This paper reconsiders the poetry of Okot p'Bitek in light of both his formal legal education and the principles of traditional Acholi law. Okot claims in Artist, the Ruler that traditional African poets actually create and proclaim law at a fundamental level in society. Okot himself, as a poet in the "traditional" mode, can thus be understood as performing a similar function, particularly in his poems Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol, which can be read in terms of the reconciliatory procedures of traditional justice and, jointly, as an expression of the contemporary value (and possible complications) of traditional law as a response to the legal norms inherited from the British colonial legal system. Given recent debates about the efficacy of traditional justice in promoting reconciliation in Northern Uganda, a "legal" reading of Okot's poetry demonstrates the continuing relevance of his perspectives with regard to traditional art and culture.


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pp. 109-128
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