Ngugi's Un-pan African Behaviour Renders Him A 'mcguffin' Of Modern Literature
Lapan Erapu was very much offended with my argument that Ngugi wa Thiong'o stopped writing works of literature with Weep Not Child and the River Between .This was during an after-noon session which was held to discuss the perspectives on Ngugi as one of the conference topics discoursed on during The 3rd Eastern Africa Cultural and Literary Studies Conference held in August 2015 at Makerere University. Lapan Erapu defended his position on Ngugi's literary relevance by asking me then to clarify what Ngugi has been doing since 1975, the year in which the River Between was written.I told him that Ngugi has only been writting marxist pamphletes backed up with socialist phrasemongering.
The panelists and the house were all not comfortable with my position. Lapan Erapu went a head to finish his presentation with extensive reading to the house about circumcision of Muthoni, a sub-story from the River Between.Erapu read the story while very moody , his moodiness was made more conspicuous by a coincidence that he was in very old and eshabilly T-shirt, long trouser, and slippers that he had put on for the conference that day. Professor Busolo and C J Odhiambo of Moi University had something objective to say about Ngugi, but the feelings of Nationalim made them to remain mum, they also didn't want to upset their fellow workmates ; Dr Ndogo and Dr Mbogo that were also in the house, the last two were overtly in personalty worship of Ngugi. However, Alois Kwitonda of Makerere University borrowed critical culture from French Literature to concede that it is true Ngugi has not been honest, objective and orginal in his literary venturing.
The fact is that Lapan Erapu was either only sympathetic or self-congratulatory in his deification of Ngugi as a writer of literary works .Resaon for professor Erapu's sentimentality can possibly range from post-colonial psychology, regional consciousness, age-mate psychology and former-colleague-syndrome. Otherwise any honest analysis will give us nothing else but deliberate misuse of Kenya's history and social structure as the main forte in Ngugi's writtings.
These facts became bare and a public reality during the last month, the month of February 2019 when Ngugi was on a literary tour in Kenya, gallivanting around and gadabouting to popularise The Perfect Nine his last book about Nine women that never got married but still gave birth to the gigkuyu people, Ngugi also preached his usual gospel of writting in gigkuyu as well as praising his four children as the only popular up-coming writers from Kenya and the Eastern Africa region.
I am among the people that attended Ngugi's recent Public lecture at St Paul University in Limuru. I was sitting in the gallery, the room was full. People had come from all range of human diversities to attend the lecture.Dr Joyce Nyairo was the facilitator of the event.Thus, it was not a gikuyu traditional meeting but a Pan-humanist cultural and literary event.But to the disappointement of us all that were present Ngugi chose to speak in gikuyu, sing loudly in giguyu and dance raucously in gikuyu. Why Ngugi chose to neglect his audience is what I cannot understand.The only people that understood what Ngugi was singing are a handfull of old gikuyu men probably circumcised in 1950's , perhaps with gigkuyu old women of the same age range . The youths that were at the function did not understand Ngugi, one youth whispered to me a question in kiswahili wanting to know if Ngugi is a sangoma or an afro-cinema clown.I kept mum, I did not answer the inguistive youth.
Ngugi failled to apreciate the fact that Limuru University is only forty minutes drive from Nairobi, and hence Limuru is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-conscious, multi-gender,multi-cultural and multi-class society operating in Kiswahili, Shengi and English as the main languages of communication, but not in gikuyu which is only a village dialect used mostly in the far away heart of the rural areas of Mount Kenya communities.This type of intentional insensitivity to the nature of composition and cultural structure of modern African society as presented in Kenya is deliberate conspiracy against Pan-Africanism which only renders Ngugi a true Mcguffin of modern African literature.
During the same funcion Ngugi mentioned in scanty English that he was detained by the governement of Kenya for his community theatre movement.But he did not manage to say that he was detained and imprisoned by Jomo Kenyatta.In his facial expresssions Ngugi was implying that it was Daniel Moi the then Vice President that was a a dictator but not Jomo Kenyatta that was the then President.Ngugi is not honest in communicating such out-right falsehood to the un-suspecting youths of Kenya. Importantly,Ngugi is not the only person that was detained at Kamiti by the colonial, Jomo Kenyatta and other subseguent governements in Kenya . The historical list of those that were once detained at Kamiti by different governements in Kenya include Martin Shikuku, Elijah Masinde, Arap Manyei, Joash Walumoli, Markhan Singh, Raila Odinga, Wafula Buke, Abdallatif Abdalla (the poet) and many others.Thus Ngugi should not be presenting the history of detention in Kenya as if it was all about him .More critical is the fact that it was only Abdallatif Abdalla that was detained for literary work in his poem Kenya Twaendapi ?( which way foward kenya ?).Ngugi was not detained because of literature, he was suspected to be knowing something about possibility of armed underground movement against the governement of the day.Ngugi has only been using literature as a scape-goat through which he can justify himself before the public eyes, but eyes of reason have obviously refused .
In a recent interview with Julius Sigei of the Nairobi Saturday Nation Ngugi was asked to comment about the current state of writting in East Africa.Unfortunately Ngugi upset many of his readers when he said in his answer that there are no writers in East Africa, because he has not seen any young person writting in mother tongue from East Africa. He only mentioned his children to be the most famous young writers from the region. However, the paradox here is that Ngugi's children are Mukoma, Nducu, Wanjiru and Tee, they all write in English but not in mother tongue. Ngugi's children-writers are not studied anywhere in colleges and universities in East Africa. I believe that it is very obective to dismiss Ngugi as a victim of dynastic thoughts and selfish syndrome for declining from mentioning young writers from East Africa.
Factually, the East African regions is now a potpouri of polished young writers ranging from Shailja Patel the poet, Jenniffer Nasumbiga Makumbi the author of Kintu, Gorret Kyomundu the author of Waiting, Peter Kagai the poet , Ken Walibora the author of Siku Njema , Makena Ojerika the author of Fanta black Currant, Sitawa Namwalie the poet , Lutomia Namatsi the poet , Godwin Siundu the literary essayist ,Alexei Teyeisie the queer writer , Henry Ole Kulet the author of Blossoms of the Savanah, Wekhomba Gubende the political satirist ,Pius Khisa the poet ,Abanea Ndago the novelist and literary essayist, Siboe Makokha the literary realist ,Grace Musilla the anti-afro-politanist , Pamela Muhando the poet and scholar, Joseph Situma the author of the Gift of the Night , Tony Mochama the literary bolekeja and a plethora of other young and gifted writers from Tanzania, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi , Mauritius and Erhiopia. I mean the writers and artists in the station of Lupita Nyong'o.
It was too selfish for Ngugi to tell Julius Sigei that he is only aware of Meja Mwangi as a writer from Kenya for sheer number of Novels written by Mwangi.This was somewhat tribalistic.Mwangi and Ngugi are both gikuyu.Ngugi has all the memory resources to remember other writers in the age-grade of Meja Mwangi. For example, David Maillu is in the age grade of Mwangi. Maillu is known all over the world.University of Bayereuth and the University of Melbourne have honoured Maillu with Docotorate degree in literature.Professor Evan Mwangi and Professor Tom Odhiambo did their Phd reserach on David Maillu's Broken Drum.But Ngugi pretends he is not aware of any good writer from Kenya. He is wrong.This is my question to Ngugi-which books are you using when teaching African literature at Irvine ? Are you only using the books of your four children? have you already forgotten Keoraptse Kgotsile the poet who helped you to get American exile ? what about your colleagues at the University of Nairobi-Chris Wanjala, P' Bitek, Mphalele and Kofi Omotso?
Karl Marx categorized socialism into prosaic socialism , utopian socialism and scietinfic socialism. During the last century Ngugi used to profess some socialism. I believe, he belongs to the second category of socialism.He is a utopian socialist.My clasification of Ngugi as a utopian socialist gets a justification in Ngugi's persistent arguement that Mau Mau was a revolutionary movement. Ngugi is wrong. Mau Mau was an armed insurrection demanding the British to return land to the Gikuyu.Ngugi has often refused to mention other movements that substantially fought for freedom in Kenya . Markan Singh's and Tom Mboya's Trade Unionism, Oginga Odinga's scientific communism, and Elijah Masinde's Dini ya Msambwa( religious freedom) were more revolutionary in structure than the Mau Mau that was only focussed on the gikuyu getting land from the British.
When Launching his book Christmas in Lodwar (2014) at the Lodwar Museum that also huses the vestiges of the colonial prison in which Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei and Ochieng Oneko were detained , Taban Lo Liyong averred that Paul Ngei was a true freedom fighter, Just as Oneko was a very disciplined and very honest communist.But Jomo Kenyatta was wayward, connish and evidently a saleout.Liyong also observed that it was only Jomo Kenyatta that used to have sugar in his porridge, that it was only Jomo Kenyatta that accessed contrabanded beer from the white prison warders.
The facts observed above by Taban Lo Liyong are some basic indicators of Jomo Kenyatta being what others did not know.Jomo Kenyatta was also the leader of Mau Mau.An organization headed by a leader with such a character of petty opportunism cannot be a revolutionary organization.Ngugi was supposed to tell us this five decades ago.
There are clique of people from Kenya in the likes Ng'ang'a Mbugua, the author of Different Colours, who are ever blaming the Nobel Prize committee for not giving Ngugi a literature Nobel Prize.Unfortunaltey, these same people have never guestioned the originality of Ngugi's writtings. Such people are supposed to study the works of the past literature Nobel laureates, they would have come to a discovery that un-blemished originality is the key attribute of the past literature Nobel laureates.Ngugi is never original.For example, Weep Not a Child is a line borrowed from the poem by Whalt Witman, A Grain of Wheat is a biblical statement, Petals of Blood is an over-daptation of God's Bits of Wood, Wizard of the Crow is an over-adaptation of Midnight's Children, Globalectics is a mirror image of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed but in Fanonian syntax. And also Nigerian Scholars sometimes argue with tongues in their cheeks that Mubenz a story in Ngugi's Secret Lives look exactly like Achebe's No Longer at Ease.Thus, it is not too early to argue by pointong out that such extent of intellectual laziness nourishing itself on the aged sinews of utopian marxism can not make Ngugi to get Nobel recognition for literature Prize.
It is not dangerous for an African to write in European languages like English and French the way Ngugi has been ringing an alarm .History of literature is full of success Writers that wrote in forein Languages.The likes of Paul the writers of epistles in the Bible,Joseph Conrad, Frantz Kafka, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Alex Haley, Beecher Stowe, Ayn Rand, Vladimir Nabokov and many others did not write in their mother tongue. But still literary criticism has never blamed them for their choice of langauge.This logic of extensions permits one to argue that a young Kenyan writer writting in English is not endagered whatsoever, furthermore English is now an African langauge.This does not mean that I am not for African literature in indigenous languages.I do enjoy reading poems, plays, novels and essays in Kiswahili.Kiswahili is the only indegenous East African language we have to apreciate and invest in.All other dialects like gikuyu, luganda , luhyia etc are just priminitve inconveniences we can do without.Any intellectualized move against Kiswahili is an open impeachement against African dignity inherent in the Pan-African Philosophy. Thus,let Ngugi and his followers embrace Kiswahili , it is the true indigenous langauge of the people of Eastern Africa.
Alexander Opicho writes from- Lodwar, Kneya - [email protected]