Cultural Nationalism or Escapist Idealism: Okot P’bitek’s Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol
Mediterranean Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences (MJBAS) Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 90-109, July-September 2020
20 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2020
Date Written: 2020
This article seeks to demonstrate that cultural nationalism has been a significant ideological force in African literary writings in general and poetry in particular. It endorses a distinctive communitarian vision of the nation and has repeatedly been espoused by many a literary academic as a remarkable effort towards the re-establishment of coherence and integrity in African traditional life and institutions. While recognizing the beauty of traditional life, this approach turns a blind eye to the endemic challenges that these nations are grappling with. Taking Okot’s Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol as the literary points of reference, I have delineated the character of cultural nationalism, the leadership role of the colonized intellectual, and its recurring emergence in alternation with escapist idealism. Using Fanonian theory, I have argued that rather than idolize the past in what may be largely interpreted as idealist escapism, Okot’s intent in the two poems selected for this study is to offer a truthful, accurate and objective representation of the real African world. He divorces his poems, Sengorian and Negritudist as they may seem, from rigid cultural historicism and espouses the marginalized perspective that Africa’s culture is a product of shared heritage and the desire for liberation should not blind us to the dynamism of our culture and the reality that neocolonialism has ushered in a new political culture that should worry us more than the coloniser’s. It is not enough for us to look only backwards in our quest for cultural revolution.
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