The Stray Bulletin

Arts and culture in East Africa and beyond

As A Muslim Feminist February 1, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 9:17 am

Solidarity with our Muslim feminist sisters.

Freedom from the Forbidden

Image 1 feminismI have been a feminist ever since I began to engage with patriarchy as a conscious human being. That was also the same time when I realized that I was not the only woman struggling for space to breathe in a misogynistic world that strives to suck out every spirit of being from women, from people of color, from “minorities.” This started in my late teenage years when I began noting gendered double standards in the way that the community I was being raised in dealt with issues of gender and sexuality. I grew tired of it to the point where I have been wanting to scream ever since. And it’s been over a decade. But the reasons are too multifaceted to be attributed to misogyny alone. And the only things that have kept me sane and given me reasons to be enthusiastic about this world and women’s and gendered…

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Dust: A Review April 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 7:49 am

Here's the thing...

Dust Yvonne Owuor’s debut novel is not an easy book, by any means. The prologue is one of the pebbles whose splash causes the ripple of narrative. But one doesn’t realize this when reading it, and the repetitive account of Odidi running tired me, as I’m sure it did him. Even when you get past it, it still takes some time before things really start moving. It was almost a relief to abandon it for lighter reads, which I’ll admit I did a few times before committing.

But nothing good comes easy. As the different threads came together I was – in awe, I guess. I stopped reading out of fellow feeling (buy Kenya build Kenya) and became genuinely wrapped up in the story and the need for resolution. This is not a smoothly-flowing, straightforward story, like Americanah, or We Need New Names. Things happen, but in the middle of densely…

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Major biological discovery…inside the Chernobyl reactor?? November 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 10:07 am

Plants 1: Humans 0

Doug's Darkworld

The abandoned town of Pripyat, the Chernobyl reactor in the background.

There has been an exciting new biological discovery inside the tomb of the Chernobyl reactor. Like out of some B-grade sci fi movie, a robot sent into the reactor discovered a thick coat of black slime growing on the walls. Since it is highly radioactive in there, scientists didn’t expect to find anything living, let alone thriving. The robot was instructed to obtain samples of the slime, which it did, and upon examination…the slime was even more amazing than was thought at first glance.

This slime, a collection of several fungi actually, was more than just surviving in a radioactive environment, it was actually using gamma radiation as a food source. Samples of these fungi grew significantly faster when exposed to gamma radiation at 500 times the normal background radiation level. The fungi appear to use melanin, a chemical…

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Pope Francis Supports Crackdown on US Nuns April 16, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 1:07 pm

Sisters for social justice.


February 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 8:11 am

Kenya Stockholm Blog

The country is a safe playground of Western imperialism

Last week, a chorus of warnings by major imperialist powers about dire “consequences” for Kenya depending on the outcome of the March 4th elections, saturated both local and internal media. Leading the orchestra was the United States and Britain whose stern warnings (apparently against a Jubilee victory) were quickly echoed by France and Switzerland. In Kenya, the popular view currently being peddled with abandon through mainstream and social media is that Kenya will lose colossally in trade and diplomatic relations with its traditional Western allies depending on how Kenyans vote on 4th March.

While the lamentable disadvantages occasioned by a Jubilee victory are irrefutable, meek silence seem to dominate on the nature and degree of losses both American and European imperialism is likely to suffer in the event of a diplomatic imbroglio with Kenya for whatever reason. As a matter of…

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February 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 10:38 am

Angelo Opi-aiya Izama

ImageIn Luo folklore, two feuding brothers, Gipir and Labong, quarreled and split ways. Labong had been was forced to risk his life and replace a spear belonging to his brother Gipir he had in the heat of passion thrown at an elephant. In revenge when Gipir’s daughter accidentally swallowed some beads belonging to him, he had his brother slice her open. The bond broken Gipir crossed the Nile westwards to form the Luo of west Nile, the Alur, Jonam and others in the Congo. The other remained in present day Acholi land.

The beautiful savannah still remains as a testament to this medley of oral history, geography and identity. Once swarmed teeming with elephants, that the Luo believe beat the path for their migration southwards, the savannah at Murchison Falls National park today spots drilling rigs that tower above everything else. The French company Total is exploring here. Despite its…

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January 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 4:02 am

Thank you.

Jackee Budesta Batanda

Photo by MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images

Now that 2012 has come to a close, I can say that it has been an interesting year for Uganda, with the country experiencing some of the greatest highs and lows in its history. The country just buried a young woman member of parliament from the ruling party, Hon. Cerinah Nebandah from the Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda, who died under mysterious circumstances. Her suspected poisoning has strongly divided the nation. The official government autopsy report claims she died from a drug and alcohol overdose, but her family and legislators have rejected the findings. The debate, however, does bring to the fore the alcohol and drug problem in Uganda, which society has failed to acknowledge as a deeply entrenched problem among young people. What I see, above all, is the loss of one of Uganda’s most vibrant young politicians. For many young people, the 24-year-old…

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November 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 5:46 am

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September 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 9:12 am

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Today the Netherlands is holding general elections. Although the global economic crisis and its effect on the Dutch economy dominate these elections, some parties want to make this about Africa.

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If Only Boss Knew August 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sophie Alal @ 1:52 pm

With it’s serpentine twists and craters to rival the moon, the Gulu Highway seems no different from any other ordinary road. Parts of it seem solid and safe, others require something to release the nervousness about potential sudden death. It might explain a couple of highway entrepreneurs are in the business of making the journey “safer.” So upon taking any bus, usually there is the young pastor giving the message of Jesus; for you to be covered in Jesus blood, for journey mercies and to keep the Devil away. (For a small fee if you are touched by prayer, luckily it’s voluntary)

If you don’t take the bus, there is always an NGO vehicle or two parked at the trading posts along the road. Boss might not know this because official logs show that Driver is in the field,clocking up the miles and faithfully signing in the travel log book.
The average monthly wage for a driver is between UGX 400,000 and UGX 700,000. Equivalent to pocket change of many Bosses. But a sensitive boss knows to turn a blind eye when the team vehicle is being “taken for serving.”

