CELEBRATING MY 10 YEARS OF RIOTING IN WRITING AND FIGHTING BY WRITING…
This magical date 04-04-04 (April 4, 2004) marks the day of my first published article and makes me enter a permanent date with public writing. That’s the day I sent off my maiden article, which set off a column entitled “Master Tale-teller” on the 18th page of The Sudan Mirror Newspaper (RIP!). Thereby, I hereby post this piece of reminiscence on 04-04-14… Hallelujah!
My other important dates to observe on this 10th anniversary are March 22, 2004 (job application date) and March 24, 2004 (interview and appointment date) with The Sudan Mirror, which officially recognized me as a media student-cum-practitioner. I celebrated that day on Monday, March 24, 2014, in an African Media Forum on South Sudan Conflict co-hosted by Foreign Correspondents Association and Crisis Action in Nairobi, Kenya. By coincidence, it was the 10th anniversary of the host, Crisis Action. I felt my head so high when I heard Beatrice Karanja (BBC Correspondent in Kenya) surprisingly announcing this double anniversary to the rest of the explosively applauding hall. I was one of the 7 journalist panelists, with the privilege to summarize all the presentations of the veteran scribes, media and legal experts in Africa. Why am I blowing this own trumpet? I am on a triumphal journey…! I was on my USTASS (United Scribes, Teachers and Artists on Sustainable Skills) ticket. http://www.ustass.org
My writing is divided into two ‘eras of errors’ and categories. From 2004 to 2008, that was local media engagement (The Sudan Mirror, The Radio Nile, The Southern Eye, The Star, The You’nique Mega’zine, etc.). From 2008 to 2014, it is social media and then some practices on ‘glocal and global media’. Glocal means I am writing home from the global angle (exile). So why did I, first of all, enter the social media before telling you why I left for exile?
Since the assassination of Isaiah Abraham on December 5, 2012, I have been locked up in a Confucius sort of confusion by my leaders and my readders. The former want me to ‘Stop Writing’, the later want me to ‘Start Writing’. So whom should I dis/obey? Simply, the answer, like their opinion, is divided into two; but was tackled in my previous articles published elsewhere and now reblogged here to give my best answer. The strategy of answering these questions (call them cautions) in ‘the past tense’ is in such a way that I am not influenced by ‘the present tense’, the current situation I am in!
(You know things are wrong, you want to set them right; but when you speak, they say your tongue is loose; if on the other hand you join in cheering the naked king, they will reward you for your produce; thus multiplies the enemies of the people by complicity and duplicity: why was this curse ever inflicted on us? And by whom?)
Taban Lo Liyong, Rite of Entry: 17 Curses for Modern Jubans, Culture is Rutan, Juba (1981).
Having quoted Taban lo Liyong above, this is why I dived in a literary and literal style.
First, I had to quite editing and dived into the internet as a means of escaping persecution. So when I started blogging five years ago, I mean to hide my works from being seen by the authority. But 5 years later, I found myself being seen more widely on the social media than I was in the local media. This irony is highlighted in a German media development organization in 2012 thus:
““…small group of people who experiment with digital media in South Sudan. When these “rucksack reporters” started out, they often squatted in the bar in hotels like the Juba Grand because they provided reliable access to electricity. Quaint as this sounds, the impact they had was profound: de Ngong has received death threats because of his writing.
“The hotel eventually proved hostile and management there removed wall sockets to prevent the bloggers from hanging around. This is why those working in South Sudan’s digital media eventually founded the Association of Facebook, Twittersphere and Blogosphere Operators of South Sudan (or AFTABOSS Internet’ional), which intends to pool members’ resources to provide reliable internet access and electricity.http://aftaboss.wordpress.com/about/
Much hope for the future of new media in South Sudan rests on this example of grassroots collaboration. If others follow the example of de Ngong and AFTABOSS, it is likely that blogging and citizen journalism will continue to become more established in South Sudan.”
Media and Makers 2012: http://mict-international.org/images/m&m_20130430_lores.pdf
“Are you aware that you are the next? You and Maal Maker!” And then another rumour bomb from my close relative popped up on my phone, “We told you the first time you were kidnapped and you didn’t understand. Now will you not leave your writing again?”
