Okot’s Aesthetics Revisited: On Symbolic and Parabolic Expression in Song of Lawino




Aesthetics, Okot, Parables, Song of Lawino, Symbols


Song of Lawino remains a majestic imprint in East African literary map. On its publication in 1968, Lindfors (1984) asserts that “Okot was immediately recognized as a classical African poet’ (44). Initially written in Acoli language, the book received acclaims the world over as a new bearing for African literary artists. Since then, it continues to occupy its own niche in 21st century, which is affirmed in introduction to the 2014 impression of Song of Lawino: ‘Okot’s work will not cease to be relevant for a long time to come’ (10).  Okot was honoured posthumously in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Song of Lawino on 18th March 2016 at Makerere University and Kenyatta University, literature department in a colloquium held in December 2016.  The immense interest in the work  is shown in translations into Luganda and  then Sheng by J.K.S. Makokha, which has been appreciated by Wanambisi (1984), Mugambi (1992) and others as being African and unique art. This paper intends to add a voice in the appreciation of Song of Lawino Fifty years since its publication. The author contends that the book utilizes symbols and allegory in expressing its concerns. The paper contends that Song of Lawino utilizes symbols in communicating its concerns and at the same time the work can be read as a parable. The author identifies the various types of symbols and their relevance in expressing themes. In addition, the paper provides a parabolic reading of Okot’s work, Song of Lawino. These two lenses of studying, is hoped, will allow an in-depth study of the work.


Download data is not yet available.

Britannica, E. (2010). Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Davin, D. A. (1989). Enjoying Poetry. Macmillan Press Ltd.

Gathungu, M. (1973). Okot p'Bitek: Writer, Singer or Culturizer? In C. L. Wanjala, Standpoints On African Literature (pp. 52-61). Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau.

George, H. (1973). Okot and Two Songs, a Discussion. In C. L. Wanjala, Standpoints On African Literature (pp. 96-146). Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau.

Heffernan William A, J. M. (1987). Literature Art and Artifact. New York: Harcourt Brace Joanovich Publishers.

Joyce, N. (2016, September 10). Becoming Kenyan: The Delameres and the politics of being Maasai. Saturday Nation. Nairobi.

Lindfors, B. (1984). The Songs of Okot p'Bitek. In G. Killam, The Writing of East and Central Africa. (pp. 144-158). Nairobi : Heinmann Educational Books (EA).

Moran, J. (1978). Parable Plays. London: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.

Mugambi, J. (1992). Critiques of Christianity in African Literature. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers.

Mutiga, J. (2013). Effects of Language Spread on a People's Phenomenology: The Cas of Sheng in Kenya. Journal of Language, Technology and Enterpreneurship in Africa 4.1, 1-14.

Ngugi, S. (1973). Popular Lyric Poetry in East Africa. In C. L. Wanjala, Standpoints On African Literature (pp. 41-51). Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau.

Nkosi, L. (1985). Home and Exile and Other Selections. London and New York: Longman.

p'Bitek, O. (1973). Africa's Cultural Revolution. Nairobi: Macmillan Books for Africa.

p'Bitek, O. (1989). Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol. Nairobi: East African Educatiional Publishers.

Wanambisi, M. N. (1984). Thoughts and Techniques in the Poetry of Okot p'Bitek. New York: Vantage Press Inc.



How to Cite

Makokha, J. (2019). Okot’s Aesthetics Revisited: On Symbolic and Parabolic Expression in Song of Lawino. Nairobi Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.58256/njhs.v3i1.801