITE. Nakisanze is a contributor to both the Daily Monitor and Global Press Journal.

A. What was your motivation in writing this novel?

N.S I always thought that Buganda has interesting stories to tell about our past, but I also thought that Kabaka Mwanga was fascinating person. He came onto the throne when he was a teen, in the mid 1800s, at a time when Buganda was experiencing fundamental change. He was faced with lots of challenges, and his responses to these challenges, changed everything, resulting into what we are today as a country. The wars, the deaths, the hopes and frustrations faced by the people of his times motivated me to write this story, The Triangle. 

A. Can you tell me about some of your first thoughts on how you wanted to tell the story?

N.S Initially I wanted to tell the story from a woman’s perspective. Only a woman’s perspective because in Buganda’s history no one talks about the women, the wives of these Kings in the kingdom and how powerful and influential some of them were to their husbands. I felt this was something I could explore because women are very significant in every narrative of each society, and our tradition somehow recognises that when it clearly emphases that a king belongs to his mother’s clan and not his fathers. So my first thoughts were to have Nagawa tell Mwanga’s story, but the challenge of having nothing said about his wives in all the research texts I came across guided me into having two more characters to tell Mwanga’s story, and I am glad I did so.

A. What was the most challenging aspect of writing it?

N.S Researching, because there are texts I could not access them easily. I could not access the elders to tell me our oral histories as I had thought initially. Some of the written texts tend to contradict each other, even texts written by those who knew Kabaka Mwanga, people who talked to him. The missionaries wrote that he was gay for example…but Sir Appolo Kagwa, one of the pages in the palace wrote that Mwanga wasn’t gay and that he, Kagwa had never heard of such a thing and yet when I spoke to some of the people who know Sir Appolo Kagwa’s family, they told me that actually he was a lover of Mwanga…So the more I researched the more I got confused. But I had to choose what to take as factual and what not to believe…But again there are stories that connected in the different narratives that helped me decide what to incorporate in the work.

A. How did you decide what to put in and what to leave out?

N.S  Things that seemed factual to me, things that I could relate to I decided to keep. Also some of the things that didn’t contradict each other, as everyone knows that Mwanga was a teenager between sixteen and eighteen years old therefore I decided to go with that. Some tell you he was gay others say he wasn’t but in my interpretation I chose to make him bi-sexual. I also got advice from friends of mine and other writers like Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi to decide on what to include in the text, sharing my work helped me in the editing process on deciding what should stay in the narrative and what should not.

A. If you could go back in time and be any historical figure from any time or place, who would you be and why?

N.S There is this woman called Nabulya. She was a King of Buganda at one time, but somehow common history distorts that. History tends to distort women’s contributions, history tries to deny it, but Buganda did have a female Kabaka. It was during Buganda’s expansion during the reign of a king called Nakibinge who had many wives. History has it that when Buganda was small under Kabaka Nakibinge it was constantly under attack from Bunyoro and other kingdoms , he was basically losing his territory. So he asked his intelligent, childless wife, Nabulya for advice. She told him to seek help from Kibuka, the God of War, who lived on Ssese island. Kibuka had supernatural power that would help defeat the other kingdoms . Nakibinge listened to her, and Kibuka fought for Buganda. Legend has it that Kibuka hid in the clouds and would throw spears at the enemy without them seeing where he was. During these ongoing wars Nabulya miraculously became pregnant. She went to battle with Nakibinge while pregnant. But the King, Kabaka Nakibinge was killed. His able sons had also been killed or dispersed due to the war so the Lukiiko( Buganda Parliament) decided to make her Kabaka until she gave birth, hoping that she would give birth to a boy who would become king. But she didn’t. She gave birth to a girl and that’s where the story ends, but she was a Kabaka for a short time. That is the one person I would have wanted to be.

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