VICTORIA Adams is a poet, an accountant, a business director, a publisher, a doyenne of the arts and the driving force behind Songs of Kiguli.
Songs of Kiguli is an anthology written by rural children in Nakasongola (Uganda) and published in the USA.
This Renaissance Woman is passionate in her devotion to any cause she feels strongly about. And this passion issues from a compassion so deep that the Bee Gees would never have to ask her, how deep is your love?
Since it is apparent in her spiritual awareness of the world she inhabits. Moreover, she always seeks to reach beyond the mundane so as to break new ground. In fact whenever I think of her, I think of lilies.
Well, “it is the wail of the poet’s heart on discovering that everything is commonplace. To understand it, cling passionately to one another and think of faint lilies.”
The children of Nakasongola, weary but unbowed, have a mother in Victoria that they never thought conceivable. Her love for them is near-maniacal. It stretches from the concrete jungles of the USA along the sedgy banks of Lake Kyoga in Nakasongola and all the way back.
That’s why she has been baptized “Mama Nakasongola.” I asked Mama Nakasongola about her work with Songs of Kiguli, all four editions.
Q: Please, tell us how you came to be involved with Songs of Kiguli.
A: I began supporting a small independent press in 2013. One of their cherished projects was the publication of a book of poems by students in Uganda. I was intrigued, and through the years did a few things here and there to help the project along. I also went in search of a local group to develop a music video that would support the launch of one of the editions. That sparked a flame and a solid relationship from opposite ends of the world. That video still brings tears to my eyes. (See it here: https://bit.ly/2P55J6Q)
Q: Songs of Kiguli will make the world a better place, you once said. How?
A: I sincerely believe that when people find the core of their beliefs, hopes, fears, and needs; they find commonality. When we see how we are the same, we gain confidence and curiosity, giving us room to see how we differ. We learn to hear each other’s stories. Some time ago I ran across a TED talk by a young woman from Nigeria, Chimamana Ngozi Adichie – The danger of a single story. I think Songs of Kiguli can help us learn the voice of different stories and start us on the road to weaving all our stories into a tapestry without excluding or diminishing any of the tales to be told.
Q: Did you ever dream that you’d be part of a project with rural African children?
A: No, I really didn’t think I would be involved with something quite like this. But I am forever grateful for the opportunity. It helped me to see if my inner convictions survived impact with reality.
Q: Where do you see Songs of Kiguli in five years from now?
A:I would love to see the project become an international effort where children share their stories, their hopes, their dreams with other cultures. I think it can help invigorate a world that has grown moribund with stereotypes, no longer appreciating diversity, and no longer caring to understand the many accomplishments of “those not like us.” This has started with the international edition and the contribution of the students in Florida.
There is a spirit moving across the land. This is evident in the growth of a movement started by a few high school students in an upscale neighborhood in Florida who decided it was time to stop killing each other. These students are not focused on their neighborhood, their privilege – they are actively reaching out to those who have tried for so long for a piece of the spotlight and failed. They have brought to the forefront issues of domestic violence, bullying, mental health, racial inequality in our country, and responsible gun ownership. They don’t intend to stop until they reach the voting booth, and maybe even the seats of legislatures around this country. Their movement garnered international support from every creed, color, gender affiliation or identity, political affiliation, or social background.
There is also Malala Yousafzai – a young woman who travels the world as an ambassador for education. Teaching that when people see and understand the world without blinders, then those who would destroy us have a much harder task. Her creed – a gun may stop a terrorist, but education stops terrorism.
I hear this voice in the children of Uganda. Young people who are quite realistic about the problems their country faces and who are not afraid to become a part of the solution. Through their poetry they will build bridges, they will build platforms, they will find a path for their country – their voice will be heard. I know that the continent has suffered greatly from the effects of colonization and slavery – but I hope that the people of each heritage within that continent can find a way to save the good and toss the bad. To show the world that we can forge an alliance that benefits humanity as a whole and teaches us how to live together in mutual understanding.
Q: How would you define a storyteller?
A: Storytellers are the keepers of all that is precious in each of us. All of our hopes, our dreams, our suffering, our will. They reflect the world that we are in as well as the world that we perceive could be. Humanity loves to hear the stories and we must become our best so that the message is delivered while the mind is open. I will share with you quotes that I am using in the opening pages of a book I am currently writing. These, I think, tell the value of the story. It is my hope that the Songs of Kiguli will help us again learn to hear the story.
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
“The power of story is never stronger than when it lives on the breath of those from whom it came.”
—Gayle Ross, Cherokee storyteller
“Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renascent truth. This approach applies to all the incidents of everyday life: the phrase in the newspaper, the endearing or infuriating game of a toddler, the misunderstanding at the office. Our species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.”
—Mary Catherine Bateson
May the stories lead us on.