Activism, Activities, Articles, Diarie



I fill my mouth with it. Never mind that I am lactose intolerant and in a few hours my stomach will be gripping and bloated. I will release gases and hope I am not in the company of others. If I am, I will attempt to hold it in or release it without making a sound. Impossible.

Every other person in Kampala has ulcers. It is a national epidemic that is not on the radar of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It’s all HIV, Ebola and now the Zika Virus. We are under attack from new strains of bacteria which are now resistant to treatment because of the antibiotics our doctors prescribe like sweets. One of the unfortunate side effects of antibiotics is that they are not selective in choosing which bacteria to kill. All the good bacterial colonies in the gut die along with the bad. Doctors give you the pills in small envelopes with the name of the tablet (sometimes) and the numbers 1×1 or 3×1 written on them, to determine when and how many of these you should take. There are no instructions other than that. Maybe if the drug is particularly harsh on the stomach they would suggest taking them with food or liquids.

When I go to the clinic in Kampala I am not physically examined or asked about my previous health history. You tell the doctor your symptoms and he or she prescribes you antibiotic pills. We have this tradition of respect for  elders in Africa, so when we go to the clinic, because the person sitting at the desk calls themselves a doctor we are afraid to question or even ask for clarity on what is being prescribed and what the effects could be.

I believe this is what is leading to the problems with our stomachs. Bacteria that are either beneficial or at least not causing diseases are being destroyed, along with the bad bacteria, thus leaving us more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections that are becoming more expensive to treat. (Currently the American government, under the guise of copyright law, is attempting to stop African nations from purchasing generic pharmaceuticals which are often sold at a lower price).

The stomach, the site of intuitive knowing (trust your gut), is under attack.

In our gut there is something called the enteric nervous system. It is a sophisticated network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and support cells like those found in the brain. This network permeates the digestive tract from the esophagus to the colon, and “enables it to act independently, learn, remember, and as the saying goes, produce “gut feelings.” Think butterflies in your stomach or cramps or when you are nervous or upset.

We have two brains, and one of them is in our belly. They are connected like Siamese twins, and when one gets upset the other will too. The gut contains 100 million neurons — more than the spinal cord has. This means it is sensitive. Symptoms of ulcers include abdominal pain, anemia, bad breathe, constipation, diarrhea, anxiety, depression, fatigue or low energy, headaches or migraines, skin problems, premenstrual stress, sinus problems, sleep problems, weight problems (gain or loss).

It’s a debilitating condition which is caused by a bacterial infection (Helicobacter pylori) but also by a diet that is too acidic. While studying with Dr Llaila O Afrika, the well-known naturopath, I was taught that most of the foods ingested by Africans were acidic. We fry most of our food, combine carbohydrates with proteins, drink as we eat, eat a lot of refined flour and sugar, and take insufficient water, preferring instead to take soda or alcohol. No longer is our food our medicine. The belief is that if you are eating raw food, then there is something wrong with you. We are now medicating ourselves in order to numb our bodies. In order to be strong or appear strong we repress our anxiety, our depression and eat. It is common knowledge that women are experts at this one, and along with retail therapy we find creative ways to alleviate our stress.

I’m looking at a Ugandan population which is increasingly unwell. We are not exercising (the ritual of going to the garden to dig is what ‘villagers’ do). We eat large portions of food very late at night so that in the morning we wouldn’t feel so hungry.

As a woman living in Uganda I’ve been told I’m not authentically African and that I should learn to keep silent and observe more. To ‘hold water in my mouth’, to keep my opinions to myself and not share them with others because I will make people feel uncomfortable, even if I disagree or am curious to know more. My role is not to question but to blindly accept what is handed to me, because it’s rude not to. As African women we are meant to make people feel welcome, to give our time to everyone, but not invest in ourselves because that would be selfish. I believe those suffering with ulcers have a problem with anger and the inability to say no. We ingest the demands, protocols, and opinions of others but ignore our personal needs in order to keep the peace. This peace is the stereotypical image and behaviour of what makes ‘a good woman’. Meanwhile on the inside we are holding the tension of resentment because our words and emotions are trapped in our bellies.

