Contestations through same-sex desire in Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu

Authored by: Edgar F. Nabutanyi

Routledge Handbook of African Literature

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN:
eBook ISBN: 9781315229546
Adobe ISBN:


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Twenty-five years after the publication of Moses Isegawa’s Abyssinian Chronicles – a novel that deploys a child narrator to expose the Ugandan postcolonial legacy of violence and dictatorship – in 1989, it can be argued that a successor to the category national Ugandan novel was published: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu. While there are many points of divergence between Isegawa’s and Makumbi’s novels, the thread that connects them is the authors’ expressed ambition to craft a Ugandan national tale. 1 Abyssinian Chronicles explores how Uganda’s postcolonial heritage of political violence is mobilised to affirm the idea of a Ugandan patriarchal and heterosexual postcolonial nation. Kintu interrogates these heteronormative foundational myths in which the depicted nation is anchored, creating what Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire has called an expansive and ‘contemporaneous postnation’ (2018a: 113). By the author’s own confession, Kintu:

flowed out of a desire to give Ugandans a taste of their own long and complicated history, to do for Ugandans something like what Chinua Achebe’s novels did for Nigerians in the 1960s: to make them look at a hill for example, and know that Gandas 2 have been climbing it for centuries. The goal was to remind Ugandans that Uganda’s history did not begin in 1962.

(Underwood 2017; Bady 2017) Makumbi’s reference to Achebe in the interview quoted above, and her intertextual mirroring of Things Fall Apart in Kintu, underlines the fact that she sees herself in the Achebean role of the ‘novelist as a teacher’ or what Wale Adebanwi calls a ‘writer-social thinker’. As a ‘novelist-teacher’ (Achebe 1964) or ‘writer-social thinker’ (Adebanwi 2014), Makumbi distils profound insights about the Ugandan nation, as many analysts of the texts have already demonstrated.

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