¡ POETRY ! discussion

104 views
POETRY REVIEWS > Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol / Okot p'Bitek

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by Tichaona (last edited May 19, 2011 08:17AM) (new)

Tichaona Chinyelu (tichaona_chinyelu) | 960 comments Taking the book simply at face value, the Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol contains poetry concerned with the disintegration of the marriage of Lawino, a rural African (Acoli) woman and Ocol, her western-educated husband. However, peeling back the cover of the words even a tiny bit reveals a woman committed to her indigenous culture versus a man who thinks that her culture needs to be removed from the face of the earth.

How could two such people co-exist in the same household? How could two such differing ideologies co-exist on the same planet? According to Ocol, not at all. His song is full of imagery that calls death upon the culture Lawino praises in her song.

We will smash

The taboos

One by one,

Explode the basis

Of every superstition,

We will uproot

Every sacred tree

And demolish every ancestral

shrine.

In Ocol’s song, the thing that is so striking about Lawino's – the use of indigenous Acoli symbols to present a woman solidly rooted in her culture – gets turned on its head. Every thing African becomes associated with death, decay and other extremely negative imagery. However, that is not the case with Lawino. She does not hate foreign customs. They are simply not hers.

I do not understand

The ways of foreigners

But I do not despise their

Customs.

Of course if things were as simple as that, there would be no need for Lawino to sing her song. For instance, I agree with Ocol’s installing of an electric stove in their house. Lawino doesn’t know how to use it and is, in fact, scared of it.

I am terribly afraid

Of the electric stove,

And I do not like using it

Because you stand up

When you cook.

Who ever cooked standing up?

And the stove

Has many eyes

I do not know

Which eye to prick

So that the stove

May vomit fire

And I cannot tell

Which eye to prick

So that fire is vomited

In one and not in another plate.

Instead of patiently teaching Lawino the benefits of the stove and how to properly use it, Ocol rails against her. He considers her lack of knowledge one more African deficiency he wants to divorce himself from. His attitude is revealing especially because he later becomes a leader of his country’s independence struggle for Uhuru (freedom). As Lawino tells it, Ocol says

White men must return

To their own homes,

Because they have brought

Slave conditions in the country.

He says

White people tell lies

That they are good

At telling lies

Like men wooing women

Ocol says

They reject the famine relief

Granaries

And the forced-labour system.

After revealing this, Lawino goes on to question an Uhuru where her husband can’t even get along with his brother.

When my husband

Opens a quarrel

With his brother

I am frightened!

You would think

They have not slept

In the same womb,

You would think

They have not shared

The same breasts!

And they say

When the two were boys

Looking after the goats

They were as close to each other

As the eye and the nose,

They were like twins

And they shared everything

Even a single white ant.

Even more astute however, is her statement describing the period of “independence”.

Independence falls like a bull

Buffalo

And the hunters

Rush to it with drawn knives,

Sharp shining knives

For carving the carcass.

And if your chest

Is small, bony and weak

They push you off,

And if your knife is blunt

You get the dung on your

Elbow,

You come home empty-handed

And the dogs bark at you!

In raising questions that center around the concept of post-colonial independence and how such an entity impacts on the consciousness of Africans who have been educated outside of africa as well as rural Africans who have never left the continent, the Song of Lawino & the Song of Ocol ranks up there with Ama Ata Aidoo’s Sister Killjoy. Both Sissie and Lawino were asking the same questions. The current state of the continent provides the answer.


Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol (African Writers Series) by Okot p'Bitek

Reviewed by Tichaona Chinyelu
Originally posted @ http://moyamba.wordpress.com/2011/03/...


Poppy | 1307 comments Tichaona wrote: "Taking the book simply at face value, the Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol contains poetry concerned with the disintegration of the marriage of Lawino, a rural African (Acoli) woman and Ocol, her west..."

Thanks for posting this review, T. Don't have time right now, but I want to return to it and read it more carefully. I have been wanting to ask you if, having a Zimbabwean name, you have read "When the Crocodile Eats the Sun?" Curious to know your opinion.


message 3: by Tichaona (last edited May 20, 2011 01:41PM) (new)

Tichaona Chinyelu (tichaona_chinyelu) | 960 comments Poppy, I actually have a pan-African name as Chinyelu is Nigerian (Yoruban).

Having a Zimbabwean first name doesn't mean that I have read every Zimbabwean author any more than having an English/American name means a Brit/American has read every British/American author.

Who is it by? I'll look it up.


Poppy | 1307 comments The author is Peter Godwin, an American journalist who grew up in Zimbabwe. The book covers the past 30 years in Zimbabwe, and is extremely well written.

I thought perhaps your name indicated ties with the country, but
anyone who is interested in human affairs will appreciate this book.


Tichaona Chinyelu (tichaona_chinyelu) | 960 comments Actually my parents were/are Sierra Leonian. I'll look it up. Thanks.


message 6: by Tichaona (last edited May 20, 2011 04:23PM) (new)

Tichaona Chinyelu (tichaona_chinyelu) | 960 comments Poppy, I did look at the book. My interest in human affairs notwithstanding I find myself bored by the stories of European expatriates living in Africa unless they address the colonial nature of their relationship to indigenous Africans in a
Tim Wise kind of way but thank you for the suggestion.


Jerin's avatar  "ali " Mission Accomplished | 124 comments Tichaona wrote: "Poppy, I did look at the book. My interest in human affairs notwithstanding I find myself bored by the stories of European expatriates living in Africa unless they address the colonial nature of th..."


"a Tim Wise kind of way"

I'll go a step further..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkW6Fe...


back to top

unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol (other topics)