Ngugi wa Thiong’o : Nigerian Writer

Ngugi wa Thiong'o
Categories : World Literature
Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (b. 1938)

• Born in 1938 in Kamiriithu, Kenya
• Formerly wrote in English and now in Gikuyu; founder editor of the Gikuyu-language journal Mũtĩiri
• Has written novels, plays, short stories, critical essays and children’s books
• Embraced Fanonist Marxism and subsequently renounced English, Christianity, and the name
James Ngugi as colonialist
• Changed his name back to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and began to write in his native Gikuyu and Swahili

• The political message of his 1977 play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want)
caused him to be imprisoned and was later exiled for 22 years
• Wrote the first modern novel in Gikuyu, Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ (Devil on the Cross), on prison-issued toilet paper, while in prison
• In the US, he taught at Yale University, New York University and the University of California
• Author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ is his son

Major Works

• The Black Hermit (1963, play)
Weep Not, Child (1964) – Published under the name James Ngugi; the first English novel by an East African; heavily critical of British colonial rule; deals with the Mau Mau Uprising and the dispossession of an entire people from their ancestral land
The River Between (1965) – Story of the separation of two neighbouring villages of Kenya caused by differences in faith, with the Mau Mau Uprising as its background; about the struggle of a young leader ‘Waiyaki’ to unite the two villages of Kameno and Makuyu through sacrifice and pain
A Grain of Wheat (1967) – Set during the state of emergency in Kenya’s struggle for independence (1952–1959); focuses on the quiet Mugo, whose life is ruled by a dark secret

Two Novels
• Petals of Blood (1977)
– Set in Kenya just after independence
– Social and political criticism cast in the form of a crime story
– Follows major characters – Munira, Abdulla, Wanja, and Karega – whose lives are intertwined due to the Mau Mau rebellion
• Devil on the Cross (1980, Gikuyu)
– Set against the post colonial era in Kenya, which is criticized
– Caustic satire, with the devil on the cross instead of Jesus
– Written in prison

More Works
• Homecoming: Essays on African and Caribbean Literature, Culture and Politics (1972)
• Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986)
• Matigari (1989)
– The story of a former Mau Mau fighter, Matigari, who returns to his land to start a new life
– His life instead becomes a search for peace and justice

– A satire on the betrayal of human ideals and on the bitter experience of post-independence African society
• Wizard of the Crow (2006) – Set in the imaginary Free Republic of Abruria, autocratically governed by
one man, known only as the Ruler

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