An Interview with Zeddekia Ssekyonda

In late February, 2022, Ssekyonda Zeddekia submitted an unpublished short story to Novelty Fiction. The manuscript was accepted for publication after an intense period of consultations.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – Your story evolves around an accident with tragic repercussions. What made you decide to approach a serious topic humorously?

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – Accidents are not always entirely dull events. There are often bits that confer a humorous touch to the most unfortunate happenings. Sometimes, the humour is in the words people say in the face of the accident; other times, it is in the nonverbal reactions. That is what I intended to demonstrate. Perhaps what makes Waiting on Fate particularly humorous is how the said accident occurs and the fact that the main character, reminded of the possibility of a generational streak of bad luck, finds himself going to a place unexpected for his age.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – Waiting on Fate allows the reader to experience the sharp contrast between a modern, materialistic city lifestyle versus traditional rural life. Some characters in your story have never used electricity or traveled, but they have something else of value to offer. In a nutshell, what is this cultural treasure?  ​​ ​​​​ 

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – ​​ In Uganda, and, I think, other parts of Africa, people in rural areas are the custodians of traditions and cultural lifestyle. Rural areas are slow to adopt foreign lifestyles. As such, they form the reference point for our cultural heritage and traditions. Whereas African urbanites tend to conduct themselves with an extreme hauteur around villagers, the latter embody the truer spirit of Africa.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – You characterize yourself as a “Ugandan fiction writer and activist for democracy and ethnic/tribal tolerance.” Therefore, you seem to be concerned about ethnic/tribal intolerance in your country. Please elaborate.

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – Uganda is composed of many ethnic groups and even more tribes. A history of fighting, discrimination and bickering along ethnic/tribal lines has been perpetuated in social and political spaces, ever raising the spectre of deadly repercussions. South West of this land is Rwanda, one country where incessant tribal friction led to a genocide. Yet Ugandans seem to have learnt nothing from it. Socially, there are people who take pleasure in very distasteful stereotypes about other tribes. In fact, some comedians are obsessed with such stereotypical notions. And in the political realm, some tribal groups feel sidelined and can’t wait for their ‘turn’. I don't think when their ‘turn’ comes, they will act any differently given that they are holding serious grudges. It’s in view of such situations that I seek to use literature and my voice to mitigate ethnic/ tribal sentiment, stereotypes, and discrimination.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – Did writing Waiting on Fate enrich you in some ways, for example by leading to new discoveries about yourself or other people?

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – ​​ Yes, without exaggeration, it did. In three ways. It made me reflect more about the altruistic steps women take for the good of their children. I was also glad to realize my childhood memories of rural life are still intact. Thirdly, I have appreciated more that people harbour serious unvoiced troubles.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – The title Waiting on Fate may imply that you believe in such concepts. Do you think there may come a time in a person's life where he or she must confront their fate or destiny?

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – Whereas I will not call myself a fatalist, I think any attempt to confront one's fate is what fallen Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe would describe as wrestling one’s chi. You cannot win. In any case, I don't think there is a proven record of anyone who has ever defeated their fate. Fatalists would still argue that wherever your journey leads you, no matter whether you think you've defied fate, was always meant to be your destiny.


NOVELTY FICTION – You are a thinker, but your narrative tone tends to be crisp and light. Is this style a reflection of your own temperament and personality, or simply a writing technique?

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – When it comes to fiction, I am a sucker for simplicity. As a reader, I am turned off by stories with extraneous elements. The more I have written, the more I have appreciated the value of interacting concisely with the reader. A good writer, to me, is one who whittles a complex idea into a light and easily comprehensible form, communicates a lot with less words, and enables the reader to clearly visualize what they read as though they were watching it in HD. That's my style, essentially. I must admit developing it did not come easy. But whether it is a reflection of my personality is a question better left to my friends, siblings and people who have interacted long enough with me.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – Your story contains some passages and expressions written in a language other than English. What language did you use? Is Uganda divided by a language barrier?

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – ​​ The language is Luganda, arguably the simplest language in Uganda. Most people in the country can somehow express themselves in Luganda. I wouldn't say Uganda suffers from a language barrier; there are several sets of related languages. For example, whereas I cannot speak Runyankore, Rutooro, and Lusoga (properly), I cannot get lost when any of those languages is spoken. Where communication through native languages is not possible, English, being the official language, is used. It's also widely spoken, with varying levels of proficiency. Kiswahili is the other language. Though not native, it's spoken by people in military circles, cross-border traders and people living in some districts bordering Kenya, Tanzania and DRC.

 

NOVELTY FICTION – Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

SSEKYONDA ZEDDEKIA – ​​ I want to encourage readers to look out for more fictional stories from Africa. Writers are encouraged by the knowledge that there are people consuming their work. Nevertheless, I must mention that literary activity in Africa is still wanting. I therefore encourage more people to pick up the pen and tell the African story.

 

Waiting on Fate will be published online by Novelty Fiction Gazette on June 15, 2022, and will be made available as an e-book shortly thereafter.

 

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