When the dead help with fiction.
So most of March I was thinking about my grandmother Nyamwire, my dad's mom. Considering she's been dead for a long time, some of my uncles freaked out when I told them she was visiting me in my dreams. I was told to go and pray, blah, blah, blah. To which I replied that I'm trying to decolonise my mind and to stop listening to the demonising of everything traditionally African. Before colonialists arrived, I told them, our religion depended highly on contact with the dead. One of my uncles was so shocked by all this that he just changed the subject. But a cousin of mine was very intrigued and she told me to keep listening and see if maybe grandma had a message for us.
A week later I went on a writing retreat in Lira and embarked on my first feature film. There is a character in the story who's the backbone of the protagonist and a symbol of love and protection. I was struggling so much with her back story because she's a Munyankore woman who lives in Buganda. I didn't fully understand why she had left her home. And then when I started writing the script, because I was dreaming a lot about grandma I decided to change her name to Nyamwire. And after that everything fell into place.
I figured out why she left, why she lived alone, and why she was the way she was. I finished my script and came back to Kampala.
Recently I've been thinking about her. And I realized that the story of this woman is pretty much the story of my grandma. A few weeks before my grandma died I decided to visit her and ask her to tell me her story so I could write it for my young siblings and cousins who would never meet her or who would struggle to remember her. She was so excited about this idea. She had had a stroke and was paralyzed to the left so even speech was hard for her. She rarely spoke to anyone in those last months because it was too tiring. But as soon as I took my recorder and asked about how she got married, etc, she beamed with warmth and told me so much. I had never seen her like that.
Unfortunately, after that first interview, my grandma died. We had just started unearthing her past, things I had never heard about, and then boom, she died. My last memory of her is in that wheel chair, in uncle uncle Caleb's compound, telling me how everything was forest when they first settled there.
Now, she's in my film, powerful and alive. I just realized, that she found her way to make me finish what I started. She wrote herself into my film. Well played, grandma. And Promise, you were right. She definitely had a message, and she said it. I hope I'm able to make it heard. Since I finished the script, I haven't dreamt of her. I miss her.