Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
In Manchester Happened, Makumbi’s skilled hand paints a florid portrait of family life based between Manchester and Kampala. Her writing re-imagines the challenges faced by Ugandans who journey to Britain in search of opportunity, and then those who dare to venture back home again. Her characters redefine our notion of family, extending it far beyond the nuclear Western conception. Through the Ugandan understanding of the word, blood really is thicker than water.
From a struggling alcoholic mother to a revered community minister, Manchester Happened speaks in a plethora of tongues whilst continually asking whether “You mean this is England?” Through both Luganda and English one feels every tendril of expectation, hope and disappointment faced by the Ugandan community in Britain. As with the story of the Ugandan-British family who became celebrities after their son begged them to allow him the traditional imbalu circumcision ritual, Makumbi unapologetically thrashes out themes of prejudice, race and cultural clashing.
The main artery of this collection pulsates with the desire to belong, a longing to feel “at home” no matter what your surroundings are. This feeling is chiefly governed by one’s own flesh and blood, by your family. For better or for worse, the one thing that we have no control over is our family and these stories make that very clear.
Words: Ciara Haley