LANGUAGE FURORE

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s acceptance of Catalonia prize

Minorities have always existed in the world.

In Summary
  • Appealing to the conscience of the majority to treat them well is a better option than violence.
  • Why furthermore is there so little substantive evaluation of the increasingly prominent younger generation of writers
Ngugi wa Thiong'o poses with his new book.
Ngugi wa Thiong'o poses with his new book.
Image: Moses Mwangi

Dear colleagues, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s acceptance of the Catalonia International Prize is not shared by many of us who view him as an American citizen who left his native Kenya over 30 years ago to live where he is most comfortable...as an expat in California.

Apparently he addressed his audience of Catalonian separatists in Gikuyu to make the point that native languages trump English forced on Kenyans during the colonial era. Yet minorities have always existed in the world. Appealing to the conscience of the majority to treat them well is a better option than violence.

     Consistence in ideology is absent as Ngugi’s commitment to democratic socialism has always been suspect. Why? He prefers to live in comfort where his bread is buttered in a capitalist society, which also muddies his stance against imperialism, racism and loyalty to his own country of origin.

He has also been accused of tribalism, which he has never denied. Despite all the honours and awards that pile up, his commitment to a universal literature and principled progressive values remains suspect.

      Why furthermore is there so little substantive evaluation of the increasingly prominent younger generation of writers such as Yvonne Owuor, Tony Mochama, Stanley Gazemba and Chimamanda Adichie amongst others? The negligence of other writers of his generation such as Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, David Maillu and David Rubadiri is also glaring.

In future I expect a more balanced appraisal of Ngugi.