Song of Lawino


11218_okoypbitek_songofocol

This is one of my favorite books. One dearest friend lent me his years ago, it strikes me since then. This book has two parts: Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol. Lawino is the wife, and Ocol is the husband. From Lawino’s song I can hear the song of pride, song of hope, song of love. It is not bad at all. From Ocol’s song I can feel regrets, struggle, and resistance – which is also not bad, it’s good. When I did my lecture in Intercultural Communication, this book is my favorite to read in front of my students. It helps them to underlines the phenomenon of cultural relativism. To some extent, this book has taught me wisdoms – to let myself to grow in grey area, and it is always nice to commit yourself just like that!

I quote one of my favorite parts from this book:

“There is No Fixed Time for Breast Feeding” (p. 63)
My husband is angry because, he says, I cannot keep time and I do not know how to count the years;
He asks me how many days there are in a year, and how many weeks in four moons; but I cannot answer: the number of moons in nine weeks. I cannot say! How can I tell?
Ocol has brought home a large clock. It goes tock-tock-tock-tock and it rings a bell.
He winds it first and then it goes but I have never touched it. i am afraid of winding it.
I wonder what couses the noise inside it! And what makes it go!
On the face of the clock there are writings and it’s large single testicle dangles below.
It goes this way and that way like a sausage fruit in a windy storm.
I don not know how to tell the time because I cannot read the figures.
To me the clock is agreat source of pride. It is beautiful to see and when visitors come they are highly impressed!
……
……
I do not know how to keep the white man’s time.
My mother taught me the way of the Acoli and nobody should shout at me because I know the customs of our people.
When the baby cries let him suck milk from the breast.
There is not fixedtime for breast feeding.
When the baby cries it may be he is ill; the first medicine for a child is the breast.
Give him milk and he will stop crying, and if he is ill let him suck the breast.
While the medicine-man is being called from the beer party.
Children in our homestead do not sleep at fixed times:
when sleep come into their head they sleep. When sleep leaves their head they wake up.
When a child is dirty give him a wash, you do not look first at the sun!
When there is no water in the house you cannot was the child even if it is time for his bath!

Listen my husband,
in the wisdom of the Acoli time is not stupidly split up into seconds and minutes, it does not flow like beer in a pot.
That is sucked until it is finished.

3 thoughts on “Song of Lawino

    • mmhh i’ve seen this book (or poem) as a form of resistance or struggle. The struggle of being women, which most of the time being “silent” or “muted” by mainstream knowledge or science (some people call it: western/white people knowledge – i would say: masculine knowledge). Also, this poem or book is a struggle of being non white (male) people. Have you ever heard about second hand orientalism? I would say second hand orientalism happened when “the victim” of “latent” orientalism take up values of their “colonizer” (Memmi). What do you think?

  1. FROM SONG OF LAWINO-WHAT is THE ROLE OF LAWINO IN OKOT P’BITEKS’S PRESENTATION OF THE INFUENCE OF WESTERN EDUCATION ON THE AFRICAN/ AFRICAN CULTure

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