Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let no one uproot the Pumpkin

Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino is a poem concerning the rural Acholi woman Lawino’s tribulations as her husband, Ocol, has turned ‘western’ and looks down upon his roots. Lawino, the defender of her people’s virtues and values, laments her husband’s modern ways of living, but his degrading reply is to be found in the book from 1970, Song of Ocol, where he mocks her defence.

The excerpt below is taken from Song of Lawino:

The Democratic Party
How does it differ
From the Congress?

Ocol says
They want Uhuru,
His brother says
They want Uhuru and Peace,
Both of them say they fight ignorance and disease!

Then why do they not join hands,
Why do they split up the army
Into two hostile groups?
The spears of the young men
And their shields,
Why are the weapons
And the men and women
Dispersed so uselessly?

And while the pythons of sickness
Swallow the children
And the buffalos of poverty
Knock the people down
And ignorance stands there
Like an elephant,

The war leaders
Are tightly locked in bloody feuds,
Eating each other’s liver
As if the D.P. was leprosy
And the Congress yaws;

If only the parties
Would fight poverty
With the fury
With which they fight each other,
If diseases and ignorance
Were assaulted
With the deadly vengeance
With which Ocol assaults his mother’s son,
The enemies would have been
Greatly reduced by now.

Okot p'Bitek was born in 1932 in Gulu, Northern Uganda to Acholi parents. He began writing in his mother tongue Lwo, one of the Western Nilotic languages, subsequently his works White Teeth and Song of Lawino were translated into English.
p'Bitek passed away on July 20, 1982.


Passions, Thoughts, Sights... said...

He was such a great poet. Thanks for sharing. I like this stanza -

Stop despising people
As if you were a little foolish man,
Stop treating me like saltless ash
Become barren of insults and stupidity;
Who has ever uprooted the Pumpkin?
(from 'My Husband's Tongue Is Bitter,' in The Song of Lawino)
Okot p'Bitek (1931-1982)

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