Department of English

DEPARTMENT OF

English Language and Literature

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The Departments of English and Gender Studies Present:

ARTIST TALKS

Juliane Okot Bitek

Bird, or How I Became an Acholi Poet: a Journey to Language, Orientation and Form 

JUNE 21, 2021 | 3:30-4:30PM

Juliane Okot Bitek poster - text provided in page content

Virtual Webinar: Link in Description

Stay tuned for an upcoming talk on Tuesday June 22!

This presentation is part of hiring for the Black Studies Program at Queen's University. 

Register in advance for this webinar: https://queensu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_iS-kFVNnSRq0gDAYqQgFLg

Abstract: Rather than an abstract that promises a skeletal representation, a concentrated form, this is an invitation to wer, a space where form, time and language collapses and then returns new and old again. Wer, song or poetry in the Acholi tradition from which I hail, is also a space for debate and a container for social, political and personal memory. Poets are historians, Okot p’Bitek wrote, but how does the Acholi poet claim, and the navigate a traditional form away from home, history and language? What I have is this language in my mouth, Souvankham Thammavongsa, says. But this is not a story to pass on, Toni Morrison reminds us. In this talk, I reflect on how my claim to  la-wer, an Acholi poet is guided by a decolonizing practice that is steeped in an awareness of the world as it is across the global Black world. As a critical scholar and an artist, I consider and work with different modes of articulation, knowledge making and power. The work of an Acholi poet is to craft language that gathers community and imagines different ways of languaging ourselves through a liberatory practice of resistance, always towards freedom. I welcome your presence and look forward to an engaging time together. 

About the Artist: Dr. Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek is a poet scholar. Her 100 Days, a collection of poetry on how to remember the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, won the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry and the INDIEFAB Book of the Year (Poetry) Award for the same year. 100 Days has also been nominated for several writing prizes. Juliane’s most recent academic articles and contributions include: “What Choices Between Nightmares: Intersecting Local, Global and Intimate Stories of Pain in Peacebuilding” Peace Building and the Arts (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2020) and “Conversations at the Crossroads: Indigenous and Black Writers Talk”, Ariel: A Review of International English Literature (2020) and “Colonial Intent as Treachery: A Poetic Response” (forthcoming Critical African Studies). Off the page, Juliane works in collaboration with other artists in community. Her most recent collaboration is un/settled, a street level photography and poem installation with artist-educator Chantal Gibson.