Title: Pumpkin Seeds and Other Gifts
Authors: Women writers across Africa
Reviewer: Dennis Muhumuza
Pumpkin Seeds and Other Gifts is a collection of 29 short stories and poems from women writers carefully selected from across Africa. It is fruit harvested from the first ever FEMRITE Regional Writers Residency in Kampala in 2008.
The Residency united women writers from Zimbabwe, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Indeed, their diversification is felt in this 2009 collection. As the editor of the anthology, Helen Moffet, observes in the forward, “There was an excellent mix of youth and maturity, energy and experience, optimism and wisdom.”
The title story is written by Femrite Cordinator, Hilda Twongyeirwe, and is about a bride who is shocked on her wedding night when she is snatched from the sweetness of her sleep and forced to plant a single pumpkin seed with the logic that its ability or failure to germinate will determine her productivity or unworthiness as a woman. It’s a powerful story that captures how we are still steeped in traditions that continue to give us a dislocation as to what is real or workable in this day and age.
In 132 pages, these women authors convincingly take the reader into the varied African cultures and as part of the blurb reads, “They tell their stories in different modes; they tell of defiance, and spin hilarious tales of elopement and wry tales of despair, loss and lovelessness.
“Some of the poems lift up the heart and others peel back the blinkers that blind our eyes. There is the romantic, the macabre and the surreal. The writings never leave your indifferent – you are likely to take sides, to get angry, to laugh, to cry and to think of a lot that goes on inside the human heart.”
This is overall a kind of treasure you will want to take along with you on a journey, or cuddle on the sofa and read in the beauty of solitude, or even read aloud to your children around the fireplace. Get yourself a copy.