The fear of violence, shame or guilt which traditionally would have ‘kept me in my place’ is contributing to the epidemic of ulcers. I don’t believe people suffering with ulcers are any different. Something is being repressed. Our second brain is reacting to eating habits that are resulting from our feelings of powerlessness. We are afraid to speak our truth.

The creative work that I do to empower youth and young women using the arts is essential to sensitizing us to the need for identifying and expressing our emotions in a healthy and productive way. To find the balance between self-care and the care of others is important. Repression of emotions leads to greater feelings of discomfort and disease in our communities. We need to provide spaces where we can express ourselves and stop seeking to control the reactions of others. Something is going on with our stomachs and we need to start listening, because the body has its wisdom.


Ife Piankhi is a poet, singer and creative facilitator currently based in Kampala, Uganda. She is an active participant in the creative industry of East Africa. Her works are available at

All photos courtesy: Sunoj D.

Source: the foregarmagazine


Imagine This


Picture this…………..humanity lives in small communities of people who have enough land to feed the whole group. They make their own clothes and shoes. They have a borehole but no electricity.

They use use solar energy to cook with, heat their water and light their homes. They allow no plastic into the community. They meditate everyday, exercise and use herbs to heal their sick.

When conflict arises they meet in a heart circle and hear each others complaints in order to find a solution. They will talk until they reach consensus.

If they are unable to come to a mutually beneficial solution they take the conflict into sleep to see what answers come and try to tackle it again the following day.  Or, they refer it to an honourable

elder to inform the decision.

People can choose to be monogamous or polygamous as long as its beneficial to the children born of that community and for the individuals involved. Violence of any kind is not tolerated.

They create art for healing, make everything they use. Use permaculture principles to maintain the health and productivity of the land.

The women birth naturally in the company of other women, children and fathers. During mensturation women can leave the community to be with themselves and have people prepare food for

them. There is no such thing as the ‘curse of the womb’. Children are raised in community and can move from family to family as they choose.

Children are planned because men know how to retain their seed, ejaculating only when a child is desired.

They eat communally. They deal not with money but skills and barter trade.

They honour nature and always ask permission before taking anything from the earth. They refuse to cut down trees. There are no governments, no borders, no passports, no planes or cars, no

fossil fuels, no corporations , no wars.

How do you feel after reading this?

I realize we are in entropy, because we have been limited by the box. The box represents family, survival, money, sex, power, fear. But we hang onto these things because we believe its who are are.

Instead we can extend the box by:

1. Cultivating a connection to the divine

2. Building our self esteem – our will, choice, self expression

3. Explore our emotions but not become attached to them

4. Develop maturity – through experience come intellect and wisdom

5. Thinking beyond failure. Success is not always necessary. The process is where the growth occurs.

Diarie, music

How to be ethical



Since the beginning of the year I’ve been encountering issues of ethics. We talk a lot in Uganda about corruption and how it stops us from developing at a reasonable rate. But my question is what happened to the African Ethic so often spoken about by historians?

When I first started reading African history there were so many accounts of the ethics of Africans. The Ethiopians were seen as the most pious of races bringing religion to Europe with their divine stature. Kemet (now known as Egypt) had the system of Maat as its spiritual foundation and I think it did them well, because their civilization existed for over 10,000 years.

So what happened? Why have we fallen so far from grace?

I try very hard to be none judgmental when it comes to behaviour, its hard enough keeping myself in check without looking for the log in someone else’s eye, but I’m curious as to why we have now become a race of people who don’t stand for much anymore.

The other day I was relating a situation to my children, of course it was in relation to money and work, but when I had finished my daughter told me that I was wrong because ‘we need to eat and the world is not like me’, so I just have to do as others do and get paid. I felt a knot in my stomach honestly, I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see the importance of what I was saying but i accepted it because in essence the world is so fucked up and that means I should be too.