Now, if South Sudanese writers stop writing, Egyptian rioters will not stop rioting; and we shall swallow the dust – and wallow in the dusk – of shame and cowardice brought for the first time against the Nile current by Monsoon wind of change from the Arab Springs.
Remember, this is the month of Christmas and we must celebrate this year’s Christ’s Mass with freedom, freedom of expression. But then, if at all it is turned into freedom of explosion, then I have my ticket to Egypt, and remain writing and rioting in my sleep there till the Angel tells me, “Wake up John, take the ‘baby’ back to the Promised Land, for the people who wanted to kill the baby nation are now gone”.
In case you fail to understand the parable, at least you will believe the Bible that Jesus was the first officially documented refugee to Africa in our present day Anno Domino (AD) calendar. However, I am not ready to escape even if I am made a scapegoat. This is South Sudan unlimited, not a South Sudan Ltd. as some fellow citizens and their friends believe they have the patent right to it. I, too, have her share of right, the right one: potent right, the right to write, the right to riot, the right to rise, and the right to do everything documented and undocumented in our Bible of Governance (Constitution).
Therefore, I bless my brothers and sisters who are giving me cautions, but blast my sinister browsers, who are prophesying Hells and Hades in the following literary traffic from our country of Cyberia. https://weakleak.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/tearz-ayuen-penn-de-ngong-maal-maker-are-next-on-the-hit-list-say-prophets-of-doom/
My motivation for writing…
This is contained in an appreciation-cum-application letter I wrote to Dan Callery to continue sponsoring my secondary education through the A-Level. This full later can be found on my early school memoirs dedicated to Daniel Callery in the title of: The Callery Gallery.
“…I am so grateful for being my second father. For this and other reasons, I therefore promise not to break any school rule or commit any crime, except one. Our Gulu High School library here is full of books, many books. And I want to steal them, thousands of them; and smuggle them to the other side of the border — NOT ON BUT IN MY HEAD…!”
Goal and Objectives…
Having won favour from Daniel Callery and successfully completed my secondary education not only by Ordinary Level in Gulu High but also Advanced Level at Caltec Academy, Makerere, Kampala, I now set my vision and objectives and hit the literary highway. The road crossed the border from Uganda to Kenya…
On March 22, 2014, I applied for an in-service journalism course through Sudan Development Trust, Publishers of The Sudan Mirror under Dan Eiffe, was was accepted. On March 24, 2004, I joined my class/job. The first humour article entitled, “How a Dog Laughed his Lips Backward…” was published by my editor, John Gachie on April 14, 2014.
So why did I joined journalism? No, I didn’t join journalism, I joined writing, now activism. And the objectives for achieving the crime I wrote to my sponsor about, above (Stealing Hundreds of Books to the Other side of the Border not on but in my Head) were as follows:
1- To train myself how to write through daily newspaper articles and assignment with The Sudan Mirror.
2- To deposit my name and build it in the public in preparation for my future business i.e. writing/publishing books.
3- To harvest enough wealth of knowledge and experience about South Sudan, especially from the outgoing war, which is a huge source of raw materials for writing business.
4- To get a job and earn money for my university education at Makerere.
All these were achieved (writing practice, making a name, accumulating knowledge/experience, and getting money for my university fees), accept publishing, which is a process. Having done that, the next move was to take up a relevant course, and that was BA. Education (English and Literature) at Makerere University. I did it for two years but was cut short by my personal insecurity, a separate story to be revisited on Easter Monday this week.
Though, I did not graduate, I do not miss anything in terms of writing my own books, but still missing the university ‘rank’. This will be done this year, having missed it again last year due to such upheavals.
OBJECTIVES FOR THE NEXT DECADE
Now, degree or no degree, I have made my literary decree to publish books. This is well laid out in the Preface of ‘The Black Christs of Africa’, thus:
This, among others, being the case, I retorted no more on punishing myself with psychologies and resorted once more to publishing by self with apologies, but not without a little go-ahead-boy sort of back-patting from Prof. Taban Lo Liyong. Lo, we go…!
(Dear John Penn, he wrote, one way of publishing is self-publishing. That is, if no publisher has accepted to publish your book as part of their publishing business. You prepare your manuscript by yourself and they print it as they receive it. In this case, you pay for the printing to a printer. And then please – he advised – check what your manuscript looks like; and who your publishers or printers are. If they want you to pay, then you may not yet be ready to be received among writers. Then call it juvenilia. And write another with greater skill. Which comes out of reading, much reading. Young ‘nephew’, youth is on your side. When a real publisher of books has accepted your manuscript, then ask them to request me for a foreword.)