A young man ran to me breathing heavily, “Madam are you going to Gulu?”
“Yes I am.”
“There is a car there for you.” I looked around, puzzled because there was no bus parked at the side of the road. “You see that NGO car there, the one with the big aerial? It is going to Gulu. You come and I take you.”
He ran ahead and gestured to me to follow him, and I did. When we reached the white 4×4, the driver was relaxed, his cream linen shirt crisp against the dark grey leather of the seat. The fabric was one of those generic Chinese creations with stitched tribal patterns. We exchanged pleasantries.
“How much is it to Gulu, or you are giving me a free lift?”
Driver looked at the fixer and said to me, “You ask him, he knows the prices here.”
“Thirteen thousand.” said Fixer.
“I’ve got only ten if you can accept that then we’ll go.”There was a silent agreement and Driver told me to get in and have a seat. I placed my bunch of boo on the dashboard so that the delicate green leaves wouldn’t tear and spill all over the floor during the journey. Driver climbed out to go next door and “Get something to eat.”

I spied at him as he walked to a shop and ordered chicken stew with an assortment of accompaniments beside little mounds of leafy cooked vegetables. Dark dodo, light cabbage. The impressive controls of the car tickled my curiosity. Surely the technological advancement (big antenna, GPS tracking, travel log, etc is no deterrent to a sweet feast at the weekend. Poverty management however says that trimming a bit from the petrol allowance makes the family happy.

After about twenty minutes Driver returned, mildly uneasy and scanning the vicinity. “Can you please put your greens away? ”
“Oh, OK.” I said and removed them from the dashboard.

NGO vehicles are amazing, they skim over potholes and glide beside craters as naturally and as gently as if they were living creatures built for comfort. While we drove on, I was asked about my village, my homestead, my extended family and why I was traveling. I vaguely mentioned a visit to some friends. I replied that I didn’t have any close family in Gulu except for an aunt.(..that I hadn’t seen in years)

Along the road we stopped for another pick-up. Another Fixer pressed a squashed 1000 shillings note into the driver’s hands after a brief chat. The back door opened and the cabin air was infused with the odour of arege. Outside, someone’s granny was trying to step into the passenger cabin. Mild displeasure and embarrassment tinged her words of protest, which followed the sound of limbs thudding on the metal floor of the car. She’d become a wearisome sack being bundled into the back of a moving container.

“You boys are not strong.”She got in. On her hands and knees, and Driver turned to ask if everything was alright. “I’ve got some pains. My belly hurts. I’m going to the hospital. To Karuma.”
Granny hobbled into the seat behind Driver. Composing herself, her green dress with sequined diamond patterns wound around her and peaked at the shoulders. Her moist forehead was wrapped with a black kerchief whose ends knotted at her deeply lined forehead.

Driver went out and popped the back door shut. When he got back in, I was heady with arege vapours and heat. Greetings were offered to Granny, at which she replied with the soft ‘t’ characteristic of the Luo tongue of any Alur or Jopadhola. At the second or third gear shift we accelerated on to Karuma, she fell to her knees and was now crouched right behind me. Her temporary seat shiny with the polish of countless bottoms.
Driver stopped the car and went round to the back. He popped open the door and threatened to throw her out. She scrambled to her feet and tried to gain composure.
“You are drunk.” said Driver with barely concealed annoyance.
“I’m not drunk, I’m going to the hospital. I’m seated beautifully now.”
“You’ll bring me problems, get out.”
“But I gave you money.”

The more she opened her mouth, the more drunk I might have become. Driver turned the ignition and onwards we sailed, past elephant grass still lush at the end of what is supposed to be the beginning of a long dry season. At Corner Kamdini we picked up two men. I bought a fine pumpkin while Driver lingered about for more people. Its hard skin was a work of pale white waxiness. A solemn man got in. His dark cotton shirt buttoned up to the neck. He bent slightly and spread a plastic bag on the floor near Granny’s feet. There he lay large cuts of fish steaks. It’s sweet marine scent of swampland replaced the gin odours.

“How much was your fish.” I asked.
He stammered, “Five hundred fifty. I mean five fifty.”
“Five hundred?” I asked, that was an incredible amount.
“No, five thousand.” He repeated then very slowly, “Five-thousand-five-hundred.”
I looked at the creamy pink flesh, dark peachy stripes where the machete blade had sliced clean through bone and flesh. “It’s a beautiful fish you’ve got.”
“Where did you get your fish?” Driver asked interrupting what could have been an interested chat with an earnest looking man.
Solemn craned his neck and looked to the left of the the road side. He pointed, “Over there.”

Less than fifty feet away, Driver pulled into the mud and trash heap nested in a small crater at the far left. He got out and I could see him negotiating with delicate looking man behind a wooden stall with three huge fish in deathly stillness. He walked back and stopped at my window.
“Give me that ten thousand.”
I put down the pumpkin and felt inside my canvas bag for a little banana fibre coin purse. I counted the money and passed it through the window.

Driver returned with Delicate following behind. Delicate’s smile showed patches of light pink on the flaky skin of his full lips. He pocketed the money and hoisted the toddler sized Nile Perch away from the table, leaving only two black tubes of Catfish with eyes fixed into the ether, glassy beads covered in grey film.

…End for now