From 'In the Name of the Mother: Reflections on Writers and Empire'

“Being is one thing; becoming aware of it is a point of arrival by an awakened consciousness and this involves a journey”

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Renowned and celebrated among the key figures of African Literature, Dr Ngugi wa Thiong’o has established himself as a prolific author and activist. Born in 1938 to a peasant family in Central Kenya, his literary works draw inspiration from the Mau Mau Struggle for Independence (1952-1962) and his native Kikuyu culture to critique classism, colonial ideologies and corruption and neo-colonialism in post-independent African states. Many of his works, such as A Grain of Wheat, Weep Not Child and Petals of Blood have been critically acclaimed for showcasing the harsh and cruel reality of post-independent Kenya under Kenyatta and Moi regimes. In 1977 he was imprisoned at Kamiti Maximum Prison for his activism, wherein his writing took an ideological shift best reflected in his work, Devil on The Cross, published and translated in 1982 from the original work written in Gikuyu in 1981 titled, Caitaani Mutharabaini (1981).

Having served as a Professor at various Universities, he strongly championed for the change of English Literature, to simply Literature, to reflect world literature with African and third world literatures as the center.


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Taban Lo Liyong and Awuor Anyumba

“If there is need for a ‘study of the historic continuity of a single culture’, why can’t this be African? Why can’t African literature be at the centre so that we can view other cultures in relationship to it?”

Ngũgĩ has continued to write prolifically, publishing, in 2006, what some have described as his crowning achievement, Wizard of the Crow, an English translation of the Gikuyu language novel, Murogi wa Kagogo. Ngũgĩ’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages and they continue to be the subject of books, critical monographs, and dissertations.

Paralleling his academic and literary life has been his role in the production of literature, providing, as an editor, a platform for other people’s voices. He has edited the following literary journals: Penpoint (1963-64); Zuka (1965 -1970); Ghala (guest editor for one issue, 1964?); and Mutiiri (1992-).

He has also continued to speak around the world at numerous universities and as a distinguished speaker. These appearances include: the 1984 Robb Lectures at Auckland University in New Zealand; the1996 Clarendon Lectures in English at Oxford University; the 1999 Ashby Lecture at Cambridge; and the 2006 MacMillan Stewart Lectures at Harvard. He is recipient of many honors, including the 2001 Nonino International Prize for Literature and eleven honorary doctorates.

The Afrocentrism Conference is honored to welcome Ngugi wa Thiong’o and celebrate his wisdom and contributions to Black African scholarship in Literature.

"Memory is what makes us who we are," says Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o - a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature - in this video about how colonizers sought to erase the memories of the natives by severing their linguistic connections.