Juliet Lubega


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My ancestral home

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The drops of rain hit my window on this cold and dark January morning. I long for them to clear the snow which had been falling over the last few days. I turn to face the wall thinking of the summer months, hot, like in the land of my ancestors. It was the home of my grand father, where my father grew up and, I was born there in 1964.

The elegant banana trees tower below the sky, and their ever dark green leaves spread out like cobwebs. They shield the drying beans, wrapped in their shrinking pods from the scorching sun at this time of year. They protect the secrets of a family too. It is the final resting place of our fallen.

Some graves are un- marked; others are names with stories told by those who met them. In my mind, I can touch the faces of my three sisters while I walk through the plantation. Their laughter echoes through my ears. The good and sad times we shared are memories I hold on to in my sleep.

I shut my eyes and stop to greet Alice, the youngest. Eighteen years was too soon to go. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. Where would she be living? What would be her job? Would she be married? What about her children? It wasn’t to be.

I arrive at the tall palm tree. I know it is the place where our house used to be. I sat here playing with my dolls made of dry banana stems, ebyayi, their square heads without hair or eyes, with straight arms and no legs. I was oblivious to the world I now live in, where they walk and talk.

My mother was usually seated yards away, and often glanced her watchful eyes over my play. Weaving her bright coloured wool thread into patterns of artistic crotchet, her hands moved in rhythmical strides.

Whilst I lie in bed, thousands of miles away, across the seas and no earth road besides a matooke plantation. My ancestral home, Bubango village is forever in my heart.

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2017)

 

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It is 7 pm in Uganda

Around 7pm it was getting dark and the temperatures plummeting. I was sitting outside trying to keep warm in front on the burning charcoal stove. My son sat next to me observing how my niece was cooking sauce in a pan over the hostile flames.
The chicken appeared from the corner of the house walking towards us. He jumped up from his stool.
“Sit down” I told him.
“The chicken is coming” he replied.
“It just needs to pass to go to bed” I said.
“Where is it its bed?” he asked
“In the indoor kitchen” I replied.
“Do they all have beds?” he asked.
“Yes, at 7 pm every day, they all stop running around and go home?” I replied.
I explained that every chicken is trained by its owner to know its home. When we brought this one from the village, it was tied using a banana fibre by one leg, to a post near the house for 3 days to enable it to learn its surroundings. Then it was let to run freely around the neighbourhood during the day, pecking for food.
“When you see the chicken coming home, then you know it is 7 pm” I told him.
He looked at me in astonishment.
“Do you mean all the chicken know their homes?” He asked
“Yes they do” I replied.
He remained standing looking at the chicken as it walked past us; its head straight ahead towards the door, gliding like a ship on water, it went through two entrances and passed all the shopping we had brought earlier and settled down in its corner in the kitchen for the night.
My son shortly went in the kitchen to see if it was there. He came back with a big smile on his face.
“It will wake up at dawn” I told him.
“How will it get out of the house?” he asked
I explained to him that it will walk up to this back door, where it will wait and may crow or make chuckling noises until someone wakes up to let it out of the house for

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2016)

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Being a baked bean-what next?

I couldn’t see who was below or above me for it was dark. I then heard a cranky noise above, in slow and swift motion. One, two, three, four, I counted in my head as it became louder and louder with each turn. Slowly and steadily the light appeared. I could see a solid piece of metal with a sharp end piercing the roof top. A hairy hand with contoured wrinkles and large solid fingers gripped the two metal rods. I started to smell fried bacon. As the top lifted the sizzle of the fry became more audible.
I felt frightened of what was to come once I was out of this tin.”You cannot trust humans” I murmured. I mulled over all options. I could end up in a pan next to that bacon feeling hot or in a bowl in the fridge freezing. Either way I will be eaten, if not today, tomorrow or the day after. I preferred that to being wasted as a left over or a rot and thrown away in the garbage among strangers.
I felt the tin lift off the bottom and swing in the air. The grip around it felt heavy, it turned the tin into a slant and I looked on as my mates were rapidly being poured onto a plate next to the steamy bacon. Just as my turn came and I was thinking “this is it, I am for eating” the tin was turned to pour into a plastic bowl.
I had a glimpse of my master, a man with a beard and moustache. He had deep set brown eyes and his hair looked scruffy. He smelt fresh like he was just out the shower. I looked into his eyes pleading for mercy but deep down I knew I had no choice; my fate was in his hands.
I glanced sideways and through the bowl and saw the tin, my previous home; ‘Heinz Beanz’, the bold white letters standing against a black and turquoise blue backdrop. I wished I was back in there, safe in the darkness.

