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All I ask
Is that my husband should stop the insults,
My husband should refrain
From heaping abuses on my head.
He should stop being half-crazy,
And saying terrible things about my mother
Listen Ocol, my old friend,
The ways of your ancestors
Their customs are solid
And not hollow
They are not thin, not easily breakable
They cannot be blown away
By the winds
Because their roots reach deep into the soil.
I do not understand
The ways of foreigners
But I do not despise their customs.
Why should you despise yours?
Excerpt from The Song of Lawino: 1. I Am Not Unfair to My Husband by Ugandan writer Okot P’Bitek.
The iconic poem was first published in Acholi in 1966, before being translated into English (something Ngugi Wa Thiong’o would be proud of and continue to advocate for) and, through the souring relationship of a once close husband and wife, deals with the destruction, erasure and debasing of African traditions brought about through European colonisation.