'Echoes of Lawino' brings two poems to theatre

Saturday June 17 2023

(L-R) Destiny Chaiga as Clementine, Ojok Okello as Ocol, and Mercy Awino as Lawino in the musical production “Echoes of Lawino” at the National Theatre in Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO | MARTIN JJUMBA | NMG


Okot p’Bitek’s epic poem Song of Lawino (1966) and the follow-up poem Song of Ocol (1970) have been adopted for a musical theatrical production titled Echoes of Lawino by the Okere Community Development Project (Okere City) — a rural community initiative based in northern Uganda.

The production that was staged at National Theatre in Kampala from June 9 to 11, 2023, cast Sharon Atuhaire and Mercy Awino. It was directed by Alex Kitaka and produced by Allan Odong.

Song of Lawino, a narrative poem is about Lawino, the main character lamenting over her husband, Ocol, who is ready to abandon his Acholi customs and adopt the white man’s urbanised way of life. The long poem is about how the African society has been destroyed by colonisation.

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Song of Ocol is Ocol’s reply. He promises to break away from his Acholi heritage including the taboos and bride price. He wonders what benefits came with independence. He makes a mockery of colonial government.

The dances and songs were all from Lango. Specially, Okeme and Abuda songs and dances were performed by the local people from Okere. They performed the local rendition of Waloyo Yamoni, a Lango rainmaking song composed by Christopher Tin.


“The production highlighted the complex social and political contours Africans grapple with presented through the lenses of feminism, colonialism, post-colonialism, and Pan-Africanism. The play also sets out to address the cultural loss that we (Africans) face due to generations of social, religious, and political indoctrination,” Okello said.

“With this play, we intend to spark and join the chorus of voices daring to re-imagine a more decolonised African people."