OKOT BITEK, Juliane




Author Tags: Afro-Canadian

Juliane Okot Bitek's poetry project on the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide is 100 Days (University of Alberta $19.95) published in January of 2016, with an introduction by Cecily Nicholson. It's part of a literary series dedicated to Robert Kroetsch. As someone who has lived in both her native Kenya and Uganda, Okot Bitek recalls her family's displacement under the vicious regime of dictator Adi Amin while reflecting on the horrific and tragically undeterred genocide in Rwanda. Her work incorporates the Ugandan Acholi oral tradition of her father, the poet Okot p'Bitek, as well as Anglican hymns; slave songs from the Americas, and the contemporary styles of spoken word and hip-hop. 978-1-77212-121-6

Born in Kenya to Ugandan exiles, Juliane Okot Bitek--along with B.C. writers Lorna Goodison, Wayde Comptom and Tanya Evanson--were among 90 contributors to the first national anthology to focus solely on poetry by African Canadians, Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry ($21.95), edited by Valerie Mason-John and Kevan Anthony Cameron, and launched during Black History Month in February of 2012. 978-1-897181-83-6

After learning that troops in her hometown of Gulu had opened fire on peaceful walk-to-work citizens protesting the high costs of fuel and food in 2011, Uganda-raised Juliane Okot Bitek also contributed ‘Stuff to do When Your Hometown is Burning’ to the anthology, The Revolving City (Anvil $18). “There it was,” she explains, “a national army firing protesters with live bullets and it seemed important but wasn’t—no local or international news channel available to me was carrying it. It seems incredulous, but it wasn’t—the world around me was detached, no one was talking about it, nothing stopped to witness or commiserate.” Okot Bitek is one 51 mainly contemporary Vancouver poets who have read at SFU’s downtown monthly Lunch Poems series (the third Wednesday of every month) and contributed to the new anthology, edited by Wayde Compton and Renée Sarojini Saklikar. 978-1-77214-032-3

In 2014-15 Juliane Okot Bitek was a Ph.D candidate (Interdisciplinary Studies) at the University of British Columbia's Liu Institute for Global Issues in Vancouver where she wrote her dissertation "on history, memory and alienation, how we understand who belongs, who doesn't, and the stories we tell to justify that."

Some of her essays and creative writing can be found at julianeokotbitek.com.

[BCBW 2016]