Google is honoring the 71st birthday of Professor Duncan Okoth Okombo in their latest Doodle illustrated by Kenyan artist Joe Impressions. Okombo’s contributions throughout his lifetime, spanning 66 years, have pinned him as the founder of African sign language studies.
Professor Okombo’s work was inspired at an early age due to his experience being raised during British colonial rule. Born on a remote Kenyan island in Kaswanga, Okombo witnessed the English language taking precedence over his ethnic identity sweeping his native tongue to near extinction. The violent awakening further propelled the professor to ensure the heart of his indigenous African heritage would never be dimmed.
The solution would lie in educating the next generation to ensure the native language would always be preserved. Okombo would pursue a linguistics degree in 1983, publishing Masira ki Ndaki — one of the first novels in a Kenyan language. Advancing his career, he would become a professor of linguistics and literature at his former school, the University of Nairobi, where the Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) Research Project began.
Here, Professor Okombo published 30 scientific publications cemented on the composition, vocabulary and behavioral studies of the language of deaf Kenyans. His impressive arsenal of informative content led to the incorporation of Kenyan Sign Language, which was incorporated throughout schools, churches, hospitals, and the media. This feat would open the doors for the deaf community to operate in society with greater ease, securing opportunities that were often overlooked due to language barriers and land Okomobo the notable title as the international president of the World Federation of the Deaf from 1992 to 1995.
The Doodle of Okombo was featured on Google’s homepage in Kenyan, joining the search giants features.