English World Lit Essay

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How does p'Bitek communicate his ideas about the clash between Acoli and Western culture through his presentation of the ritual of dance? Throughout “Song of Lawino” p'Bitek represents various contrasts between Acoli and Western cultures, by focusing on different aspects of the every day life of the Acoli. His representations of the ritual of dance, which defamiliarises Western culture and ways, presents his passion to keep Acoli culture alive and strong, without it becoming westernized. P'Bitek's desire is to provide an antidote to the 'dirty gossip' permeated by colonial literature. Here it is the way in which Westernised African literature presents dancing as evidence of the primitive and animalistic nature of African culture. Throughout chapter 3 p’Bitek describes Acoli culture as superior to Western culture, through describing the relationship between man and woman whilst dancing. African songs and dances are full of emotions as Lawino says: “You dance with vigour and health”[1]

The use of the pronoun “you” forces the reader to accept the Acoli viewpoint in order for the reader to familiarise and involve themselves within Acoli culture. The word “you” is repeated with a verb, “you dance,…..you compete.”[2] This repetition gives the poem a rhythmic feel, which evokes the Acoli dancing. This immerses the reader in the Acoli world helping us to see our own culture from an outsider’s viewpoint.

P’Bitek describes the differences between Acoli and Western dances, his descriptions of both the Acoli and Western dances are described from the Acoli point of view.

“That is the lazy girl who fears grinding the kabir millet.”[3]

Here he uses the Acoli word “kabir” in italic, this attracts the reader into Acoli culture, away from the western world. He is describing the Acoli girl as not having Acoli qualities, this encourages the reader to see things from his view point.

Although the Acoli people are described as dancing naked, this is presented in a positive way, in contrast to traditional colonial representations.

“All parts of the body Are shown in the arena! Health and liveliness Are shown in the arena!”[4] In this stanza p’Bitek emphasises the freedom Acoli dances have through the repetition of exclamation marks. He emphasises the honesty of Acoli culture through dances, nothing is concealed by clothes or make-up, unlike Western dancing.

Throughout this chapter he argues that nakedness is healthy because one can be open and expressive, this leads to nakedness becoming a metaphor for freedom and 'a more natural way of life', there is no need to be afraid or worried. The openness with which p’Bitek describes Acoli dances is completely contrasting to the way western dances are depicted. He describes them as dancing:

“ Tightly, tightly, they cannot breathe!”[5]
This is showing the body 'stifling' way in which they dance, without knowing how to be free like the Acoli. The repetition of the adverb “tightly” here shows the repressed sexuality of the westerners in their dance. Dance is used to explore different attitudes to sex and the relationship between men and women. “Her breasts are ripe”[6]

This describes her fertility and health, although he admits to the Acoli dances being sexual. They may arouse passion but yet this is a natural and healthy way. He depicts Acoli dances as a courtship display focused on love and procreation rather than sexual promiscuity. This is emphasised by the repetition of the word “lover”. From Lawino's point of view, imported forms of dancing result in immoral behaviour when each man dances with a woman who is not his wife, yet whilst dancing, he holds the waists of the woman and even touches the woman's breasts in order to provoke her for sexual inter course. P’Bitek seems to be disgusted at how the westerners hold each other tightly, closely.

“There is no respect for relatives:
Girls hold their fathers,
Boys hold their sisters close,
They dance even with their...
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