Google honours Kenyan writer Margaret Atieno Ogola

Wednesday June 12 2019

Google honours the late novelist, paediatrician, and human rights advocate Dr Margaret Atieno Ogola with a doodle on what would have been her 60th birthday. PHOTO | GOOGLE


Echoes of the award-winning novel The River and the Source continue to reverberate almost eight years after the death of its author Margaret Atieno Ogola.

On Wednesday, US tech giant Google honoured the late novelist, paediatrician, and human rights advocate with a doodle on what would have been her 60th birthday.


“Happy to celebrate Kenyan award-winning author, activist and doctor, the late Dr Margaret Ogola, author of The River and the Source,” wrote Google on Twitter.

A doodle is an aimless or casual scribble, design, or sketch on topics that happen to be flowing in a writer’s mind.

According to Google, the doodles represent a “fun, surprising and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists”.


Born in June 12, 1958 in Asembo, Siaya County, Ogola attended Thompson’s Falls High School for her O-levels where she emerged the best student overall before proceeding to Alliance Girls High School for A-levels.


She later joined the University of Nairobi where she graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree in 1984 before joining Kenyatta National Hospital as a medical officer.

The doctor earned her Master’s in Paediatrics from the same university in 1990.

She passed away after a long battle with cancer on September 21, 2011 and is survived by her husband Dr George Ogola and four children and two foster children.

"This strength and support that is found in the African family is the most important part of our culture and should be preserved and nurtured at all costs,” Dr Ogola said of the novel.


Eight years after he passing, Dr Ogola’s contributions to the literary world and medical practice remains unrivalled.

The River and the Source, her debut novel, gave Kenyan secondary schools an award winning set book between 1998 and 2001.

The book focuses on the lives of several generations of Kenyan women, starting in a rural 19th century village and tracing the descendants of a matriarch named Akoko all the way to modern-day Nairobi.


Dr Margaret Atieno Ogola, the author of The River and the Source. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Along the way, Google notes, the novel addresses political and cultural changes as well as the HIV/Aids crisis, always highlighting the role of women in African society.

Dr Ogola portrays women as important members of the society as she underlined the importance of the family unit in a rapidly changing society.

“After being rejected by various publishers, Ogola’s novel went on to win the 1995 Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and the 1995 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book,” Google writes in the description accompanying the doodle.


According to Dr Ogola, the inspiration for this book came from her mother “who handed down to me the wisdom and lives of her own mother and grandmother.”

The novel, which elevates women’s acts of courage in a traditional setting won two prestigious awards, the Commonwealth Writers Prize Africa region and Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 1995.

In the doodle, Google also commemorates her two other books including, I swear by Apollo and Place of Destiny which won her a second Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 2007.

Place of Destiny is a semi-autobiographical tale of a woman dying of cancer that could as well turn out to have been a premonition piece.

The doctor also co-authored Cardinal Otunga: A Gift of Grace, a biography with Margaret Roche and Educating in Human Love, a handbook on sex education which she wrote with her husband.


Dr Ogola’s passing was not long after she had submitted the manuscript for her posthumously published novel “Mandate of the People”, her last novel published by Focus Publishers in March of 2016.

It focuses on an election time in fictitious Migodi. There, Leo Adam Agade, a hitherto unknown breed of politician in the region, campaigns on a platform of honesty, but runs into the menacing opposition of his adversary.

Besides Dr Ogola back in 2013, Google used doodles to honour Kenya's Wangari Maathai on her 73rd birthday.

The tech behemoth has also used doodles to mark Kenya's key events such as the 2017 Elections day and the independence day on several occasions.

Reports by Victor Raballa, Thomas Rajula and Augustine Sang.