 

©Juliet.Lubega (unpublished 2014


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Grand Father’s legacy

Whether you met him or not you can feel him, smell him and touch him. His influence never fades.
Grandfather died in 1968, in his 90s.His final resting place is below these beautiful banana leaves spreading out like butterflies.
This Mutuba tree represents everything he stood for; a humble village man who planted lots of such trees, harvested their back by wrapping fresh banana leaves , beat them with wooden mallets into bark cloth to sell for a living.
I felt immensely proud of my grandfather to find history repeating itself when I visited this plantation, my ancestral ground at Bubango Village in Rakai District in March 2014
A young Mutuba tree being harvested in the same way he did nearly 100 years ago.

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©Juliet.Lubega (unpublished 2014)


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The Promise

The wind blows, the memories raise
The waves swing right into my heart
My teenage dream begins to shine

I never believed the words he said
A promise which was beyond his years
I left the land without a word

Beyond the seas I started to doubt
Day and night, the years rolled by
I never forgot the promise he made

I often wondered what it will be like
To share the dream close by his side
And close my eyes next to his warmth

Among the palm trees now I stand
The waves swing beyond the skyline
They hit the beach just like his touch
Then I recall the day we met
The giggles of our teenage years

The memories feel fresh like the wind
Now I know that he was right
About the promise he made with love
To stand by me whatever it takes.

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2014)


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Sezibwa Falls, Uganda -The hidden treasure

From an unassuming right turn off Jinja Road, we drove into an earth (murram) road flanked by sugar cane spread out like a thick green blanket. Behind the sugar plantation we took a left down a steep hill onto a dead end. In the right hand corner is this spread of beauty.

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We arrived to a peaceful and quiet and relaxing atmosphere with beautiful gardens. The still atmosphere interrupted by the sound of the falling waters.

 Water particles filled the air adding freshness to the surrounding ancient trees.

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  Surrounded in mystery and bound by tradition Sezibwa Falls is Uganda’s hidden treasure. This breathtaking water spectacle falls over 7 meters over steep sharp rocks forming a small lake below.

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 River Sezibwa continues its journey to Lake Kyoga in central Uganda; it is merely a trickle of stream with a visible river bed at this point

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 This beautiful enclosure is owned by the Kingdom of Buganda.It is a  tourist attraction but of cultural significance to the Kings(Kabaka) and chiefs of the Kingdom.

The tree behind the shelter was planted by Kabaka Mwanga in the 1800s

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Mutuba tree, you make me proud

Mutuba tree, you make me proud to be a Ugandan

Your elegant silver stem protects the

Ancient history of a nation

The traditional harvesting of your inner bark makes

The sacred fabric, bark cloth, that

Defines  the spirit of the Buganda Kingdom.

 

No  machines and no weaving

Just simple beating with wooden mallets

Stretching and sun drying

The practice has been around for centuries.

And still defies the modern process of cloth making

 

In all shades of brown, light and dark

The bark cloth unites us

From Royal attire to street fashion

Normal garments, burial sheets and precious works of art

It defines  the identity of  the  kindred

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Mutuba tree, the  mother of the bark cloth

You make me proud to be Ugandan

 

Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2013)

 

**This is dedicated to my late grandfather who was a bark cloth maker by trade.He planted these trees at our ancestral ground,Bubango Village,Rakai District in Southern Uganda. Jajja we miss your wooden mallets.