“However, what I found out during my six years of a hide-and-seek game with a ‘real publisher of books’ was but a real publisher of names; of names of those who have already published books. Since I did not have any name yet, to be published and sold, I just landed on a printer handy, a real publisher of words. In the truest sense of the word, this is the real publisher of books; one who looks at the book of a writer and not the writer of a book.
Therefore, if I were a president of the ‘Republic of Literature’, I would make that a ‘Republican Decree’ to publish not the literary pedigree but the literary degree in every manuscript.
“Lo, we go…!
Let note not be taken for granted that printing bureaucracy is the only hindrance to writing democracy. There is the Side B of this injustice—funding. It took me barely five years hunting for 5,000 dollars to print this work as it takes my fertile-ground colleague merely five months to bag 500,000 dollars to buy a hummer and another hot car and fly to Palm Island in Dubai, and also do buy there for vacation with a girlfriend. One lunch time in a Juba restaurant, I eavesdropped one of such characters audibly broadcasting without self-restraint, “Ya zol, they want 5,000 dollars for the tyre and repair of my hummer!” This poked me to jerk my head violently and mumble to myself silently,
“Oh my God! That exactly is what they want for 3,000 copies of my poetry.”
In the process of building the nation, the Phase II of our liberation struggle, I compared the values, in terms of public consumption, of his rubber wheel in the vehicle with that of my rougher will in the book and just bled in the heart. Where really do they get this money? With this question, I was consciously poised by another question a friend posed to me, “Where really do you get all these words?” He wondered of about or above 77,000 words in this single-authored anthology. Of course, there is no twofold gift; literal wealth and literary wealth cannot knock at one’s door hand-in-hand, one must usher in the other.
“Lo, we go…!
As if that is not enough, this is another reason of my fighting by writing from the same Preface…..
“Un/fortunately, I may not have the right adjective but I have the right objective, I may not have the right verb but I have the right verve, I may not have the right grammar but I have the right drama, or I may not have the right synergy, but I have the right energy to exploit in the quest, as in the request, for my eventual ride to intellectual rite; the right to write. For this and other reasons, I beg not to be accused but excused in the process of cyclically eating myself or psychologically easing myself into this book of my mental debris accumulated undistracted during the Sudanese protracted war of more than two decades of decadence.”
In conclusion, the book also does it better than I could create more fine sentence here:
“To Mr. Aluetluet*, Chinua Achebe reaffirms in his Anthills of the Savannah, “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches.” If so, then I shall have achieved the main aim of this wordware: written to hurt; to give heartaches and headaches to whom it may concern! Ironically, it can also give heart ‘eggs’ to whom it may console. Since my work does my readers both service and disservice as much as such, if one discerns what concerns one herein, one must employ one’s sixth sense.
“That a friend once gave me compliment in complaint of my being complex, so is my work: complex in the sense that no single theme is addressed in it, and complex in that no simple title could befit me. So if asked, I am not only a poet or a musician, I am a poemusician, and not a politician but a poetician as far as socio-poetry is concerned. Therefore, my critique as a critic through the spectacles of a journalist and a columnist, a preacher and a teacher, an artist and an artiste, an activist and an actor, a rector and a director, a blogger and a broker, has revealed to me one principle: to pamper the boiling ego of a politician, flatter him orally; to tamper with it, clatter him morally. Either – but the latter – is well catered for in this book. This is to let you watch out lest they wash you out by their rapid motions of their rabid emotions!
“It is also my belief that politicians are poly-teachers. They reach out as if to teach how…as you yearn, but if from them you do not learn, they from you do now earn. That is why I have stopped relying on their lying and promised Jon Pen de Ngong, my inner man, “Until it won’t work out, still I won’t walk out.” Lo, we go…!
And, though, we go, the journey for the next 10 years of my writing target begins here. The last 10 years (14-04-04 to 14-04-14) were marked by my column title, Mr. Tale-Teller, but the next 10 years would be marked by another but semi-similar title, ‘Master Text Collector’. Click this link and find out what Master Text Collector, unlike Master Tale-Teller, is going to do…