Harriet Anena: Now that Columbia has called…

This is the third time Columbia has called. The previous times she deferred the call but this time she chooses to heed to it. To Columbia she will go.

There is a place that gets engraved at the centre of your heart regardless of whether you have ever been there or not. It comes to you easily in speech, in reference and thought. Such a place can mean to hold moments in your mind much as you might never have stepped foot there. It claims a part of your thought structure making it become a part of you.

It is such places that fill the blank spaces on the bucket list not because there is a plot of land that was bequeathed to you there but because it is a matter of your heart. And when your heart calls, you obey. Harriet Anena’s heart has called. It has called her to the place she has relentlessly wished to be a part of.

“Why Columbia University?” I ask.

“It’s always been Columbia,” she tells me without a second thought.

The call to go to Columbia University to study her MFA in Creative Writing comes at a time when Anena has been at the helm of sharpening her writing pencil for some time. She has been going about improving her writing craft by participating in a number of writing workshops and taking part in different writing challenges. To some she has been long listed while others she has made it to the short list. That includes the Commonwealth short story prize 2018. In the process she has learned that her hand could craft both a poem and a short story. She has been writing more than she ever imagined.

In 2015, she complied a poetry collection A NATION IN LABOUR that earned her a seat among published writers. Last year, she won the Wole Soyinka Prize. The book came with its own benefits. It went to the places she would never get to. Her poetry penetrated places and spoke to people. Today, one of the poems from the collection is making rounds on social media because of its relevance to the events at the time.

This was a Launchpad for her writing. Today, three other manuscripts are yet to be published in her name. As if that was not challenge enough, she took to the stage with her poetry collection, I BOW FOR MY BOOBS in 2016 at the National Theatre.

All this time, it has been a process for her to better her writing something she did not necessarily realize. This is reflected in her current writing. “The first writing enables the writer to bleed on the page (about themselves) while further writing helps one to ask ‘what do I have to offer?’” This is the journey she has been walking in her writing career. It has helped her establish a footing on the literary scene but more so to appreciate the art of writing the more.

Now Columbia has called and she can wait no more. Anena has been admitted to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing, a program she has always dreamed of. She could not study creative writing at undergraduate level because there was no such a course at Makerere University where she had been admitted. She opted for journalism since the closest option (read education), would lead her to the classroom, a place she was not ready for.

Upon graduation, she joined The Daily Monitor newspaper as a sub editor, a role she took on joyfully. However it was a short joy as she soon realised that if she were to pursue her writing career, she could not be in the newsroom any longer. That is when she joined ACME, to create more time for herself to write some more. All this time, she was continuously applying to different universities with the creative writing program. However, all the options that were availed were not backed by scholarships. And that is how she kept deferring until she decided to take it on this time round.

Anena has one mountain to bring down before she can move to Columbia University in August this year. She has to raise USD 100,000 to facilitate her tuition and stay at the university. To make this possible, she is coming back on stage with another poetry production #FootPrintsOfMemory. The production is made up of the poetry from already published works and others that have not yet been published. Unlike the previous production, this time round she stretches out to look at the challenges of society at hand.

The show will be held at the National Theatre from June 28, 29,30 at 6pm. Tickets: UGX 50,000

All proceeds from this production go towards tuition. There will also be a number of items on auction. Copies of her book will also be on sale.

Come through and help Harriet Anena realize her dream.


There are other ways of making your contribution. They are:

Go Fund Me profile, I Breath. I Smile.

Bank Deposit: UBA, Kansanga Branch // Hariet Anena //A/C No. 0001295368

Mobile Money deposit: +256 781 412 975 registered in her name.






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