Footsteps of the Kakalabanda: The poetry of fables, love and more


What you need to know:

  • Title: “Footsteps of the kakalabanda”
  • Author: Ronald K Ssekajja  
  • Pages: 70
  • Price: Shs70,000 
  • Where: Most bookshops in Kampala.

The literary offering “Footsteps of the Kakalabanda” by Ronald K Ssekajja is a book of haunting poetry, which has little to do with ghouls and ghosts. 

It is actually themed on love, betrayal, pain, politics and Africanism with the word “Kakalabanda” being used as a metaphor for the author’s rendering of these themes. 

The anthology’s poetic proceedings begin with the poem; I am going to smoke a joint:
“I will today smoke something!

To feel nice; walk on the solid clouds just below heaven sip on the cup of life that is non-existent, and while I am high.

I will at least forget the bad economy, the bad roads, and the bad governance of this country…”
The persona’s diction runs on a subversive momentum as each word stumbles to the next with the confidence of a dope-addled mind. 

As with all inebriety, it starts off light-heartedly. Then the poem takes on a different, less playful and more serious tone.  

The image of weed and the persona’s longing to get “high” becomes subject to a complex combination of innocence and insightful twists of mind.

What we thought was possibly parody (of the persona) now leads to short, staccato condemnations of the socio-political and economic realities in Uganda. 

These condemnations take on the primary colours of denunciation in the poem entitled: Uganda, Ever Falling Short:

“Uganda has run short of able-bodied leaders
Perhaps because the country is short of full-minded voters
Or largely…

Because we ran short of the cores of humanity

Got filled with greed, corruption and self-destruction…”

The use of ellipsis (a set of dots after the words “or largely” in the third line) helps the persona leap from one rhetorical bounding to the next. 

After such weighty verse, Ssekajja switches lanes and decides to detour into lighter verse. This is captured in the poem, Me, My Youth & Girls (part 2):
“My female pursuers were attractive to no end.
Well you didn’t believe but I ignored them, 
And they noted and waited. 
Well while I thought I had gone through it all;
They launched their massive attack
Hawking their gorgeousness in my eyes like articles on discount
Crossing my proximity with pure provocation
As they questioned my manhood with the words:
“You can only watch, what more can you do??”

This verse might not be everyone’s pigeon, so to speak, but it effectively takes flight with fun and levity. 
However, as a matter of criticism, one must ask: how did he “ignore” these females and notice their “gorgeousness” and “pure provocation” at the same time? 

Somebody who was not paying them any mind wouldn’t have noticed their stated allure. Beyond the literary inconsistencies, the poet, or the persona, was either shy or simply “slow”. 

On balance, though, Ssekajja has written a highly readable collection of poems which will make you think and laugh. Sometimes, they might even make you cry. 

Each poem is crafted to communicate a sense of disenchantment, disappointment as each word distils hope with a strong dose of possibility. 

Again, adding more punch to his poetry, Ssekajja’s straightforward words are blended with a lack of straightforwardness found in the poet’s subtle use of imagery. 

His use of nouns is mixed with pronouns to make sure he says the same thing while separating what he means from what he is actually saying. 
To be sure, his words are exceedingly accessible and so his meaning. 

Then, just when you think you have him figured out, Ssekajja flips the script to obscure his diction in order to capture the mystical nature of the Kakalabanda.