What you need to know:
- Dress Me in Disobedience. A poetry collection Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva says it screams un-culture me! Andrew Kaggwa finds out what it is all about.
There is an English saying that cautions people against judging a book by its cover. Yet, even when we are supposed to be wiser, it is hard not to judge a book by its cover. In fact, many of the books we end up loving, the relationship starts with the cover, especially if the book was not recommended.
My relationship with Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva’s second poetry collection, Dress Me in Disobedience started with the cover. This is a book by one of the best pen poets in the country, the name Beverly Nambozo always rings a bell when someone mentions poetry in Uganda not simply because she has done such an amazing job but because she has also managed to inspire others.
Thus Nambozo for many poets is not just an author but an institution, she is The Beverley Nambozo.
Yet the presentation of Dress Me in Disobedience does not seem to land as strong as the author’s name, in fact, it is easy to simply bypass the book on a shelf.
Dress Me in Disobedience is a brilliant poetry collection that is daring, witty and somehow uncomfortable. The author, with the use of short poems addresses topics from life, being a woman to morals.
The book is a work of passion for Nambozo, it brings poems she has done for years and almost with each verse, it is easy to understand her growth and longevity.
But, this also makes the book somewhat a celebration of the different voices that Nambozo has been churning out in the past. These are voices that criticise religion in poems such as The Wife of a Born-again Husband in Kampala.
The poem talks about a faithful woman that will do all in her powers to fight the things her faith considers sinful, even when she at times sees her man in compromising situations with ‘sisters’ in faith.
The poem is one of those that was recited in Silent Voices’ steller 2016 production Ga-AD. Directed by Judith Adong the production interrogated the relationships of preachers, their believers and their faith.
But this is not the only blast from the past, there are poems such as, I Baptize You With My Child’s Blood, a potential prayer a parent seems to say after a teacher struck their child, this was first published in A Thousand Voices Rising and was later shortlisted for a Poetry Foundation Ghana Prize in 2013.
Then, there is I Envy the Sky Goddess from 2015 and Un-jumping from 2010.
Between the different years the poems were published, there is a shift of purpose for the poems the author pens and tends to be deliberate as she grows older.
For instance, a poem such as Al Qaeda, published in Kwani, in 2006 or In the Restaurant published Drumvoices in 2007 seem to handle two important topics, terrorism and debauchery, yet in a perspective of when they were written, it is clear to see that there are things did not take serious then. Nambozo does not edit these poems to fit a 2021 narrative which gives us a chance of understanding the space she was in while penning the poems, something that allows us to appreciate her journey so far.
As her poems progress, she keeps becoming sharper and deliberate with her content.
Take the example of her homage to chess prodigy Phionah Muteesi, it is a celebration of a slum girl that became a world sensation on a board, yet, through different lines she intends to show the reader that Mutesi survived more than the slum to make it. She runs her pen through Uganda’s ills such as a bitter population, pollution and corruption among other things.
Then there is the title poem, Dress Me In Disobedience, it is an erotica writing that is explicitly detailed and graphic at times. Well, this is a poem any reader would interpret in ways that suit them better, for instance, she could be simply detailing a romantic moment or she could be talking about an important moment that is usually addressed in hush tones.
..Untie the knots on my belt
They are roadblocks to my sensuality
My body is a car,....
Reads part of the poem, it goes further to prove what much of the book proves and probably what we already knew about Nambozo, she has her way with words and can be expressive.
Dress Me in Disobedience, is one poem that is up for as many interpretations that anyone may conjure up in the mind after reading it.
The book falls short in some rather embarrassing ways, for instance, the editor, who in this case doubled as the author, somehow failed to find a common style while arranging the work.
For instance, you will notice that some poem titles have all words capitalised at the beginning yet others simply look like unpunctuated short sentences, this inconsistency can easily put off some grammar nazis that also happen to be big consumers of poetry.
Some poems such as the one she dedicates to Phionah Mutesi could have used a better and punchy title than what it ended up with.
The 55-page book is divided into three chapters, Blesh Gad, My Story Changed at 3am and Places I’ve Been. In the three chapters, she chooses to call books the author stays with the themes she embarks on, which makes the book an easier digest.
Dress Me in Disobedience is one of the many art projects that came into fruition in 2021 after the intervention of the Kuonyesha Art Fund through their 2021 grant.
Title: Dress Me in Disobedience
Author: Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva
Available at: Aristoc Booklex, Amazon