y Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (baptised as James Ngugi) was born in Kenya in 1938. He is a multifaceted intellectual: we can call him a novelist, essayist, dramatist, journalist, editor and academic. He founded, for instance, the Gikuyu-language journal Mũtĩiri. Most of all, he is a political activist who fought against Kenyan dictatorship through the power of word. After studying at the University of Leeds and after the publication of his first successful novels (the first one is Weep Not, Child, 1964), he rejected his Christian faith and English language itself and he started to write only in Kikuyu – his native language – and Swahili. He revenged his Kenyan identity also adopting his fully Kikuyu name Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, denying his previous colonial name. His legendary personality is connected to his imprisonment and his later forced exile due to his opposing to the regime in 1977. He had embarked an innovative theatrical play (Ngaahika Ndeenda, ‘I Will Marry When I Want’) in order to encourage the participation of the audience and the demystification of the theatrical alienation. What was actually perceived by the dictatorship was the invitation ‘free your mind’. And he was imprisoned. During his still persisting exile, he taught in many American universities, such as Yale and New York University. At the moment he teaches English and Comparative literature at the University of California, in Irvine. Just to mention a few of the recognitions he was presented with, he was honoured with a UCI medal, he received twelve PhDs honoris causa from Universities spread all over the world and for several times he has been running for the Nobel Prize. Among his most famous novels, dealing with themes such as tolerance, rebellions and peace there is The River Between, 1986 (describing the Mau Mau rebellion and the unhappy relationship between Christians and non-Christians). Essential for his development as an African author was A Grain of Wheat, 1967, where he explicitly made clear his political view and after which he converted to exclusively African-Languages writing. He bravely encourage awareness on Kenyan political situation in Memoirs such as Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1981) or Dreams in a Time of War: a Childhood Memoir (2010). His essays, on the other hand, passionately express his attachment to his land and his language, with the aim of spreading consciousness: remarkable are Homecoming, 1972; Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, 1986, claiming the vital importance of African Languages in literature; Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance, 2009.

Here’s the link of his official website, where you can find his offical biography and much more: http://ngugiwathiongo.com/about/ 

Here are some articles for you:

The Guardian, 9 September 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/09/exile-kenya-home-moi-dictatorship

The Guardia, 12 March 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/12/ngugi-wa-thiongo-wrestling-with-the-devil-interview

The Nation, 2 April 2018: https://www.thenation.com/article/language-is-a-war-zone-a-conversation-with-ngugi-wa-thiongo/


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