Okot p'Bitek

Celebrating Okot p’Bitek’s work

Song of Lawino is an epic poem written by Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek published in 1966 in Luo and translated into many other languages, including English.

In the poem Lawino’s husband, Ocol, the son of the tribal leader of their Acoli tribe, has taken another wife, Clementine, who is educated and acts European. Although Ocol’s polygamy is accepted by society, and by Lawino herself, her description of his actions shows that he is shunning Lawino in favour of Clementine. Ocol is also said to be fascinated with the culture of the European colonialists. The poem is an extended appeal from Lawino to Ocol to stay true to his own customs, and to abandon his desire to be white. This is one of the most well known poems to come out of the pearl of Africa.

The people at Babishai Niwe Foundation have decided to honour this poem which will be celebrating its 50th year in 2016. This will be at their second Babishai Niwe Poetry Festival happening from 24-26 August 2016 in Kampala, Uganda.

During the three-day festival, with the special theme #LAWINO@50, there will an explosion of new and older Ugandan and international poets and artistes performing, holding open mics and children’s poetry sessions.

If you wish to show your poetry with a #LAWINO@50 theme then you can send it to our friends at Babishai Niwe to be considered. The team is accepting poetry in Acholi, Langi, Alur, Lumasaaba, Luganda, Runyankore and any language that can be understood by people in Uganda. You need to send;

  • A one-page summary of what you propose to showcase (as MS Word attachment).

  • A 500-word bio (as MS Word attachment).

  • A recent passport photograph (in jpeg or GIFF).

  • Links to your previous work.

You may send works and inquiries to bnpoetryaward@bnpoetryaward.co.ug with the deadline being Monday, 8 February 2016. Successful poets will be notified on Monday, 4 April 2016.

Good luck.