Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

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Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
BornJennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Kampala, Uganda
Alma materLancaster University
Notable worksKintu; The First Woman

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (born 1960s) is a Ugandan-British novelist and short story writer.[1] Her doctoral novel, The Kintu Saga, was shortlisted[2] and won the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013.[3] It was published by Kwani Trust in 2014 under the title Kintu.[4][5][6] Her short story collection, Manchester Happened, was published in 2019.[7] She was shortlisted for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story "Let's Tell This Story Properly",[8] and emerged Regional Winner, Africa region.[9] She was the Overall Winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.[10][11] She was longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature.[12] She is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.[13] In 2018, she was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize in the fiction category.[14] In 2021, her novel The First Woman won the Jhalak Prize.

She lives in Manchester with her husband, Damian, and son, Jordan.[15]

Early life and education[edit]

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was born and raised in Kampala, Uganda. She is the eldest child of Anthony Kizito Makumbi and the third of Evelyn Nnakalembe. Her parents separated when she was two years old and for two years she lived with her grandfather Elieza Makumbi. During Idi Amin's regime, her father, a banker, was arrested and brutalised. While he was saved from being killed, he suffered from mental health issues for the rest of his life. Makumbi was brought up by her aunt, Catherine Makumbi-Kulubya. She lived with her family first at Nakasero, then later at Kololo.

She attended Trinity College Nabbingo for O-levels and to King's College Budo for A-levels. She did a B.A. degree in Education, majoring in teaching English and Literature in English at the Islamic University in Uganda, where she edited the university magazine, The IUIU Mirror. Makumbi first taught at Nakasero High, an A-level school, then for eight years taught at Hillside High School, an international school in Uganda.

At that time she wrote a play, Sitaani Teyebase, in Luganda for an inter-zone competition. This play won the competition and toured many of the SDA churches within Kampala.

In September 2001, she enrolled at Manchester Metropolitan University to do an MA in Creative Writing. She completed a PhD in Creative writing at Lancaster University.[16] Makumbi has taught at various universities in the UK teaching both English and Creative Writing as an Associate Lecturer. Her writing relies heavily on Ganda oral traditions, especially myths, legends, folktales and sayings.[17][18]


Makumbi began writing at 15 when she wrote, directed and produced a play for a school competition. It came in third. She wrote another play when she was 18 and it too came third. While in Senior 3 she wrote her first play for an inter-house competition, which came third. She wrote her second play again for an inter-house competition at A-level, and once again the play came third. Both of these plays were written in English.[16] In 1994, she started writing a diary in poetry form to expunge her feelings as she was going through a rough patch in her life. She wrote more than 50 poems but never bothered to share them with the public. She started writing prose in 1998 while she was teaching in Kampala.[19]

Makumbi's writing is predominantly based on the oral traditions. She realised that oral traditions were so broad and would be able to frame all her writing regardless of subject, form or genre. She has said she "noticed that using oral forms which were normally perceived as trite and 'tired' brought, ironically, a certain depth to a piece that I could not explain."[20] It is important to note that her intentions in using oral traditions in fiction are not conservationist as is often presumed in African writing. She draws on oral forms because they anchor her writing in Ganda culture. At the same time, because these oral forms are rooted in her first language, she is confident using them.[21][22]

Her work has been published by African Writing Online and Commonword. She also runs the African reading group ARG! in Manchester, which focuses on obscure African writers.[15] In 2012, her short story "The Accidental Seaman" was published in Moss Side Stories by Crocus Books. In 2013, her poems "Free Range" and "Father cried in the kitchen" were published in Sweet Tongues.[8]

Her doctoral novel, The Kintu Saga, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers,[23][24][25][26] and was published under the title Kintu in 2014,[27] being longlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature.[12] She was shortlisted for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize alongside two other African contenders (Adelehin Ijasan from Nigeria and Michelle Sacks from South Africa),[28][29][30][31] going on to become the overall winner with her entry "Let's Tell This Story Properly".[32][33][34]

In March 2018, she was one of eight writers to be awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize, the citation noting: "Kintu tells the parallel stories of the fall of a cursed bloodline—the titular Kintu clan—and the rise of modern Uganda. With an extraordinarily ambitious and agile narrative voice that blends traditional oral storytelling with folk tales, mythology, and biblical elements, Makumbi delivers an incisive critique of contemporary Ugandan class, politics, and religion. Critic Aaron Bady has said that Kintu is a novel about how "all families are built out of silences and fictions." Kintu traces the lineages of these lacunae, in the process charting new possibilities for the future of the African novel."[14]

Interviewed by C.A. Davids in 2018 for the Johannesburg Review of Books, Makumbi said: "The West has too much influence on, and control of, our canon. The books they like—which tend to talk about Europe—are the ones they publish, which get reviewed, studied, written about in journals and which make it into the African canon. That is dangerous. We should wrench the power away from the West and determine our own canon, curated by African publishers and African reviewers."[35]

Makumbi is a contributor to the 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.[36]

Published works[edit]


  • Kintu. Kwani Trust, Nairobi. 2014. ISBN 978-9966-1598-9-2. Oakland: Transit Books, 2017. ISBN 9781945492013. London: Oneworld Publications, 2018, ISBN 978-1786073778
  • The First Woman, Oneworld Publications, 2020[37]
  • Nansubuga Makumbi, Jennifer. A Girl Is A Body of Water. Tin House Books. p. 450. ISBN 1951142551.