I can see her point, the saying that ‘one should not throw pearls before swine’ resonates but i just can’t help it. I can’t go against my heart. Maybe this is something that was instilled in me during childhood, transmitted by my mother. So is the problem women? What exactly are we teaching our children? Or maybe its a case of having some life experience against which one can judge or establish a stance on certain things.

I suppose we cannot teach what we do not know or more simply we have forgotten how to be humane. In this rat race of space we call life everyone is battling for their piece of the pie, so its survival of the fittest.

Maybe I’m an Afromantic. The history I read about my origins, or maybe the past lives I have lived means I can’t turn away from injustice or perpetrate it either. Yes I want my life to be easier but who said that life was meant to be easy?I know its hard to stand for something especially when those around you don’t agree with your position.

Its a complex topic and I still don’t have the answer, all I know is I want to be better. More kind, more loving, more just, more compassionate, more patient, more trusting, more forgiving and maybe the adversity I experience is the fire that will refine my character. Only time will tell.



Diamonds can be found in the Ghetto


I don’t believe in coincidences, I think all things happen for a reason, even if at the time we don’t understand why. Everything has a purpose and a reason.

I realized that the other day after my bag got stolen by a boda boda rider that the events in my life are meant to encourage me to reflect on the quality of my relationships.

There is a saying that ” misery likes company”. You have those friends who seem to come around when either you or them have problems. Lamenting on the situation (often negative) but never coming up with solutions.

Then you have the “good time friends”- the ones who want to tag along to be associated with you and share the limelight or your cash.

The friend who is concerned for your welfare, rejoices in your successes without envy. The one who can speak to you with sometimes brutal honesty because of how you allow yourself to be treated. The one who comes looking for you when “you’re lost”, or gives you their last coin because you need it more than they do, are rare gems.

I told my students the other day that diamonds are just dirt, but due to time and pressure they develop into the gems, which are then cut and polished to be sold at high prices.

The year has already started and I’m feeling the pressure. I was looking forward to 2015 and it started so well. I had a wonderful birthday and spent time with people who I care about.

But maybe that’s my immaturity. The middle path is that place where whatever happens good or bad, you remain peaceful and alert because the happiness one feels is not determined by the external events but by your inner contentment.

I cried like a baby when my bag was stolen, shouted at a friend because I blamed him for not escorting me (one of the rare times he didn’t). Threw my hands to heaven to ask what the lesson was.

What keeps coming through is to improve my relationship with myself. Learning to be my own light, to give myself the love and time I so willing give to others. To spend time alone and not see it as something being wrong with me. To learn not to be so “nice” all the time for fear of people not liking me.

Events in life show you where you are at. Life will always be life. Bad things happen to good people and those who do bad things get away with it.

The true success is to modify ones reactions and attitude to the events.  To not smile and say you’re OK when obviously you are not. To accept what you are feeling but not get attached to the emotions because in time they will change.

To become the silent, non- judgemental observer of your own mentality. To find inner stillness through which inspiration and creativity come. To release guilt for not having maintained the image of the strong man or woman and just cry if you need to.  To be none attached to people, places and things.

This is done with the knowledge that “in time, this too will pass”.

To seek the kingdom of heaven within because that is where the riches truly lie.






So now we begin again, I’m not sorry to see the back of 2014, its been a trying year for many not just me.

Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges, to fall, down but get back up again, to keep moving and learning from our mistakes.

I’ve touched and been touched by countless young people, who inspire me to be thankful, to stay strong even when it seems people are against you. I’ve learnt to listen more to my children, to receive their feedback and reflect on how I can be a better parent to them. This is not understood by a lot of people who see the youth as people ‘to be seen but not heard’. I want to hear from the youth more, I want to learn from their energy and perspective because we are living in very different times with challenges that humanity has not faced before.

In the Bible it states ‘that wisdom shall come from the mouth of babes’. I humble myself to the youth because they are the future adults and honestly I want them to be better than we are. Yes, I have experience which I think can contribute to widening their perspectives because youth can be self absorbed, misled and opinionated but ultimately my mission is to assist them in creating their own lives and not project what I think is right for them. This is tough because as a parent I want to be in control. To tell them what to do, to make them obedient to my will. No matter how many times you tell an adolescent not to do something, they do it anyway. They are testing the boundaries and creating their own, because that is how we learn.

