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....Ngugi was arrested and imprisoned without charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison at the end of the year, December 31, 1977. An account of those experiences is to be found in his memoir, Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1982). It was at Kamiti Maximum Prison that Ngugi made the decision to abandon English as his primary language of creative writing and committed himself to writing in Gikuyu, his mother tongue. In prison, and following that decision, he wrote, on toilet paper, the novel, Caitani Mutharabaini (1981) translated into English as Devil on the Cross, (1982)....
Ngugi has continued to write prolifically, publishing, in 2006, what some have described as his crowning achievement, Wizard of the Crow, an English translation of the Gikuyu language novel, Murogi wa Kagogo. Ngugi’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages and they continue to be the subject of books, critical monographs, and dissertations.
Paralleling his academic and literary life has been his role in the production of literature, providing, as an editor, a platform for other people’s voices. He has edited the following literary journals: Penpoint (1963-64); Zuka (1965 -1970); Ghala (guest editor for one issue, 1964?); and Mutiiri (1992-)...
Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o est un auteur peu connu du grand public francophone mais qu’on ne présente plus auprès des lecteurs avertis et des critiques. Pour la plupart donc, ces quelques lignes serviront d’introduction à ce grand homme que la littérature africaine peut s’enorgueillir de compter dans son patrimoine.
Il est né en 1938 dans la ville de Kamiriithu au Kenya. Son père est un polygame dont la mère de Ngũgĩ est la troisième femme et dont il serait fastidieux de recenser le nombre d’enfants (28). Très tôt le jeune James, de son prénom originel, se distingue de la fratrie grâce à ses aptitudes remarquables à l’école. Celles-ci lui ouvriront les portes de l’Alliance College, institut d’élite au sein duquel quelques rares kenyans privilégiés suivent les enseignements du programme britannique en anglais.
Conscient de sa chance, le jeune Ngũgĩ nourrit cependant un malaise face à l’obligation de s’exprimer en anglais au détriment de sa langue maternelle, le Kikuyu. C’est par le biais de cette langue qu’il communique dans la sphère familiale, et par extension à travers celle-ci qu’il envisage d’abord le monde. Pourtant, dès qu’il se trouve dans le cadre scolaire, le Kikuyu est banni et seule la parfaite maîtrise de l’anglais est valorisée. La langue locale est quant à elle méprisée, reniée et gare à celui qui oserait en prononcer ne serait-ce qu’un mot à proximité de l’établissement. Ce principe est appliqué dans tous les établissements et lieux officiels du pays y compris ceux gérés par les populations locales. Un écart se creuse irrévocablement. Il sera un facteur déterminant dans la décision de l’auteur, bien des années plus tard, malgré une littérature prolixe et récompensée par de nombreuses distinctions, de renoncer à l’usage de l’anglais dans ses œuvres pour les réserver à des langues traditionnelles dont le Kikuyu. Depuis, l’auteur aime ironiser lorsque ce choix est questionné en rappelant: « La première fois qu’on me félicita pour mon écriture, ce fut pour une composition en kikuyu » (p. 31)
At the flag off ceremony of the 2012 edition of ‘Read Africa’ project, an initiative stemming from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), UBA Foundation, held at the bank’s headquarters in Lagos, the renowned Kenyan writer, Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who was the guest speaker at the event lamented the total neglect of African languages in affairs of Africans and African states. He frowned at the preference among Africans for European languages and culture. Flaying what he referred to as the enslavement of Africa by Africans, the literary icon expressed the view that Africa will not be free through the mechanical development of material forces, but it is the hand of African and his brain that will set into motion and implement the dialectics of liberation of the continent from self-imposed mental slavery.
Ngugi, who flew into Nigeria from California, United States of America, spoke with CHIJIOKE IREMEKA on the need to give a face-lift to the dwindling reading culture in Nigeria and Africa. He also called on Africa to take its place and secure its base through the promotion of its languages, literatures and culture. The author of Weep Not Child was pained by what he termed ‘criminality,’ raising Africans that speak European languages but do not speak African languages, adding that it amounts to empowerment for an African child, when he speaks African languages as well as foreign languages.
Ngugi called for linguistic power sharing in African, just as he extolled Nigerian literary giants — Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Wole Soyinka and JP Clark, among others, describing them as the sources of imaginations for all African writers.
Popular author, Prof. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, has lamented the rate at which Africans are abandoning their indigenous languages for foreign languages, saying this trend is tantamount to self-enslavement.
Wa Thiong’o said this on Monday while speaking at the second edition of the Read Africa initiative of the United Bank for Africa Foundation to promote reading culture among pupils in Lagos.
According to him, most Africans are neglecting their indigenous languages in preference for foreign languages, noting that this trend was dangerous for the sustenance of Africans and their traditions.
He noted that Africans who have the mastery of other people’s languages at the expense of their own indigenous languages have subjected themselves to “second slavery.”
