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This conference paper was originally published as:

Ongalo, J., Fernandez, J., & Reynaud, D. (2017). Redefining “home”: The concept of dala in Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye’s Chira. Paper presented at the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Conference, Perth, Australia. Retrieved from

ISBN: 978-0- 9942689-2-1


200508 Other Literatures in English

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The debates about Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye’s identity either, exclusively identify her as Kenyan or British-born Kenyan without explicitly interrogating the process by which she became Kenyan. This research recognises that Macgoye is Kenyan through her marriage to a Luo. The Luo are a language group whose traditional land is on the shores of Lake Victoria. To the Luo, the word dala has varied meanings including, but not limited to: a homestead, the ancestral land, the clan, and the general direction of dala before the Luo is Kenyan. As a Luo wife, Macgoye has multiple belongings to these dala spaces, which use location, ethnicity and gender to create Luo cultural identity in experiences involving an individual’s past and the present. These definitions of the Luo dala are interrogated in various ways in Macgoye’s Chira (a novel) showing her engagement with the different appropriations of the Luo dala. This paper uses postcolonial and diaspora theories, and the Luo concepts of dala to show how her identity and belonging influences Macgoye’s representations. It argues that Macgoye’s Luo wife status informs and redefines postcolonial and diaspora concepts of home. The paper also shows how Macgoye’s being “at home” is shown through her use of both the mother tongue and the mother in-law tongue. Luo storytelling structures and transliterations are identified as indications of Macgoye’s concept of dala. The research aims to show how the cultural re-rooting of Macgoye challenges discussions of displacement, identity and belonging.


Used by permission: African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) and the authors.

© 2017 African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP)

This conference paper may be accessed from the publisher here.