2014 has been a lesson for me because I have begun the process of letting go. Of saying what needs to be said but allowing the young person to make the mistake in the hope that I have informed their ability to think and reflect thus, learn from the event.

I’m learning its all about clear non violent communication. If I want the world to be different then I have to speak differently. I have to listen more, judge less, but show them loving kindness and understanding. I think if my mother had done that for me I would not have made the mistakes I made in relationships and the choices I made in my life. but then again maybe not. Maybe the mistakes and the challenges are what have made me who I am today.

As a junior elder I want to reassess my role in community. To not be so concerned with the opinions of others, but to stay true and authentic to myself.

A quote I read the other day said ‘Its not about your name its about what you do with your life that determines whether your name will be remembered’.

Its been a year since my mothers passing and even though she was not famous or rich she left a legacy of listening and laughter,

I too want to laugh more in 2015, and I want my laughter to reach my eyes.







The empty purse



This week I posted on my FB page that my purse was empty and this was a blessing because it forced me to look at how I am in the world without money. To be honest it wasn’t pretty. I was visited by anxiety, doubt, frustration and a lot of fear.

When I reflect on my life, I’ve always had enough to do what I wanted and if I didn’t I would just work until I made what I needed. For the first time in my life my purse was empty and I had no clue where the next coin was going to come from.

I was very scared, how would I feed my children or travel to appointments? My stomach grew hard with wind and and worry and my mind was filled with the worse case scenerios’.  It wasn’t easy to meditate but I wanted to overcome this feeling of desperation. I locked myself into my room and focused on all the wonderful things I have in my life, my children, my friends, my creativity, a roof over my head, the books I read, the joy of living on the continent.

It was tough because I think I defined myself with cash. My ability to sustain myself and give to others, to buy food and clothes etc etc. This week I couldn’t buy anything and seriously it made me depressed. Retail therapy we are told, helps us to feel better about ourselves but it is such a capitalistic exercise. So does this make me a capitalist?

I dislike the thought because I despise capitalism and its exploitation of people and natural resources.

It seems I am not immune to the pull of consumerism, the needless acquisition of things in order to make me feel happy.

To what purpose do I serve if I don’t have money? Its a scary thought but one that is very real for many people living in the global south who have to live on less than 1 dollar a day. How do we gain our sense of self esteem if we are outside of a system that teaches us we have no value if we don’t have money, that we are poor.

But what I’ve come to realise is the system is set up that way. To make working class people feel they are useless because we can’t buy the things that make us ‘developed’. The system is set up to frustrate. Yet we are the ones who maintain it.

Huey P Newton says that we need to become more concious of who we are and why we are in these circumstances. Then we must change these circumstances and construct a new world.

So this week I gave of myself, my mind, my thoughts, my time. I connected with people in conversation, I shared what little food I had with others, my friends shared what they had with me and together we made it through.

I think I became more human this week. I’m not saying I want to live with an empty purse, but what I am saying is that I am ready for a simpler life. I don’t want to be trapped in the urban centres where finances are necessary to move. If the statistics are right that by 2050 nearly 80% of Africa’s population will live cities, I wonder what quality of life we will have. More than ever I want to place myself in nature, the village is where I want to be because this is where I will find my humanity.

Like the Sankofa bird of the Adinkra, my head is facing forward but my feet are facing back, to the past because ultimately simplicity and living within ones means is the only sustainable future we have.





Learning to release

861405_806683702694091_1047140380_o I got issues, I wont deny. Been crying alot lately and I don’t know why

(but now I do, its a supermoon tonight).

Just when I think I have overcome the pain, I find the emotion has not gone, its just moved deeper into my body.

So last night I meditated on release. Repeating the word over and over, I sensed the tension in my hips, and my neck.

Its not important to name the emotion you want to release but to allow the release to happen.

