Dear ardent readers of ‘Poets and Poems’ column, I did not know and I guess you too did not know that at Makerere University in Uganda, Kampala, 700 people recently met with an addition of 30Professors of Literature to celebrate 50 years of ‘Song of Lawino’s’ existence.
One of our readers, Daniel Sikazwe, in Stockholm alerted me: I was delighted to have read your enthusiastic and passionate analysis of ‘Song of Lawino,’ in Sunday Times (March 20, 2016), he quipped, and went on to say: I look forward to reading the articles you will be writing in the following weeks ahead.
He then added, more or lesslike an afterthoughtthat the book’s historic celebration was underway at Makerere.
Then, Daniel referred me to his friend at Makerere University, Dr. DansonKahyana, Professor of Literature who later told me that the event had already taken place and had attracted: 30 Literature Professors, the highest concentration of Literature Professors at a one-day symposium in this country, he said.Professor Kahyana also disclosed that there were plans to hold a post-literary event on the book. Who would ever doubt this sort of thing for Okot’s work of genius?
Meanwhile, Ocol’s incessant ravings at Lawino have reached fever heat; he is systematically attacking Africa’s blackness by digging into its past unearthing the structures and institutions that he thinks perpetuate the continent’s backwardness.By way of making the reading easier, I have divided up the poem’s appropriate stanzas with brief comments on each piece. The reader should, however, bear in mind that from the first stanza to the last, it is but one entity and should be read as such (p 132):
To the gallows
With all the Professors
And teachers of African
This is one of the most contemptuous attacks of Ocol on Africa’s past history and its cloistered institutions. Like the radicle that he is he has no business with the leaf-effect of the issues African but he ruthlessly gets hold of the lingering roots of Africa’s blackness and uproots— hook, line and sinker, the Pumpkin of the Old Homestead. Our understanding of Ocol’s frustration and the panacea he proposes will be clear if we take Africa’s institutions and their custodians one- by- one.
First, he wants to send to prison all the Professors of Anthropology, quite a scare to Students and Lecturers of history as well as lecturers of Sociology and students in Development Studies who know that Anthropology is an important discipline.
Socio-cultural Anthropology is a study of ways in which people relate to the world around them and a study of minority and subgroups in communities. So, Malinowski and your student, Arap Moi of Kenya, beware! ‘Facing Mount Kenya’ if it is already in print, is up for grabs and flames!
Second, teachers of History in high schools and Universities at home and abroad face an eviction and detention for teaching the relics of African past. The unearthing and bringing to the twentieth-century of skulls of the home sapiens of East African and all the Broken (aren’t they broken, anyway?) Hill men of Central Africa are unethical; they are all guilty of singing anthems of the old tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs to innocent students.
All teachers of history and students are liable for prosecution for preserving stories of the African past. Ocol is determined to put to rest African kingdoms of Kush, Nubia the Sahel and the Maghrebs and the inhabitants of the Hone of Africa.
Where is Ali Mazrui’s ‘The African’ documentary and African history books earmarked for an eternal incineration? Ocol wants them!
He will smoke out African history lecturers hiding in the ivory towers of Universities, those in dark rooms of extramural buildings and the moss-covered, putrefied basements of concrete library walls.
The scantily dressed Khoikhoi and the San of South Africa will never rise to prominence again since there are no wild fruits to gather anymore; spears, bows and arrows are now relegated to museums for curious visitors and the unschooled.
We’ll make of their works,
We’ll destroy all the anthologies
Of Africa Literature
And close down
All the schools
Of African Studies.
Third, all those who pride themselves in reading and putting together anthologies of African Literature may as well have the last walk of fame in the corridors of Universities. Gerald Moore and Adrian Roscoe are already identified. And that bald -headed David Cook—the fire is ready for your roasting, cooking or both— you had better keep your head low in your hiding cave, Ocol is coming!
Forth, Aime Cesaire, who once thought was a genius and helped found (and coined its name) the Negritude movement must show cause for not being cited for defending ignorance and disease.
Facing Ocol would require a whole corpus of the literary movement of the likes of Senghor, David Diop, Birago Diop and all other Diops of Senegal including Taban for being a sympathizer as one of his key witnesses.
Ocol is coming! Fifth, Jahn and Father Placide Temples, the padre of the Franciscan seminary, I know you are not Africans by birth (one of you is German and another Belgian) but all the same both of you are guilty of supporting African literary institutions and crafting Bantu philosophies, respectively, including such diminutive people as the pigmies of the darkest of forests of Congo.
I am sure you also met Joseph Conrad there in his ‘Heart of Darkness;’ that Polish-British writer and ancient mariner is also on the wanted list of criminals. Ocol wants all of your type; he says he is coming!
Where is Aime Cesaire?
Where Leopold Senghor?
Arrest Janheinz Jahn
And Father Placide Temples,
Out in detention
All the preachers
Where are the remains of William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.?) Ocol has found out who you really are: when you came to Africa you disguised yourself as Du Bois. Are not your remains in Ghana, Accra?
I am so sorry for you, since not only are you dead but so is Nkrumah who gave you sanctuary in that black country of black stars.
If you thought you were safe leaving America and denouncing your citizenship of that country of your birth, there is sad news for you.
So busy were you, propagating the African Personality, another extreme arm of Negritudestill with a distinct African face. Ocol does not think all this matters, he is coming for you! He wants to exhume your remains as an exhibit in court. Afterwards, he says there will be no memorial erected for you anywhere in Africa as Nkrumah did in your honor. Perhaps his remains will also be required to answer charges of espionage for allowing a dissident with his wife to settle and die in Africa.
Of African Personality
Exploded long ago,
DuBois is dead
We will erect
No memorial for him;
Why should I care
Who built the citadel
Of what relevance is it
Whether black men
Architected the Pyramids?
What about the citadel of Zimbabwe better described as a ruin for that is what they are: who cares? Ocol is not impressed and he is all the more amused that no-one knows who built that jumbled blocks of granite.
Call it what you may: the largest single pre-colonial structure in sub-Saharan Africa! UNESCO may have placed it on the highest pedestal of monuments; they always do that for such things African, anyway.
Ocol thinks otherwise, perhaps UNESCO might think of shipping it to their headquarters; Ocol would not have sleepless nights over it, not a wee bit. To all turncoats of Africa, beware your imminent arrest is drawing closer than you ever imagined.
Smash all these mirrors
That I may not see
The blackness of the past
From which I came
Reflected in them.
Ocol will, among other advocates of acumen and legal standing, call for his defense the South Africanliterary mind,Ezekiel Mphahlele; here is the foretaste of his judicial notes—What I do not accept is the way in which too much of the poetry inspired by Negritude romanticizes Africa—as a symbol of innocence; purity and artless primitiveness.
I feel insulted when some people imply that Africa is not a violent continent. I am a violent person, and proud of it because it is often a healthy human state of mind; someday I am going to plunder, set things on fire; I am going to cut someone’s throat; I am going to subvert a government; I am going to oppress my own people; I am going to hunt down the fatblack men and destroy them; I am going to become a capitalist and woe to all who cross my path; I am going to attack the black bourgeoisie while I cultivate a garden, rear dogs and parrots, listen to jazz and classics, yes I’m going to organize a strike. Don’t you know that sometimes I kill to the rhythm of drums and cut the sinews of a baby to cure it of paralysis…?
Dear reader, all things being equal, it looks like Ocol has a strong case. This Africa’s grand trial might as well be dubbed as a trial of a century and is likely to attract a thousand and one observers in a court room packed to rafters and gallery spews. Let us make a date with Ocol next week. – comments–firstname.lastname@example.org–