Interview with JOHNSON MAGANJA by Akor Emmanuel Oche
Johnson Grace Maganja writes for the Observer, Uganda. He is a journalist, radio presenter, storyteller and an author with three books to his credit. He is a happily married man and a father. Akor Emmanuel Oche recently had a chat with him. Enjoy!
AKOR: Good morning Johnson. Thanks for the time.
AKOR: For the readers. Who is Johnson Maganja?
JOHNSON: My friends say I am reserved, extrovert and humorous.
AKOR: Children’s literature is a relegated genre in Africa. In your view, what is responsible for this?
JOHNSON: I think it all begins from the family and the kind of social curriculum. At home, some parents in urban areas have left educating their children about basic literature in their mother tongues to schools, and only when they travel to the villages to visit their grandparents, while those in rural areas no longer have time for their children because it’s all about work! Work!! Work!!! Then schools, if by any chance they can afford the fees. On the other hand, the school curriculum in Africa needs to be revised to suit the real practical environment of children.
AKOR: I once read a paper and the writer says “children literature is the new griot of folklore”. Do you think there is a link between children’s literature and folklore?
JOHNSON: I would answer that with the question “is the cup half-full or half empty?”
AKOR: You are an author with three books to your credit. Tell us about them and why they were written.
JOHNSON: My first book; 100 Quotes Through Life, is a summary of my life in quotes. Everything in that book; I have experienced it. Then my second book: Passage To Destiny, a fiction novel, is also about me and my love for journalism. It’s about a character called William Rukundo who was born a premature in the south-western part of Uganda, in a village called Kaharo. Against all odds, he chases his love for journalism, but is later killed. It’s a great story full of love and suspense. Then my third novel: The Adventures of Maganjo, is drawn from my childhood experiences when I lived in Bugolobi, where I still live till date. I wanted to share with the world what I have gone through and the lessons I have learnt; some the easy way, and most, the hard way. .
AKOR: The Adventures of Maganjo is centered on different lessons. What was the central message you tried to pass across to your targeted audience?
JOHNSON: Children to use their talents and skills to become what they dream of becoming. They should also listen to their parents/guardians. Parents should also allow children to explore in life, but discipline is a must.
AKOR: As a self-published author, share with us the plans you have for this book.
JOHNSON: I am currently partnering with some friends to get it translated to different languages. First in my own mother tongue Rukiga. I will also have a Kiswahili version. First, I am targeting Uganda, then other parts of the world. That is my short and long term plan. I am also planning to have a series done into a movie for children. By the way, I have already written The Adventures of Maganjo Part 2, and as I speak it is being edited.
AKOR: With the advent of the internet, where do you see the state of publishing in Africa?
JOHNSON: I can see the rich oral traditional literature being wiped out, unless it is recorded down for future generations to read. These days, I have discovered that children aren’t taught to value their Africaness. I believe African literature is diverse and too rich to be exhausted. Fine, we may be in the digital age; let’s use it to enhance and promote our African values but not destroying it in the name of development.
AKOR: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years from now?
JOHNSON: I live my future in the present. Every single day of my life, I give my best. Of course some challenges are inevitable, but that is also what makes it worth pursuing. Every challenge is a lesson I draw for more strength to move on. Whoever crosses my path gets infected with my dreams as a writer.
AKOR: What is your advice to someone who wishes to follow your footsteps as a writer?
JOHNSON: First, one needs to discover what they are best at and focus on that. We may all be writers but we are also gifted differently. For example, one may be good at writing poetry but poor at writing fictional novels or plays. Then, what I have done nobody else will ever do in life. We are all different just like our finger prints. Make your own mark. There will never be another Williams Shakespeare, just like there will never be another special one like you. As for challenges, deal with them with all your strength and knowledge. Lastly, only you truly know why you ventured into writing.
AKOR: Thanks for the opportunity. This chat is worth the while.
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