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Breaking Generational Curses: Reflecting on Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s ‘Kintu’ for Uganda Independence Day

Oct 08, 2021 02:00PM ● By Oga Africa
Kintu novel cover by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

(An image of the novel ‘Kintu’ by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Image by Novedades Biblioteca de Humanidades via Flickr )

Happy Independence Day, Uganda! This East African country gained independence on October 9th, 1962. Today we explore the riveting novel ‘Kintu’, by the exceptional Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.

Kintu tells a story of intertwined destiny, generational inheritance, and Ugandan culture and history. The book utilizes the journey of a man named Kintu, and the legacy of a curse that he has unleashed on his bloodline, to depict Ganda customs and Ugandan life from the precolonial era to the present day.

Through chronicling the lives of Kintu’s descendants, Nanaubuga Makumbi presents sub-themes of culture as both pride and confinement, tension between traditional Ganda belief systems and Christianity, the blurred line of perception between mental health disorders and spiritual sight, and indigenous Ugandan way of life versus Westernized ideals.

Nansubuga Makumbi skillfully crafted real-life events and Ganda belief systems into Kintu. Kyabaggu, an 18th century King of the country formerly known as Buganda, is depicted as a cunning, power-hungry leader who rose to the throne by violence, aiming to conquer neighboring towns. At the beginning of the novel, she describes the vicious cycle of power in traditional Ganda royal lineages, and the role of ethnocentrism in traditional Ganda society. The legacy of British colonialism and Idi Amin is also reflected in the article.

Duality is an additional theme presented through the initial matriarchs of the story, the twins and wives of Kintu, Nakato and Babirye. Babirye and Nakato, Ganda names that describe twins, hold power in Ganda society. Ganda tradition dictated that a man traditionally should marry both twins if he desired to marry one. The stark difference and interconnectedness between Nakato and Babyire, and the legacies of twins that followed in their lineages, came to represent the dichotomy between free will and destiny, and individuality and community.

Cuisine, an integral part of culture, allows readers to step into Ugandan culture. Matooke, green bananas, grow in abundance in the country, as evidenced in the novel. Matooke is a staple in Uganda, and is steamed and eaten in dishes such as peanut sauce, or fried with tomatoes and onions. Ugandan chapati, Kabalagala or Ugandan pancakes, and the fish Nile Perch are other dishes found in the novel.

Order this riveting book, and delve into Nansubuga Makumbo’s testimonial of rich culture and trials, tribulation, and triumph, here.

Works Cited

Read more about Uganda:

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