Celebrating Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino at 50
18 March 2016
Makerere University, Kampala
The Department of Literature, Makerere University is organising a one-day symposium, scheduled for 18 March, 2016, to celebrate the fifty years of the publication of p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino. The symposium will showcase oral performances, readings, a keynote address and a panel discussion, culminating in the launch of a Luganda translation of Song of Lawino by Prof. Abasi Kiyimba, titled Omulanga gwa Lawino. This event is conceived as part of a larger biennial Departmental initiative of recognising and celebrating Ugandan writing and literary icons who have left indelible marks on the East African literary scene and beyond.
Song of Lawino is a seminal work that received wide acclaim, engaging critical responses right from its publication in 1966. Before its publication, East Africa did not have any notable written poetry. In effect, the poetic arena in Africa was dominated by West African and South African poets. With the publication of p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino the region added a luminous thread to the fabric of African poetry, captivating the African literary imagination and focusing attention to Uganda and East Africa, and making a major contribution to African Literature. The significance of Song of Lawino on the East African and African literary scene cannot be overstated. The text played a pivotal role in shaping critical and cultural debates across African, especially during the transition from colonialism to independence. Through this work, p’Bitek carried the torch of African cultural renaissance, which would shine even brighter in his later non-fictional works such as Africa’s Cultural Revolution and Artist, the Ruler. Based on, and inspired by, Acoli oral literary tradition of the satirical song, p’Bitek in this long poem launched a poetic form that has come to be dubbed the ‘song school’, which has been variedly adopted by later poets such as Joseph Buruga (The Abandoned Hut), Okello Oculi (Orphan), and more recently p’Bitek’s daughter, Jane Okot p’Bitek Langoya (Song of Farewell). To date, Song of Lawino not only remains one of the canonical texts to have come out of Africa and a prominent part of African Literature curriculum the world over but it is also the pioneer of a poetic form that can be said to be distinctly and proudly African.
As part of the celebration, the Department plans to issue two publications at the end of 2016: the first, a collection of critical essays on Song of Lawino or on p’Bitek himself, and the second, an anthology of creative writings inspired by Song of Lawino and in honour of p’Bitek. Contributions are therefore invited for the two volumes.
Contributors can send their critical essay, short stories, poems and other creative pieces to the address below. Critical essays should include an abstract – and creative pieces a synopsis – of no more than 250 words:
Closing Date: 30th March, 2016