Kampala, Uganda – The literary play “Echoes of Lawino” took center stage at The National Theatre from June 9th to June 11th, 2023, leaving the audience captivated and moved as the performers flawlessly brought to life the characters vividly described in the timeless poems of “Song of Lawino” and “Song of Ocol.”
Penned by the literary guru Okot p’Bitek, these poems chronicle the poignant lamentations of a traditional African woman whose husband, upon embracing education and Western civilization, undergoes a profound transformation. He abandons their cherished African way of life, culture, and traditions and takes pride in marrying a new wife who epitomizes the ideals of Western society.
The genesis of this theatrical opus stems from the visionary aspirations of its producer, Ojok Okello, who envisions a city that thrives with holistic progress while cherishing and preserving African cultural norms and values. With “Echoes of Lawino,” Okello sought to showcase the beauty and depth of African culture while exploring the contrasts and impacts of Western influences.
The three-day run of the play was a remarkable success, with each performance focused on drawing spirited comparisons between African cultures and Western norms. Divided into sessions, the play delved into various cultural and political themes, highlighting the differences between Lawino and her co-wife in physical appearance, kitchen power, attire, and their ability to cater to their husband’s needs, among other aspects.
Throughout the play, the audience was treated to mesmerizing interludes of cultural music and spellbinding dance routines, seamlessly intertwining the sessions. These interludes added depth and emotion to the performances, enriching the overall experience for spectators.
“Echoes of Lawino” illuminated the veils of political and religious hypocrisy, underscored the stark disparities between cultural traditions, and shed light on the impact of civilization on African heritage. Above all, it implored Africans to embrace the positive elements of Western culture while preserving their own traditions.
Alex Kitaka, the director of the play, emphasized the importance of celebrating literary luminaries such as Okot p’Bitek and reigniting appreciation for their work. He passionately advocated for the preservation of African customs, languages, and traditions while selectively assimilating beneficial aspects of Western culture to contribute to Africa’s holistic development and advancement.
The show garnered attention from prominent literary scholars, artists, and politicians, with notable figures such as Nobert Mao in attendance. Their presence highlighted the significance of “Echoes of Lawino” in sparking discussions about African identity, cultural preservation, and the evolution of society.
“We embarked on this endeavor with the aim of reimagining the literary opus of Okot p’Bitek and celebrating his remarkable stature as a preeminent scholar of literature in our nation and across Africa. Furthermore, our mission was to serve as a poignant reminder to Africans that amidst the encroachment of Western culture, our distinct customs, language, and traditions remain steadfast. We firmly believe in the potential to selectively draw upon philosophies and ideas from Western culture that can propel our collective progress and upliftment as African people,” expressed Kitaka.
“Echoes of Lawino” at The National Theatre succeeded in captivating audiences, reigniting cultural pride, and stimulating important conversations about the fusion of African and Western influences. The production serves as a testament to the enduring power of literature and the significance of preserving Africa’s rich cultural heritage in an ever-changing world.