Okwiri Oduor My Father’s Head Research Article

Article Posted in: Research Articles


By Mrs. Vidhya Sathishkumar

Ashvamegh : October 2015 : Issue IX : Research Papers : ISSN : 2454-4574



Okwiri Oduor’s My Father’s Head is of memoirs of her centre figured character Simbi and Simbi’s   remembrance of her father and different tensions characterised by her after the death of him and her dwindled state of mind. She exposes her mental stability and Africans fondness towards food. It stands as a unique piece of writing because unlike other writers she does not manifold African slavery or suppression. She tries to bring out the liveliness and inner bond of relationships between their families. She deals with different types of state of mind from old age homes to the inner feeling of a child. Her reference of foods is dominant in the story. For instance “Every day after work, I bought an ear of street-roasted maize and chewed it one kernel at night……”(2). While expressing her solitudeness or vacuum created after the death of her father she states “Everyone has people that belong to them”(4). She unfolds the truth that spirit which we name as ghost is just an illusion created by memories.

African literature is a flourishing literature with all its utmost way. New writers begin to sprout and publish their most noteworthy works in order to get recognition in the field of worldwide literature. African literature tends back to traditional method of oral literature. It has grown dramatically in quantity and in recognition with numerous works compiled for education. This written African literature is the literature of testimony. African literature is considered as literature of revolt that moves away from expressing the frustration of the past and tries to find new discourses and styles.

Kenya’s Okwiri odour won the 2014 Caine prize one of the leading African literary award for African writing, for her short story “My Father’s Head”. She has directed the inaugural Writivism festival in Uganda. She teaches creative writing to young girls at her Alma mater in Nairobi. Emancipation of African women writers are minimal recently their contributions have raised in literature. Writers like Oprah Winfrey, Rebeka Njau and many other prominent writers are tend to be trend setters.

Keywords: food, reminiscence, call back



Odour has given great importance to the food in this short story. The author has used many varieties in describing the sorts of food preferred by different category. When expressing Simbi’s routine works she remarks “I brought an ear of street-roasted maize and chewed it one kernel at a time…..and drank a cup of chai”(2). This straight away describes the habit of eating among youngsters at their age group.

While referring to the elderly people and customs she manages to find out the tastes of them “the old people sat eight to a table, and with their mouths filled with ugali,sour lentils and okra soup….”(3). This indicates the traditional food of elders which they are always fond of.

She also mentions how she used to sit in her father’s leg and eat snacks of hers. She states “I thought of the day I sat at my father’s feet and he scooped a handful of groundnuts…..and then fed the mush to me”. Oduor’s narration of food implies the food they have at times in Africa.

Kay praised the story, saying, “Okwiri odour is a writer we are all really excited to have discovered. “My Father’s Head” is an uplifting story about mourning-Joycean in its reach……it is a story you want to return to the minute you finish it”.

Oduor has used many phrases and decorated her story with the fantastic taste of foods and colours. She has used many phrases in comparing, in describing things and expressing her ideas.


The penner uses Simbi to explore her state of confusions from existence to non-existence which remains unanswered question by many of us. It still remains an illusion or a type of nervous breakdown by many considering the existence of soul of dead people. In this short story Simbi, a woman in her twenties works in an old age home and describes how see happens to see her dead father at her home.

She describes how she happens to see her father “I was stringing together the images of my father,making his limbs move…..in a theatrical display”(2). This is the first note how a narration of dead one is made. Further she elaborates her father’s profession as a plumber and how people use to knock their home even in Saturdays.

Simbi tries to figure out her father by drawing his face recollecting his memories but she couldn’t figure out his head properly. When she explains this to the elderly woman she says, “I recognize his clothes. The red courduroys paired with yellow shirt”(2). Simbi tries to perform many kind of rituals in home to get rid of her father’s soul through father Ignatius. When she realises her father’s presence is to safeguard her, she wishes to be with him. But her father decides to leave her.



The author begins the story with “I had meant to summon my father only long enough to see what his head looked like, but now he was here and I did not know how to send him back”. I threw things at my father,garlic,incense…………I asked father Ignatius to bless the house. He brought the vial of holy water”(5)

These lines clearly depicts the inner mind of people when they see the dead one’s. it is between traditionalism and modernism.  Simbi not only represents the whole world in this lines but also the problem faced by them. People neither follow tradition nor modernity. In between state of mind is like a water full of mixture of sand which takes time to settle down.

Simbi says “I looked at my father. He was something at once strange and familiar, at once enthralling and frightening”(6)

Modern 21st century has various issues related to spiritual and inner identity. The search for non-existence, questions of unanswerable keeps popping up in minds of people. Self identity is being a great quest to reveal. In this short story, Odour points out normally people fail to see the head of the people where their facet receives the main focus. The underlying meaning is that  people fail to recognize the inner self of individual. They keep on judging the book by its cover.

At the end of the story the writer gives the touching note that, “My father said me, “I have seen you. You have offered me tea. I will go now” (8)

Using Simbi’s father as a sound of many inner voices “if you don’t want me here drinking your tea, just say so, instead of killing-killing people with mouth”(8)which the author reminds of saying instead of using various ideologies to revive the past certain remedies to be taken to rectify the dwindling state.



Oduor has put forth her views of death and pains and a normal recollection of Simbi’s days with her father. She tries to elaborate her view of death and so called spirit which we believe to be a ghost is just the recollection of the death one’s. It is not to be afraid of. Continent like Africa which is a developing country would have been enrooted with the thoughts of superstition beside their deprivation. This short story not only breaks the barrier of old tradition she tries to find out a new solution with a heavy impact on readers. One could feel the difference in narration of thoughts. She has used stream of consciousness technique in elaborating the narration and has depicted the importance of food combining with her father’s death. When people has been concentrating on darker side of the life. She has successfully portrayed the character of Simbi that she is holding a light to the future to come. Rather Odour has picturized the death of heroine’s father as an epitome and whole story spins around the arrival of her father after death. The story has clearly portrayed the affection of a father and a daughter. Thus, Okwiri Odour’s My Father’s Head has high quality of diction, vivid elaboration of characters and a replica of African society.




Okwiri oduor’s “My Father’s Head”

Africainwords.com/2014/06/21 blogging-the-caine-prize-okwiri-oduors-my-fathers-head/: Publishingperspectives.com/2014/07/Okwiri-icaoduor-wins-15th caine-prize-for-afican-writing/:



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