Of Pack Light: Memoirs of Growing Up In Africa

Ibua Journal, an African Publishing House which discovers, trains and publishes emerging African Writers is releasing an anthology of shortlisted stories from their inaugural Continental Call of 2019 which ran under the theme: Memoirs Of Growing Up In Africa.

Pack Light Theme: Memoirs of Growing Up In Africa
Ibua Journal Shortlist

Writers were invited to submit creative accounts of moments and events which defined their childhood to early adulthood in Africa. From the 66 submissions that were received from 14 African countries, the final shortlist is featured in the Pack Light publication.

Pack Light Stories & Poems

I was curious about the series title Pack Light so I searched for it online and a travel blog had the following concise definition:

The true meaning of packing light is travelling hassle-free, without baggage. The golden rule of packing light is to carry half of what you intend and take twice the money…

Books are like flights to nowhere allowing us to travel without ever leaving where we are, and all you need to bring is your imagination….

Pack light: Memoirs Of Growing Up In Africa is a vignette of coming of age stories set from around the continent; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt.

One of the stories starts with an intro from a song by the late Zimbabwean musician Fortune Wolfman Muparutsa titled Kwaunoenda Kure which means “Where you go is far

Hey love
When you told me you were leaving,
I never believed it would cause me so much pain
And now I realise that you are all I live for
And there is nothing in this world I would not do to make you stay
Please stay

The story that follows is an embodiment of the reality of The Zimbabwean Dream which is to leave Zimbabwe for the diaspora. Every family has relatives who are abroad, who have seemingly escaped the madness of this teapot-shaped country and send remittances, groceries and clothes home. The Diaspora Dream also has a nightmarish price tag, the trauma of separation which sometimes can be permanent. In the story How Far We Go, Wadzanai gives you a front seat look of growing up in such a family.

A Flicker written by Jackson D.O Oyugi (Uganda) is the winning story from the anthology. It’s a story about education and hope. Similar to the diasporan dream of going abroad, its about all the hope a family will pin on that family member who will advance the most in their education and hopefully pull the family out from the clutches of poverty. Well the thing with great expectations… great disappointment is a flip of the script away, but of hope there is always.. A Flicker.

Sometimes the diasporan dream means travelling not abroad but to another country in Africa and in Wild Wild South, Stephen Adinoyi (Nigeria) narrates this through three generations of a family that migrated from Nigeria to South Africa. Their triumphs, challenges and inevitably the xenophobia they have to face is told in this intricately woven story within a story.

With each turn of the page, a story will transport you somewhere different exploring different facets of growing up in Africa; from rape, abuse and survival to what it means to be a girl in culture of arranged marriages and female genital mutilation. Women becoming girls in a world they are taught that women are the glue that held their families together even though it was the husband breaking them apart, breaking her apart. There are stories of identity, appearance, colourism, broken promises and even unexpected mercies….

You will cry, you will laugh and you might even realise how it doesn’t matter where a story is set it could have easily happened to you or yours with a flip of the coin to other side…..

It was an experience shifting from story to story trying to figure out where it was set and made me realise how I don’t really know my continent or recognise some of the languages when the authors opted to include vernacular phrases. I also wish some added a translation although meanings could always be inferred from context.

Can stories help Africa change its future? That was the theme of the Pack Light release and where they unveiled the theme for the Ibua 2020 Continental Call

Ibua 2020 call Bold: Imagining A New Africa

Bold: Imagining A New Africa

How would you imagine a new Africa? Imagine your story in the next Ibua anthology and a cash prize. Deadline Sunday 8 November. Tick Tock see link below for details



  1. Gotta tell you, if I had been born there and somehow acquired the knowledge I have otherwise acquired, I too would be looking hard for a way out. Recall that I’m from California and we lead the rest of the country in exporting residents who can’t afford to retire, study, work or die here.

    Sorry there was way too many levels of griping in that last sentence. I just so tired of corrupt politicians ruining our societies.


    Liked by 1 person

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