Austine Bukenya (Mwalimu)

  • Austine Bukenya (Mwalimu)
Writer, Playwright, University lecturer
Column : Theater, Literature, Poetry / story telling

Prof Austin Bukenya also commonly and respectfully known as "Mwalimu" meaning "Teacher" is a prolific Ugandan poet, playwright, novelist and academic. He is the author of the novel , "The People's Bachelor", and a play, "The Bride"  Professor Austine Bukenya  attended Namilyan College before he joined Makerere University. He has taught languages, literature and drama at Makerere University in Uganda and other universities in the UK, Tanzania and Kenya since the late 1960s. He has also held residences at universities in Rwanda and Germany. Bukenya is a renown literary critic, novelist, poet and dramatist. An accomplished stage and screen actor, he was for several years Director of the Creative and Performing Arts Centre at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya.
Bukenya, who prefers to be called Mwalimu, was born in 1944 in Masaka town, Southern Uganda, where his father worked as a policeman. His family later moved to Kitukutwe 15 miles from Kampala. His father, a staunch Catholic, would narrate biblical stories which he would alternate with his mother's folk stories. According to Bukenya, these stories inspired his imagination and made a huge impact on his life today. He is a great storyteller as well.
Prof. Bukenya attended Gayaza primary school and joined Kisubi Seminary where he studied three languages, French, English and Latin. This would soon inform his literary thinking and future academic career. His growing passion for literature was soon cemented at Namilyango College where he took his O and A levels. In 1965, he went to Dare es Salaam University where he continued to nurture his keen interest in Language and Linguistics in addition to a growing interest in Kiswahili.
He studied the Language Linguistics and Literature and Education (LLLE) for his undergraduate course. Most of Bukenya's writings are in Kiswahili, he attributes this to his grandmother, whose roots can be traced back to Dar es salaam, Tanzanaia. He was also inspired by linguistic teachers including Wilson Whitely, a British author famous for his book Kiswahili: the Rising of a National Language. Bukenya joined Makerere as a postgraduate student in 1968 and later developed the oral literature course. He also studied at universities in Madagascar and England, and took his higher degrees at Makerere and Kenyatta Universities. He has taught languages, literature and drama at Makerere University in Uganda and universities in the UK, Tanzania and Kenya since the late 1960s.
A poet, a novelist and a keen actor, Bukenya was introduced to theatre and inspired to become a writer by his parents who were strong believers of Kiganda traditions. This immersion of theatre in everyday life was also a part of Bukenya's education who grew up in a Ugandan village where he "witnessed numerous performances of children's traditional songs and dances, games and rhythms" that inspired and influenced his writing career. Bukenya wrote his first prizewinning play in 1964, based on stories told to him by his mother. He has since written numerous plays and radio dramas, but only managed to publish two of his plays, "The Secret" and "The Bride".

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