Monday, August 18, 2008
Prelude to Heritage and Sickness
The most famous work of Ugandan literature is probably the late Okot p'Bitek's poem, The Song for Lawino. In this work, Lawino addresses her husband Ocol with regard to his unconditional love of European culture. She is not too happy about this affinity, which has caused him to convert to Christianity, learn vulgar european dances like the Waltz and take on a second wife who has a European name and affect. Fed up with his conduct, Lawino says to her husband:
Stop despismg us, my man, don't look down on us,
Africans have traditions that are good
Don't fool yourself that your ways are bad
African cultures are solid, not hollow,
Neither thin, nor weak, nor light.
But Ocol, although you have read up to university
You are big for nothing, you have no weight
You cannot guide us, addicted as you are
To copying foreign ways
As if your people have none of their own
We have lost trust in you.
Your loose tongue deserves silencing with a beating.
The cultures of other people I do not despise
Don't you look down upon your own
Occasional treats you can never depend upon
Don't uproot the cultures of your land.
Perhaps it was fitting in some poetic way that I first read this poem in p'Bitek's hometown of Gulu. But I kind of wish I hadn't read it before I fell ill.
at 12:29 PM