Masking death: Covid-19 inspired humour in the everyday orality of a Luo community in Kenya




Covid-19, orality, humour, mask


Death, especially death which comes through disease, is often a hard subject that the human mind wishes to bury deep in the unconscious. The lack of ease with impending death eventually finds expression in everyday discourse. In this paper I look at performance of Covid-19 discourse through humour in a short episode of everyday orality of a Luo community in Uyoma, Siaya, in Kenya. The performance of the everyday language is textualized to display the aesthetics of contextual language through coinage, jokes, and puns, which manifest as humorous responses to an otherwise dire situation. From the feminising of the disease as Acory Nyar China, literally translated as “the petite Cory from China”, to the symbolic naming of aspects of the Covid-19 protocols and verbal jokes about the same, there is an inherent, deliberate attempt to literally laugh in the face of death. The identified aspects of language are treated as metaphorical masks, even as the mask as an object also becomes a metaphor. I employ discourse analysis, which treats language as living social phenomena capable of change, growth, expansion, and adaptation for contextual spatial and temporal expressions.


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Author Biography

Rose Akinyi Opondo, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya

Rose Akinyi Opondo is senior lecturer in the Department of Literature, Linguistics, Foreign Languages, and Film Studies, School of Arts and Sciences, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya.


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How to Cite

Opondo, R. A. (2023). Masking death: Covid-19 inspired humour in the everyday orality of a Luo community in Kenya. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 60(3), 36–42.



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