The Kenyan writer, who teaches at Yale University, added that those who were proficient in their indigenous languages and added mastery of other foreign languages had truly empowered themselves.
The writer of the popular Weep Not Child, warned Africans against killing their indigenous languages, noting that the consequences of this would be too much to bear.
“For me, enslavement is when you know all the languages of the world but you don’t know your own language. Empowerment is when you know your own language and you add other languages to it. We should promote our languages. We should encourage our children to speak our own language,” he said.
The author, who was accompanied to the formal inauguration of the second edition of the Read Africa by his 17-year-old son, Thiongo Ngugi, said he stopped writing in English Language about 10 years ago, to spearhead this campaign.
In his speech at last week's Sunday Times Literary Awards 2012, acclaimed author and academic, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, shared his belief in the development of African languages and his worries about the African middle class abandoning these languages in...
By Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o for the Sunday Times: Linguistic Power-sharing: Culture and the freedom of expression I feel honored to be invited this evening of literary awards.
What African languages need is power sharing with English, French, Afrikaans or any other official languages. It is not too much to ask that demonstration of competence in at least one African language be made a condition for promotion. I don’t see why anybody should be allowed to stand for councils and parliament without showing a certified competence in an African language. Corporations can also help in attaching competence in an African language as an added value to the other conditions for hire and promotion. English, Afrikaans, French newspapers should also lead the way in this, for a reporter who also has one or more languages of the country they serve is surely a much better informed journalist. It should be a national effort The struggle to right the imbalance of power between languages should be national with belief and passion behind it. The education system should reflect that commitment and I don’t see why a knowledge of one or more African languages should not be a requirement at all levels of graduation from primary to colleges. And finally, we have to stop the madness of promoting African writing on condition that participants write in European languages. Can anybody think of giving money to promote French literature on condition that they write it in isiZulu? African languages are equally legitimate as tools for creative imagination and in South Africa, there is the testimony of the great tradition of Rubisana, Mqhayi, Dhlomo, Vilakazi, Mofolo and Mazisi Kunene. In translation, Mofolo’s Chaka, written in Sesotho, made a big impact on the work of such greats as Senghor and other African writers.
The third is the artists’ integrity and loyalty to their imagination. It comes with responsibilities to oneself, striving for the best and highest in one’s art, and to one’s community and the world. We are all connected. Sembene Ousmane, the late Senegalese writer and film maker, once said that art must give voice to those without a voice; legs to those without legs: eyes to those who cannot see. I agree.
Art particularly in its prophetic tradition embodies the conscience of the nation. In that sense Art and the freedom of expression are essential to culture for culture is not the same thing as a particular tradition. Culture reflects a community in motion. Culture is to the community what the flower is to a plant. A flower is very beautiful to behold. But it is the result of the roots, the trunk, the branches and the leaves. But the flower is special because it contains the seeds which are the tomorrow of that plant. A product of a dynamic past, it is pregnant with a tomorrow.
WRITER NGUGI wa Thiong'o, whose name is pronounced "Googy" and means "work", writes novels, plays, essays and children's literature. Among his most acclaimed works is the 2006 novel "Wizard of the Crow", a sweeping satire on globalisation that he originally wrote in his native Gikuyu language.
THE links between Asia and Africa and South America have always been present, but in our times they have been made invisible by the fact that Europe is still the central mediator of Afro-Asian-Latino discourse. We live under what Satya Mohanty in his interview in Frontline (April 6, 2012) aptly calls the long intellectual shadow of the Age of European Empire.
In my case, I had always assumed that my intellectual and social formation was tied to England and Europe, with no meaningful connection to Asia and South America. There was a reason. I wrote in English. My literary heroes were English. Kenya being a British colony, I had learnt the geography and history of England as the central reference in my widening view of the world. Even our anti-colonial resistance assumed Europe as the point of contest; it was we, Africa, against them, Europe. I graduated from Makerere College in Uganda in 1964, with a degree in English, then went to the University of Leeds, England, for further studies, in English. Leeds was a meeting point of students from the Commonwealth: India, Pakistan, Australia, and the Caribbean. We saw each other through our experience of England. Our relationship to England, in admiration, resentment or both, was what established a shared space.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, was born in Kenya, in 1938 into a large peasant family. He was educated at Kamandura, Manguu and Kinyogori primary schools; Alliance High School, all in Kenya; Makerere University College (then a campus of London University), Kampala, Uganda; and the University of Leeds, Britain. He is recipient of seven Honorary Doctorates viz D Litt (Albright); PhD (Roskilde); D Litt (Leeds); D Litt &Ph D (Walter Sisulu University); PhD (Carlstate); D Litt (Dillard) and D Litt (Auckland University). He is also Honorary Member of American Academy of Letters. A many-sided intellectual, he is novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist, editor, academic and social activist.
The Kenya of his birth and youth was a British settler colony (1895-1963). As an adolescent, he lived through the Mau Mau War of Independence (1952-1962), the central historical episode in the making of modern Kenya and a major theme in his early works.