The body has such great wisdom, and I’m growing in my awareness of it. I no longer want to repress anything, holding

water in my mouth does not help me, but if I know you will be offended by what I have to say, I will stay away. To keep the

peace and use the silence to work my emotions through.

At least I know I’m moving to a place of health and well-being. The journey continues


Diarie 0 comments on Challenges with Love

Challenges with Love

love chakra Its funny how life is sometimes. When i changed my name to Ife (meaning Love in Yoruba) i didn’t understand how profoundly it would impact on my life. In Africa a name is supposed to mean something to the holder: a tendency or aspiration that the person is meant to live up to.

I’m discovering that love is challenging. Most of the time the love we show is about our expectations mostly. Recently i found that Ife can be found in the language and people of Lugbara

(Arua, West Nile Uganda) and it means to give, which is interesting because most of the time we do not Love to give but to receive. Its tricky because when you are loving people tend to see this as a weakness and seek to take advantage. However its not about allowing yourself to be a doormat, but allowing the universal love to enter us and flow outwards into the world.

I question myself, especially when it comes to relationships. If I am filled with love do I love only one person? This seems to be a dilemma for many people as we don’t want to share. If we love its only meant to be for one person at a time. This has become the societal standard and if we go beyond loving more than one person the names we get called are numerous  and all of them highly negative.  Do i sound like a hippie? Im not talking about having sex with everybody which is usually the association made with Loving.

What I’m talking about is the ability to Love to destroy arrogance, egoism, anger, hatred, lust, jealousy,envy and fear. To witness these emotions, to understand myself and to question why they occur.

We live in a world of duality e.g. good/bad and we seek to define our experiences through this very narrow lens.

Questions we need to ask ourselves before we act are

1. Am I doing this out of love?

2. Is it necessary for my spiritual evolution or does it contain elements of greet and egoistic desire?

3. Am i doing something for this person because I love them and want to love that person through my actions or am i doing it because i expect them to love me in return and to make me happy by their being grateful to me and doing something for me in return?

The path to Love is not an easy one, but through meditation I am learning to understand myself or i should say my personality and to separate that from my soul which is where i truly want my love to spring from.




Activism, Activities, Articles, Diarie, History, Poetry, Workshop 0 comments on Watch ‘Someone Clap For Me’ – Engaging Short Film On Kampala’s Burgeoning Poetry Scene By TAMBAY A. OBENSON

Watch ‘Someone Clap For Me’ – Engaging Short Film On Kampala’s Burgeoning Poetry Scene By TAMBAY A. OBENSON

68297_10151120489741417_293269089_nA side of Uganda (specifically Kampala, the largest city and capital of Uganda) that we often don’t get to see here in the USA, and which I hope you will appreciate…

Poetry has become something of a phenomenon in Kampala in recent times, just as much as the political turmoil that tends to dominate headlines both locally, and internationally.

In the below 10-minute short film directed by the Qatari filmmaker Luciana Farah, titled Someone Clap For Me, learn about this so-called “Poetry Movement.” 

This film focuses on characters like Medals, the Born-Again Politician, from whose poem the documentary title is taken, and follows the poets’ daily lives, weekly performances and numerous interactions with live audiences throughout the city. 

It was actually made via Mira Nair’s Maisha Labs in Uganda, which we’ve told you about before. In 2004, Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay!, Mississipi Masala & others) founded Maisha Film Labs – a Uganda-based film training initiative (not-so unlike the Sundance Film Festival’s filmmaker labs, or the IFP’s filmmaker labs).

The goal of the Maisha Film Labs is to give aspiring filmmakers in the East African country the tools & knowledge to tell their own stories through film, which would then help foster a self-sustaining film industry in Uganda and vicinity, that will support and represent the interests of local audiences.

I should note that the director of Someone Clap For Me, Luciana Farah, is expanding the short film into a feature, as I type this. In December, the Doha Film Institute revealed 27 projects that would receive grants, as part of its autumn funding session, and Farah’s feature was one of them.

So we’ll be watching for the feature version of the below short in the coming year or two.

In the meantime, here’s the short version: