Ngugi wa Thiong'o

In Glogpedia

by numaya29
Last updated 7 years ago

Social Studies
Historical biographies

Toggle fullscreen Print glog
Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Born 5 January 1938, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is a highly prolific Kenyan writer, East Africa's leading novelist, who has written both in English and in Gikuyu, his mother tongue. Ranging from novels, plays, short stories, and essays to social criticism and children's literature, Ngũgĩ has utilised various genres and styles in propagating his opinions . Ngũgĩ published his first novel, Weep Not, Child, in 1964, which he wrote while attending the University of Leeds in England. It was the first novel in English to be published by a writer from East Africa. Since then, he has continued writing and speaking about many topics in via a range of genres. Ngugi has dedicated his life to describing, satirising and destabilising the corridors of power. In 1977, Ngugi publicly announced that he would no longer write in English, and campaigned for other African writers to do the same. Recently, he has been considered a prime candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the moment, Ngugi holds a post as Distinguished Professor in Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine.

Ngugi’s mission has been the writing of Kenyan history, the biggest influence in his life, his aim always being to fight for his country's independence. The poignant themes are present in all his works, which stand out for their criticism of colonialism, the subjugation of African cultures by the imperially-minded West, and the oppression of the African masses by the ruling neocolonialist elite. Since the late 1970s, he appealed to African writers to stop writing in English as it it perpetuated colonial values, and promoted African languages and values amongst the masses. Through his work he aimed to motivate the population, educate them, create a greater patriotism amongst them. He also challenged the government and upheld local tradition. Since 1977, Ngũgĩ has ventured to propagate a new form of theatre in his native Kenya that aimed to renew the theatrical process from what he called "the general bourgeois education system", by encouraging an alternative form of theatre involving spontaneity and active audience participation in the performances. The actors were open to audience interpretation. He encouraged traditional Gikuyu theatre involving tribal dances, songs and crowds of actors. His plays portrayed how ordinary lives were affected.In a 2006 article about his book, he explained: "When people talk about Africa, they often only talk about it through one lens, so they blame its lack of progress on its people, or its landscape. I wanted to show everything – the influence of aid, the neocolonialism of capital, and how this affects things for the people."

Ngugi’s work tends to be extremely political, which has caused quite a lot of controversy for him in Kenya. In 1977, after a public performance of his politically provocative play "I Will Marry When I Want" he was imprisoned: a year of solitary confinement. Through the performances of his plays, Ngugi attempts to involve the audience directly, which makes his political messages more threatening to authorities. 22 years exile from Kenya awaited him and his wife, and after they returned in 2004, they were assaulted in their home, which has been assumed to be a political act. However, they continued to travel and promote his books and campaigns throughout Kenya.




“The condition of women in a nation is the real measure of its progress.”“Life, struggle, even amidst pain and blood and poverty, seemed beautiful.” “... for I had reached a point in my life when I came to view words differently. A closer look at language could reveal the secret of life.” "The concept of performance is opening out new possibilities in the analysis of human behavior, including literature.“

The Black Hermit, 1963 (play)Weep, Not Child, 1964 The River Between, 1965A Grain of Wheat, 1967Ngaahika Ndeenda, 1977 (play)Petals of blood, 1977Devil on the Cross, 1982Writing against neo-colonialism, 1986Njamba Nene and the Flying Bus , 1986 (children's book)Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedom, 1993Penpoints, Gunpoints and Dreams, 1996Dreams in a Time of War: a Childhood Memoir, 2010

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o- Kenyan novel, short story and theatre writer and major social activist

1938- Birth1962- A play of his, The Black Hermit, was produced in Kampala1963-64- Bachelor's Degree received from from Makerere University, Uganda and then from Leeds University, Yorkshire, England.1964- Published his first novel, Weep Not Child1967- His novel A Grain of Wheat marked his embrace of Fanonist Marxism1976- Set up The Kamiriithu Community Education and Cultural Centre which, among other things, organised African Theatre1977- Uncensored political message of his play provoked then Kenyan Vice-President Daniel arap Moi to order his arrest1977-79- While detained in the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Ngũgĩ wrote the first modern novel in Gikuyu, Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ (Devil on the Cross), on prison-issued toilet paper.1992- Became a professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies at New York University8 August 2004- Ngũgĩ returned to Kenya on a month-long tour of East Africa. On 11 August, robbers broke into his high-security apartment: they assaulted Ngũgĩ, sexually assaulted his wife and stole various items of value.2006-2012- Publishing on many of his major writings

Main aspects of his work


Kenya's history is scarred with suffering and the tortures of colonialism and oppression. In 1890, the land became a British protectorate in 1890 and a Crown colony in 1920, called British East Africa. Nationalist movements began in the 1940s, and in 1952 the Mau Mau movement, made up of Kikuyu militants, rebelled against the government. The fighting lasted until 1956. In 1963, Kenya achieved full independence. Jomo Kenyatta, a nationalist leader during the fight to win independence who had been jailed by the British, was its first president.


Major Writings


Ngugi's writing involves criticism on reactionary goverments and occasionally on people for their cowardice and treachery. Through this he attempts to suggest a better future through becoming aware, and growing patriotic. He spurred patriotism on the souls of his readers and emerges as Kenya's most patriotic writer. His unrelentless struggle to encourage the growth of African languages has been a major source of sustenance for the literatures of the continent. Ngugi is the writer through whom Kenyan literature has been established amongst world literature.


    There are no comments for this Glog.