The Restless Africa (Okot p’Bitel)

(By PiS in Book Review)

Most of authors in the world especially Asia, even Africa, consciously or not always have a struggle of their illustration with the west culture influence. A little bit or not, it must be found its influence included in their writings, however hard it is they effort to make a pure for their natural thinking to a work from the influence of anything. So does it with Okot p’Bitek, he is not skipped away from that case, however the searching for his own self in the middle of struggle with west culture influence in fact produces the writing which is more mature in the meaning so his writing becomes more qualified, integrity and makes the world of Africa more essential compared with the essence due to west culture influence it self. In another word, the influence of west culture for Okot p’Bitek alone produces the writing which is able to expose his Africa’s spirit more. This we can see from his mature works which is not strange again for the world of literature among them: “Song of Lawino (1966)” and continued with “Song of Ocal (1970)”. And there are a lot of recognitions already and they make them to be an exploration material for literature and culture, because of art value with bold color of culture in content particularly in the book “Song of Lawino”.

The devotees of literature in Indonesia are lucky to get the translation of two collection books above combined in one book. Perhaps we will not find out true essence from this poem except we understand the language, literature and culture of Africa. Because every literature is really translated, of course the intrinsic values like the author expects is difficult to be reached, as great as whatever he was. But even thought it pass two filters namely from Lwo (Africa) to English, then from English to Indonesian, but fortunately the book “Song of Lawino” is translated by the experienced expert, that is Sapardi Djoko Damono who is very careful in every thing including in the selection of word, so little more of our soul may feel its original soul (literature of Africa) in every form of words is translated. This makes me easy than we have to learn language of Lwo to understand the art soul of Africa’s man of letters. For the book “Song of Ocol”, Okot p’Bitek directly uses English, thus it is not language of Lwo. The title of his translation book in Indonesian is Afrika Yang Resah: Nyanyian Lawino dan Nyanyian Ocol, published by Yayan Obor Indonesia, 1988.

The Problem discussed looks like small one that is the problem appeared between two figures named Lawino and Ocol. But the principle found in it which looks a little is the figure of the big one in a country which is just free from west colonial namely problem of social, culture, economy, politic, religion and so forth.

With this book we are invited to look at the chain of complicated problem, including all substances through the perspective of the deepest inside of heart, which is simple and plain.

As for example soul of Africa in the shadow of west influence, was painted by pure soul, plain and simple showed from row of word Lawino who protested to her husband Ocol:

I am very afraid of electric stove,
……………….
Who cooks while standing?
……………..
And that stove has a lot of eyes
Which one should be pushed on
So the fire is squirted……………..

There are a lot of interested word series from Africa man of letters. Those who is interested in culture, sociology with its substance of letters, so it is really enjoy to read these poems while crossing the soul to the world of Africa there. It is difficult to have an experience to be bored in reading this book although it is already done repeatedly.

Shortly, the poem book contented political theme, social, culture is one of letters books in high collected value, besides it is written by very famous expert inn letters

and influenced in Africa, it also because of the value in book’s content is properly appreciated in positive. Concerning with the period of change where a country has just been free from the power of west colonial of course it is a right moment for creating a qualified work of letters, in this situation, every kind of letter work usually has an original substance of culture which endeavors to make its way through the surface however it is shadowed fully by the strongest influence from outside. One of them extraordinarily is the work of Okot p ‘Bitek.

(PiS, July 9, 2011 from old note)

Indonesia : Afrika yang resah (Okot p’Bitek)

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