Ngugi wa Thiong'o

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Ngugi wa Thiong'o

(ĕngo͞o`gē wä tē-ŏng`gō) or

James Ngugi,

1938–, Kenyan writer, acclaimed as East Africa's foremost novelist. He studied at universities in Uganda and England. His first novel, Weep Not, Child (1964) and his second, A Grain of Wheat (1967), are accounts of the Mau MauMau Mau
, secret insurgent organization in Kenya, comprising mainly Kikuyu tribespeople. They were bound by oath to force the expulsion of white settlers from Kenya. In 1952 the Mau Mau began reprisals against the Europeans, especially in the "white highlands," claimed as Kikuyu
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 rebellion. Ngugi is particularly concerned with preserving native African languages, and in 1977 he wrote (with Ngugi wa Mirii) and directed a play, Ngaahika Ndeenda (tr. I Will Marry When I Want, 1982), in Kikuyu. The production was so popular among Kikuyu farmers and workers that the government, fearing the play would encourage political dissent, banned it. Arrested and detained (1978–79) for his novel Petals of Blood, Ngugi wrote about his prison experience in Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary (1981). After his release, he continued to write in Kikuyu and English. In 1982 he went into self-imposed exile in London, later settling in the United States, where he now is a professor at the Univ. of California, Irvine. A triumphant trip home in 2004 was cut short when he and his wife were brutally attacked in Nairobi; they soon returned to the United States.

Ngugi's literary targets have included governmental corruption, socioeconomic exploitation, and religious hypocrisy. Some of his writings, such as the novels Petals of Blood (1977), his last novel in English; Caitaani mutharaba-ini (1980; tr. Devil on the Cross, 1982), his first novel in Kikuyu, written while he was in prison; and Matigari (1986, tr. 1990), are still politically controversial. Ngugi's lengthy novel Murogi wa Kagogo (2004, tr. Wizard of the Crow, 2006) is a surreal, allegorical, and satirical fantasia of corruption, venality, and shape-shifting magic in a fictional postcolonial country resembling his homeland—and other 20th-century African nations. His nonfiction works include Barrel of a Pen (1983), Decolonising the Mind (1986), Moving the Centre (1992), and Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams (1998). He also has written children's books.


See his memoirs, Dreams in Times of War (2010) and In the House of the Interpreter (2012); studies by C. B. Robson (1979), G. D. Killam (1980; as ed., 1984), D. Cook and M. Okenimkpe (1983, repr. 1997), C. Sicherman (1990), C. M. Nwankwo (1992), H. Narang (1995), C. Cantalupo, ed. (1995), I. B. Lar and T. I Ogundare (1998), J. Ogude (1999), S. Gikandi (2000), O. Lovesey (2000), P. Nazareth, ed. (2000), and J. G. Ndigirgi (2006).

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Simon Gikandi's insightful and comprehensive study of Ngugi's works published in 1997, namely Ngugi wa Thiong'o (2000) contains an analysis of The Black Hermit which considers the play (along with other early dramatic works of Ngugi collected in This Time Tomorrow which was broadcast on BBC African Service in 1967) as an exploration of the dilemma of the "'modern [male] subject' emerging from colonial institutions such as the university and the church, striving to reconnect with old traditions, only to discover that more often than not, the ideas of nationhood are at odds with 'tribal' affiliations and practices" (166).
The respected Kenyan writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o weighs in: "To control a people's culture is to control the tools of their self-determination.
The core of this task was, and has always been, the "decolonisation of the mind" from "mental slavery", with due respect to Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Bob Marley.
Washington analyzes the summonses to and from the Gods that resonate in the music of such artists as Erykah Badu, The RZA, Sun Ra, X Clan, and Rakim, using literary analysis as a prism to display the diversity of Africana divinity to reveal that the literature of such writers as August Wilson, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Ishmael Reed are three-way mirrors that eternally reflect and project the Gods, their myriad powers, and their weighty responsibilities.
As Ngugi wa Thiong'o put it in his speech, "Time to reclaim the black body" (NA, July): "African languages languish .
Contemporary African Literature in English (Palgrave Mcmillan, 2014) by Madhu Krishnan draw on works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Brian Chikwava, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Nuruddin Farah, Chris Abani and many more to examine the gap between aesthetic and political notions of representation in order to interrogate the role of the literary text in the circulation of a global image of Africa.
Four other notable examples involving writers close to WLT include Assia Djebar (Algeria; 1990 Neustadt juror and winner of the prize in 1996), Nuruddin Farah (Somalia; 1994 Neustadt juror and winner of the prize in 1998), and Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya; 1998 Neustadt juror)--all of whom have faced repression in their own countries.
We therefore settled for Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who we consider the most appropriate as far as resistance literature in Africa is concerned.
Let Africa's great writers - Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Tayeb Salih, Peter Abrahams, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nawal El Saadawi, Jack Mapanje, Mariama Ba, Chinua Achebe, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ousmane Sembene, Camara Laye, Ayi Kwei Armah, Manthia Diawara, and Nuruddin Farah among them - continually remind you that the pen is mightier than the sword.