A graduate of Chemistry, Julius Sseremba started writing in 2002. The Ugandan author has written articles and short stories for local newspapers in his home country. His debut book, By the African Fire: A Short Story Collection was first published in 2011 by Mallory Publishers, as part of a new fiction series in conjunction with the British Council, that sought to showcase innovative work from young writers in Africa.
The title is, particularly, captivating. Traditionally, the African fire was the classroom and gathering place for generations of African children – a place where the family gathered, and where stories were told as mothers prepared evening meals. Perhaps, it is this memory that the author had in mind when he complied this collection.
Traditionally, African stories served to teach children their society’s traditions, and to inculcate good morals and important values such as discipline, respect, and hard work. And in this respect, Sseremba’s work remains true to the spirit of African storytelling. The collection is interesting, short enough to leave young readers yearning for more. It has beautiful illustrations too. The lessons behind the stories are well illustrated, for instance, the importance of honesty and , and the dire consequences of being greedy.
Kaka and Naboti’s Plantation is the opening and closing story of the collection. Kaka is a great and powerful king in Tonde country. He is a very good swordsman and has worn many battles. He is a hard-to-please man. His favorite drink is banana beer, and he, therefore, has many banana plantations. Because of his good fighting skills, he has ignored the great spirit of Tonda, the overall protector of Tonde. He believes he can have all he wants. When he takes a look at Naboti’s beautiful banana plantation, he decides he must have it, but Naboti refuses to sell the land since it was handed to him by his ancestors. Kaka’s wife decides to have Naboti murdered and Kaka takes over the plantation. This angers the people of Tunde who decide to avenge Noboti’s death. Not even his sword can save him!! His wife is murdered and Kaka is banished from the village. Yek, Kaka’s son is installed as king. Kaka returns to Tunde after many years of suffering but he has learned one big lesson, and he tells his son: “to think that you are completely self sufficient is a folly…..”