Harriet Anena is a poet, journalist, and farmer born and raised in northern Uganda and currently living in the capital Kampala. She is the author of ‘A Nation In Labour’ – a socially conscious poetry collection she released in 2015.
In it, she discusses labour pains – that of her home country Uganda, which though beautiful and rich, has been mired in conflict and political instability since it gained its independence in 1962.
In fact, in 2012, Uganda became the poster child for African civil conflict when Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army came to the fore through a mass international movement led by Jason Russel of Invisible Children to find and punish Kony and his army for crimes against the Ugandan people.
Anena’s work is in response: “I explore my experiences as a child who lived through the LRA insurgency in northern Uganda and the post-war period. Today, I still keenly watch how people are piecing back the torn pieces of their lives; but also the post-war challenges such as child-headed homes, land disputes, crime, alcoholism, etc.”
One of my favorite poems by her is ‘Kampala is a lover with bad breath’, where Anena discusses post-election turmoil in Uganda. She writes:
Kampala is a lover with bad breath,
Edible lips, Firm hands that know how to cup a face before a kiss
Then He’ll breathe that thing Besigye hates into your eyes
You’ll love the pearl of seven hills that dot his compound
And this bone-chilling poem titled, ‘Uganda’:
Another woman’s throat will be cut tonight, her naked body dumped in a plantation, by the roadside, in a thicket, a stick stuck in her vagina. But we’ll see no blood, hear no wail, scratch not our heads about the similarity in these murders. She’ll be number 25 or is it 26? a statistic piling up since May. We’ll hear the news from one ear, forget it from the other. Because we are busy sharpening knives to chop another limb of the national bible. We are hungry and the dead are dead. Uganda!
Anena wrote her first poem at 13 which won her a bursary to high school. Anena’s poems have been published by Prairie Schooner, Lawino Magazine, African Writers Trust, African Sun Press, Babishai Niwe Foundation, The Real G Inc, among others.
Her short stories have featured in the Caine Prize anthology 2013, Sooo Many Stories, Bookslive and Writivism, among others. In an interview, when asked, “is it possible to divorce politics from the pen?”, she responded, “for me, life is political”.
She is active on her twitter and website where she continues to discuss issues of politics and social consciousness as well as share her poetry.