“Kalinda could sense Kabaka Mwanga, who sat on a chair in front of the crowd frowning, probably burning inside. Before the match, the Kabaka had been soft and sweet when saying the encouraging words to Kalinda, ‘‘I want you to win that cow. I want to watch you push that man’s head onto the ground.’’ Kalinda had wanted to hug the Kabaka in gratitude. But he knew he dare not. No one hugged the Kabaka, not even his own mother, at least not in the sight of everyone. Mwanga’s face, graced with a budding beard and wide-eyes that softly talked when the two were together, was now a picture of concentration. There was no way he was letting the Kabaka down.”
Buganda, 1885. A monarchic society with a sophisticated culture, strict rules, and a complex hierarchy.
In the proximity of the royal palace of the Kabaka (or king) Mwanga, three characters see their lives intertwined: Kalinda, one of his pages, Nagawa, his second wife, and Reverend Clement MacDonald, an Anglican missionary in Buganda.
Mwanga’s life is woven little by little through this triangle of characters, and is also opening up to the bigger picture of the late 19th century Buganda: a period of religious tensions, of competition for power and of foreign domination ahead. The three stories offer different facets of the king’s life and the way Mwanga is depicted, and with him, the whole country, is more the result of a mirroring effect through other people’ eyes; the royal family, the pages, the villagers, the foreigners, all bring their contribution to the narrative.
Nakisanze Segawa’s novel is written with a sharp sense of observation and in a fluid, transparent language that transports the reader back to the time and place of the plot.
A novel in which feminine figures like Nagawa give meaning to the notion of home on the eve of the bloody religious conflicts of 1886-1889 and dare live their own secret lives.
A novel combining elements of fictional biography, saga and history book, rich with details and true to life.
The Triangle by Nakisanze Segawa
978-9970958108 / National Library of Uganda (August 24, 2017)
Review by Ioana Danaila
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English to high school students in France.