Short story collection[edit]

Short stories[edit]

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ Daniel Musitwa, "Ugandan Author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi wins 2013 Kwani? Manuscript Prize",, 4 July 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Interview with Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, shortlisted for her novel The Kintu Saga", Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Winner: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, The Kintu Saga", Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  4. ^ "Kwani Trust launch award-winning writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's debut novel Kintu",, 16 June 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  5. ^ Beatrice Lamwaka, "Jennifer Makumbi narrates the Ugandan story in Kintu", Daily Monitor (Uganda), 28 June 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  6. ^ Ali Mazrui, "Of Kintu, the witty, sensual and provocative page turner", Daily Nation, 27 June 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  7. ^ Ali Mazrui, "In brief: Manchester Happened; Freshwater; Zonal Marking – reviews", The Guardian, 2 June 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014 Shortlist" Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Commonwealth short story prize 2014 regional winners", Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  10. ^ Jennifer Makumbi, Overall Winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  11. ^ Alison Flood, "Commonwealth short story prize goes to 'risk-taking' Ugandan", The Guardian, 13 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  12. ^ a b "South Africans Dominate the Longlist for 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature", BooksLive. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Jennifer Makumbi", Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Jennifer Makumbi Honoured with $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize, Alongside 7 Others", Brittle Paper, 7 March 2018.
  15. ^ a b "New chapter for African writer after top award", Lancaster University, 26 July 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  16. ^ a b "Jennifer Makumbi", Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  17. ^ About, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi | Author". Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  19. ^ Jennifer Makumbi: Winner of Kwani?'s Manuscript Project, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  20. ^ Bamuturaki Musinguzi, "Oral tradition pays off for Jennifer Makumbi", The East African, 20 June 2014.
  21. ^ "On how I started to write from African oral traditions" Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi". Granta Magazine. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Jennifer Makumbi wins award for The Kintu Saga", Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research, 18 July 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  24. ^ Japhet Alakam, "Jennifer Makumbi wins Kwani Manuscript Prize", Vanguard (Nigeria), 18 October 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Uganda's Jennifer Makumbi Wins Kwani? Literary Prize", The Star, 3 July 2013; via AllAfrica.
  26. ^ "AWT’s Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi wins the Kwani? Manuscript Project", African Writers Trust, 3 July 2013.
  27. ^ Aaron Bady, "In Kintu, a look at what it means to be Ugandan now", Literary Hub, 15 May 2017.
  28. ^ Flora Aduk, "Uganda’s Makumbi shortlisted for Commonwealth story prize",, 2 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  29. ^ Daniel Musitwa, "Commonwealth Short Story Prize Shortlist Announced",, 3 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  30. ^ Commonwealth Foundation, African authors shortlisted for 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize,, 30 April 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  31. ^ Tanya Batson-Savage, "Three Caribbean Writers Shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014", Susumba, 30 April 2014.
  32. ^ "Uganda’s Jennifer Makumbi Winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize", Stream Africa, 14 June 2014.
  33. ^ "Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi Wins the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize", Books Live, Sunday Times, 14 June 2014.
  34. ^ "Jennifer Makumbi wins Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014 (Woosah!)", James Murua Blog, 16 June 2014.
  35. ^ Davids, CA (6 August 2018). "'We should wrench the power away from the West and determine our own canon'—Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi talks to CA Davids about her novel Kintu". Johannesburg Revview of Books. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  36. ^ Tom Odhiambo, "'New Daughters of Africa' is a must read for aspiring young women writers", Daily Nation (Kenya), 18 January 2020.
  37. ^ "The First Woman". Oneworld. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  38. ^ 2014 "Etisalat Prize for Literature announces longlist", Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  39. ^ "Congrats to the Authors Longlisted for The Etisalat Prize for Literature", Brittle Paper, 7 November 2014.
  40. ^ a b "Ugandan writer wins Commonwealth short story prize". BBC News. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  41. ^ "Yale awards eight writers $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes". YaleNews. 7 March 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  42. ^ "100 Most Influential Africans". Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  43. ^ "Shortlist announced for 2021 Jhalak Prize for BAME writers". Books+Publishing. 14 April 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  44. ^ Flood, Alison (25 May 2021). "Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Patrice Lawrence win Jhalak prizes for writers of colour". The Guardian.
  45. ^ Chandler, Mark (5 May 2021). "Oneworld takes two places on Encore Award shortlist". The Bookseller. Retrieved 25 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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