- Beverly Nambozo Nsengiyunva is an inspiration to herself. She is the brain behind Beverly Nambozo Poetry Award. At only ten years, Nambozo was a bibliophile consuming books like food. Even when her mother pushed her to sleep she would read under the covers late into the night.
Born in Kampala in 1976 to the late Harvard Mugoya and Betty Nabayego Kajubi Mugoya, Nambozo moved to England as the family following a father who was a diplomat. The school environment there, with its abundant books, nurtured her love for reading more.
“Books were not a luxury as it is here; which helped me develop a strong reading culture,” says Nambozo.
When her parents had to travel, all she could ask for were books. She says, to her, England was structured to preserve the culture of history and art with wonderful art pieces. It was there that she also begun to love language and articulating words on paper creatively. She was also fiercely competitive in sports like swimming.
When the family returned to Uganda eventually, the reading culture had been solidly instilled. She joined Kampala Parents School, and emerged a top performer, and was admitted to Gayaza High School where she won several dance competitions. Then her father passed on and her mother, who was just venturing into the landscaping and floriculture business, started to fend for them.
“I have never remembered us lacking although when my father passed on, the gap was evident as mum struggled to keep us in good schools; Gayaza for myself and Budo for my brothers,” says Namboozo.
For advanced level, Nambozo crossed to Makerere College School where traditional dance and singing was in the blood of the students and Nambozo joined in.
Her only dream was to pursue creative writing for undergraduate degree but it was not offered at Makerere University and a neighbour who was a dean of the Arts Faculty at the university advised her to study a B.A Education degree with a literature major as the closest option. She fell in love with the literature analysis in the third year of study. She did her second degree in creative writing at the University of Lancaster in UK and got a distinction in poetry.
After Makerere University, Namboozo had joined FEMRITE, a women writers’ organisation of people who were excited and crazy about words just like her.
“I got in touch with actual Ugandan authors who further encouraged me and this was more of home to me,” says Nambozo.
She worked at several NGO jobs, all in the line of writing, and also worked at Power FM a radio station for two years. It was while working as Audience Relations Manager that she met her husband Emmanuel Nsengiyunva.
“He said he saw me and wanted to marry a tough spirited woman,” she says. They married in 2007 and had their first born daughter a year after.
Nambozo chose to combine gender activism with poetry and started a poetry competition for Ugandan women in her name. The Beverly Nambozo Poetry Award is run under Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation.
The winners travel around Africa for festivals and learning with master poets. Nambozo says most of the winners advance to doing poetry on their own and the award now includes African writers beyond Uganda. Babishai also runs a poetry exhibition and primary schools poetry competitions. This year, Nambozo plans to publish a children’s poetry anthology.
“Children are underrated yet they can be perfect performers,” she says.
She is set to publish her second poetry collection and targets writing 1,000 words per day even when she is expecting her third child.
She also founded Bukoto Toastmasters Club where she aims to improve public speaking and leadership skills of members.