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Okot p'Bitek Biography

(1931–82), Song of Lawino, Song of Ocol, Two Songs, Horn of My Love

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cynthia Ozick Biography to Ellis Peters Biography

Ugandan poet, born in Gulu, educated at King's College, Budo, Bristol University, and the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. The subject of his thesis at the Institute of Social Anthropology in Oxford was Acoli and Longo traditional songs. Among other posts he was Director of Uganda's National Theatre, and a Lecturer in Literature at Nairobi University. His most famous work, Song of Lawino (1966), was written originally in Luo, and later rendered into English. It is a dramatic monologue in which a wife laments, and sarcastically describes her Westernized husband's cultural and personal inadequacies. Song of Ocol (1970), the husband's reply, reveals him to be just as predictably inadequate as his wife had declared. In Two Songs (1971) p'Bitek made further use of dramatic monologue and Acoli story-telling techniques to denounce, sombrely through a political prisoner (‘Song of Prisoner’), and humorously through a prostitute (‘Song of Malaya’), post-independence injustices. Horn of My Love (1974) contains traditional Acoli poetry in his own translations. Preoccupations of traditional culture and modernity were elucidated in African Religions in Western Scholarship (1971) and Africa's Cultural Revolution (1973). See G. A. Heron, The Poetry of Okot p'Bitek (1976).

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