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Juliane Okot Bitek.

Juliane Okot Bitek’s Poetry Collection, 100 Days, was published last year. The poems were “inspired by the quiet homage to the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that Wangechi Mutu started posting on social media on April 6” of 2016. As Mutu posted her photographs, Bitek wrote a poem a day.

In a new piece in Huffington Post, Somali writer and visual artist Diriye Osman, author of the Polaris Award-winning short story collection Fairytales for Lost Children and of the forthcoming novel We Once Belonged to the Sea, has called it “a masterpiece.”

Daughter of the legendary Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek, Juliane Okot Bitek, who was born in Kenya and raised in Uganda, is a PhD Candidate with the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues in Vancouver. Her short story, “Going Home,” won a special mention in the 2004 Commonwealth Short Story Contest.

Here is an excerpt from Osman’s piece.

Juliane Okot Bitek is a memory keeper, and the memories she wishes to preserve in her majestic collection of poetry, 100 Days, are of the collapse of the imagination that was the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when more than a million Tutsis were hacked to death by their Hutu kin and countrymen in just a hundred days.

Over the course of a hundred poems, each one a document of the days when Rwandans were engaged in a grotesque actualisation of hell as the world averted its gaze, our collective inertia an act of moral complicity, Okot Bitek reminds us again and again why such memory keeping matters, and why the Rwandan genocide remains a bowel-to-core betrayal of the most elemental notion of what it means to be a human being.

It is this betrayal that Okot Bitek kicks off with, and the first betrayer is the soil in which these seeds of xenophobia have taken root, lending the whole landscape a mephitic dimension.

Okot Bitek layers this landscape with texture and vividity, imbuing the horror of those hundred days with technical adroitness and the kind of wisdom that has to be earned.

Read the full piece HERE.

Somali writer and visual artist Diriye Osman.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was born in Aba, Nigeria and attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A finalist for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, his short stories include: “A Tenderer Blessing,” which appears in Transition Magazine and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015; “Mulumba,” which appears in The Threepenny Review; and “You Sing of a Longing,” which was shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and appears in Pride and Prejudice, an anthology by The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and in Brittle Paper where he is Deputy Editor. His interviews appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa Magazine, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. A postgraduate student of African Studies, he currently teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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