Okot p'Bitek

Okot p'Bitek

Author and Academic

B.Litt Anthropology (1960)

Okot p'Bitek was a Ugandan poet, novelist, and social anthropologist whose three verse collections—Song of Lawino (1966), Song of Ocol (1970), and Two Songs (1971)—are considered to be among the best African poetry in print.

As a youth, p’Bitek had varied interests: he published a novel in the Acholi language (later posthumously published in English as White Teeth [1989]), wrote an opera, and played for Uganda’s national football team. It was while touring England with the Ugandan team that he decided to pursue his education in Britain, studying first at the University of Bristol and then at University College of Wales at Aberystwyth. 

Okot came up to St Peter's in 1960 to read for a B.Litt (equivalent to today's MLitt) in Anthropology. He returned to Africa in the mid-1960s, and after serving as director of Uganda’s National Theatre and National Cultural Centre (1966-1968), he accepted a position as senior research fellow and lecturer at University College, Nairobi, Kenya (1971-1978). He was also a visiting lecturer or writer in residence at several universities. From 1978 to 1982, he taught at the University of Ife in Nigeria.

His most famous work, Song of Lawino, was written originally in Luo, and later rendered into English. It is a dramatic monologue in which a wife laments and sarcastically describes her Westernised husband's cultural and personal inadequacies.

Okot p'Bitek died on 19 July 1982.