Skip to main content

The Bakiga Window: On Any Given Day...

The view from the step of the Royal Supermarket, Kabale.
On any given day, the main street through Kabale loudly plays its song. The rumbling of trucks’ tyres provides the beat, their engines the bass. Over this the boda-bodas provides a dissonant scream of a melody. Occasionally solo riffs are mixed in and out by a people asking, ‘osiibire gye’ and ‘agandi’.

It is Thursday 14th April and I am on the covered porch area of the Royal Supermarket in the middle of Kabale town – a kind of focal point for Bazungu resting on the Ntungamo-Kisoro road.

The man in charge of the shop, Bunty, is an Indian. His little brother having been raised most of his life here regularly switches between Rukiga, Punjabi and English, much to the relief of the high number of customers who frequent the store.

At this store Bazungu come in all varieties, much like the flavours of juice. You can choose, English, Irish, American, German, Dutch and even Slovenian. They shuffle in, give a 'knowing glance' to any other bazungu in the shop, buy their goods and shuffle out again. They make me laugh and swear under my breath in equal measure as my instinct is always to be suspicious of people's motives - doubtless they may think the same as me.

Regardless of the little white dots who pass in and out, punctuating the vivid colour of Kabale, the Royal Supermarket is a great vantage point for watching people go about their business. As I sit here I see a dad on boda-boda laden with shopping and a couple of primary school-age children. I see two noisy and glamorous Orange mobile saleswomen talking about everything but mobile phones. I also see some familiar faces of street children nibbling at a raw cabbage.

The beauty of life here is the vibrancy of the people. The cadences in people's voices as they greet each other in Rukiga - a sound a lot more melodic than English spoken by Englishmen and women. The colours of their clothes. The beautiful postures of people walking to or from work.

I could sit and watch this show quite happily until the sun goes down.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…

Atay Maghrebi: Out of the Dark and into Jemaa El-Fnaa

The night time offers a wealth of opportunity and intrigue in almost any country, but when I'm somewhere where my understanding of the language extends to just a handful of phrases and disconnected words, I find it all the more enthralling. Marrakech genuinely quickens the pulse and widens the eyes by night, with the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa as its wildly arrhythmic beating heart.

After a day of perfectly idle wandering and preparing for my journey to Essaouira, I sat up on the roof terrace, ordered atay, read the ending of Alex Garland’s The Beach and waited for sunset.

During this time, a Dutch woman and a Belgian man sat near to me and started to talk about a range of subjects. Most of their discussion was centred around the regular banalities of two travellers who don’t know each other well and clearly don’t have a great deal in common.
Shortly before sunset, the Belgian man caught my attention as he started to regale his newfound friend with quotes from the Quran taken both ou…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called