Pan Africanism : Ngugi criticised for writing in mother tounge

Discussion in 'African American History Culture' started by dustyelbow, Jun 6, 2006.

  1. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Oct 25, 2005
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    Ngugi wa Thiong'o has been roundly criticised for alienating some of his readers by writing in his mother tongue.

    However, he has some good news for his non-Gikuyu readers. In an interview with Lifestyle, he revealed that he is translating his Gikuyu novel, Murogi wa Kagogo, into English.

    When the six-part book is complete, it will be the biggest book, apart from the Bible, to be published in an African language. The English translation is set to hit the market in August.

    The US edition is handled by Pantheon Books of New York, while the UK edition will be done by Harville Secker.

    The Kenyan edition, done by East African Educational Publishers, will be out towards the end of the year.

    Prof Ngugi is a distinguished professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine in the US. He is also the director of the International Centre for Writing and Translation at the same university.

    Many of Ngugi's critics point out that his scope is limited as the people who read Gikuyu, even among the Gikuyu, are few.

    What does he have to say about this? "My position on African languages has always been very clear," he says. "It is very important that African people do not lose their languages. If they lose their languages, they lose their identity and the wisdom carried in them."

    He takes issue with the African middle class, who he accuses of being ashamed of their own languages. "We tend to think that European languages are the way to universal knowledge and wisdom, which is not true," he says.

    He adds: "Because of our colonial past, we're not only proud of knowing European languages but are more proud of the fact that our children do not know our languages!"

    "I am not against European languages," he says. "I am against the choice of those languages to be our primary tongues to the neglect and total abuse of our African languages."

    Abuse of African languages

    He explains that his writing in Gikuyu is meant to tell people that what can be done in Gikuyu language can also be done in any other African language.

    He said he would be happy to have someone translate Murogi wa Kagogo into other African languages.

    His sentiments on languages also apply to Sheng, a language that is competing with English and Kiswahili for supremacy.

    Regarding what informs his writing, Ngugi says: "I have always said that I am an artist. My driving ideology is one of an artist who speaks for the ordinary working man and woman."

    "When you read Murogi wa Kagogo, you find that it is concerned with the growing gap between the wealth of a few and the poverty of the majority," he adds.

    Warming up to the subject, he explains that there is a minority of very wealthy nations, mostly in Europe and America, and a majority of nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America who are very poor, "yet the former's wealth is drawn from Africa, Asia and Latin America."

    "This is not good for Africa, not good for the world," he says. "That is the force that drives my writing. I'd like to see a more humane world. What we have is a dangerous and unstable world."

    Having said that, Ngugi, with a slight chuckle, asks rhetorically: "So what would you give that concern? That is what I am."

    Murogi wa Kagogo mainly addresses issues of moral decay in Third World leadership and its consequences. Unlike his previous books, Ngugi has borrowed from the Koran, Buddhism, Hinduism and Chinese.

    "We have tended only to have dialogue with Europe," he says of the book. "It is important that Africa has dialogue and communication with the East and Latin America."

    However, Ngugi does not take kindly to the criticism of his use of language without considering the story being told. "My greatest happiness as a writer is when a reader tells me that they enjoyed reading my book." He says that his aspiration is to write the best novel yet to be written.

    Souce: nationmedia

  2. twashing

    twashing Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Dec 17, 2004
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    Thanks for this post 'dustyelbow'. Very liberating knowing there are artists out there strong enough to use and grow our forgotten cultures. New African has an article about 2 issues back about emerging research on african writing systms. I'll try to find the article and post it.