Mildred Barya

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mildred Barya
BornMildred Kiconco Barya
Kabale District, Uganda
Alma materMakerere University
Notable worksThe Price of Memory: After the Tsunami, Give Me Room to Move My Feet

Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer and poet from Uganda.[1] She was awarded the 2008 Pan African Literary Forum Prize for Africana Fiction, and earlier gained recognition for her poetry, particularly her first two collections, Men Love Chocolates But They Don't Say (2002) and The Price of Memory: After the Tsunami (2006).[2][3]

Barya has also worked as journalist and travel writer. From August 2007 to August 2009, she served as Writer-in-Residence at TrustAfrica, a Pan-African foundation based in Dakar, Senegal. She graduated from MFA program at Syracuse University, New York, in 2012, a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Denver in 2016. She had been a member of the Creative Writing Faculty at Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA).[4] [1] She has lived and worked in Germany, Botswana, Kenya and Uganda. Besides her career as a writer, Barya has also worked as a Human Resource Advisor for Ernst & Young in Uganda,[5][6][7] and currently teaches Creative Writing as a faculty member of the University of North Carolina at Asheville.[8]

Barya is a founding member[9] and serves on the advisory board of African Writers Trust,[10] "a non-profit entity which seeks to coordinate and bring together African writers in the Diaspora and writers on the continent to promote sharing of skills and other resources, and to foster knowledge and learning between the two groups."[11]


Born in Kabale District in southwest Uganda, Barya attended Mwisi Primary School and Kigezi High School. In 1996, she was awarded a full government scholarship to attend Makerere University in Uganda. She graduated in 1999 with a BA in Literature. She also while at college joined FEMRITE—Uganda Women Writers Association, where she worked closely with Goretti Kyomuhendo, then Program Coordinator, and Violet Barungi, then FEMRITE editor.[6][12][13]

In 2000, Barya took certificate courses in Information, Communication and Globalisation at the International Women's University, Vifu, in Hamburg, Germany. In 2002, she studied Editorial Practices and Publishing Management at Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya. From 2002 to 2004, she rejoined Makerere University to earn a master's degree in Organisational Psychology.[6][7]

In 2006–2007, Barya held a writer's residence fellowship at the Per Sesh Writing Program in Popenguine, Senegal, under the instruction of Ayi Kwei Armah.[2]

Writing and critical reception[edit]

Barya's first published collection of poems, Men Love Chocolates But They Don't Say, won the Ugandan National Book Trust Award for 2002.[2] Her second collection, The Price of Memory: After the Tsunami, also received favourable critical attention as shown by the two reviews cited below.

Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura, a reviewer for The Weekly Observer (Uganda) claimed that Barya's "poetry blossoms on indigenous African imagery, rhetorical devices and ideas, easily comparable to Okot p'Bitek's long poem, Song of Lawino." But Barya's poetry "is an enthusiastic trumpet, subtly blown for the woman in society, unlike Lawino's defence of the traditional African values."[14]

Gaaki Kigambo, a reviewer for Uganda's Sunday Monitor, claimed that "Barya's subjects are informed by the things we are used to. In this era of mobile telephony, everyone will identify with Mathematically Proven Love." Kigambo also stated that such poetry "reveals the romanticist in Barya."[15]

Regarding Barya's third collection of poems, Give Me Room To Move My Feet (2009), Peter Nazareth, Professor of English at the University of Iowa, USA, claimed that "the poet breaks down and mends herself through spirituality, religion, and poetry, bringing back to life what seemed to be dead" and that Barya "never stops loving Mother Africa."[16]

Barya's short fiction has appeared in FEMRITE anthologies, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, African Love Stories, Picador Africa, and Pambazuka News. An excerpt from her novel What Was Left Behind earned her the 2008 Pan African Literary Forum Prize for Africana Fiction, as judged by Junot Diaz, the Dominican-American Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer and essayist.[3][7] She is a contributor to the 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.[17]


  • 2008: Pan African Literary Forum Prize for Africana Fiction[18]
  • 2015: Sylt Foundation African Writer´s Residency Award[19]
  • 2020: Linda Flowers Literary Award for creative non-fiction entry "Being Here in This Body"[20]

Published works[edit]


  • Men Love Chocolates But They Don't Say. New Vision Publications. Uganda. 2002. ISBN 9970-9888-0-8.
  • The Price of Memory: After the Tsunami. Mallory Publishing. Devon, UK. 2006. ISBN 1-85657-102-5.
  • Give Me Room To Move My Feet. Amalion Publishing. Dakar, Senegal. 2009. ISBN 978-2-35926-001-4.
  • "A fragile heart", "If I was" in Painted Voices: A collage of art and poetry, volume II. Femrite Publications. 2009. ISBN 978-9970-700-18-9.
  • "Stormy heart", in Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, ed. (2014). A thousand voices rising: An anthology of contemporary African poetry. BN Poetry Foundation. ISBN 978-9970-9234-0-3.

Short fiction[edit]

  • "Raindrops", in Violet Barungi, ed. (2001). Words from a Granary. FEMRITE Publications. ISBN 9970-700-01-4.


  1. ^ "Poets sip from Kiconco's chalice". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Barya, M. K. (June 2008). "Bio", Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  3. ^ a b Pan African Literary Forum (May 2008) Archived 5 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine. "Writing Contest Results", PALF. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  4. ^ "Creative Writing – Faculty" Archived 27 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) (2013). Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Who We Are: Our Staff", Trust Africa (2008). Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  6. ^ a b c Barya, M. K. (7 March 2006). "Creating an enabling environment for writers" Archived 6 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Crossing Borders No. 10. British Council Arts. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Barya, M. K. (June 2008), "Press Release", Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  8. ^ "Mildred Barya | Department of English". Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  9. ^ Barya, Mildred. "The future of African writing: personal reflections". Pambazuka News, 10 August 2011. Issue 544. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Advisory Board", African Writers Trust. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  11. ^ "What is African Writers Trust?" African Writers Trust. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  12. ^ Musoke-Nteyafas, Jane. "Ugandan Writers: Meet Mildred Barya Kiconco" Archived 9 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, AfroLit, 10 March 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  13. ^ Caples, LaKeisha L. "I try to highlight social issues affecting women – Violet Barungi" Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 10 May 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  14. ^ Kajura, Y. S. (26 April 2007). "Poetry with answers" Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The Weekly Observer. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  15. ^ Kigambo, G. (16 April 2006). "Barya the romanticist unveiled"[permanent dead link], Sunday Monitor (Uganda). Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  16. ^ "Give Me Room To Move My Feet", Amalion Publishing. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  17. ^ Odhiambo, Tom (18 January 2020), "'New Daughters of Africa' is a must read for aspiring young women writers", Daily Nation (Kenya).
  18. ^ MKB (24 August 2008). "One writer's postcard (the Pan African Literary Forum in Ghana)". Mildred Barya's House of Life. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  19. ^ "Winner of the 2015 Sylt Foundation African Writer´s Residency Award announced!". Sylt Foundation. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  20. ^ "UNCA assistant professor Mildred K. Barya wins 2020 Linda Flowers Literary Award". Mountain Xpress. 8 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Mildred Barya, Ph.D." University of North Carolina Asheville. Retrieved 9 October 2020.