Postcolonial Text / Author

From the Garden of Languages, the Nectar of Art: An Interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o[1]

Interviewed by Uzoma Esonwanne, University of Toronto

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is one of the most prominent writers in the world today. Like other African intellectuals of his generation such as Wole Soyinka, J.M. Coetzee, and Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ is a versatile artist. Not only has he published an impressive body of literary, dramatic, and scholarly works over the past thirty years, but he has also tried his hand at filmmaking, as witness his two credits, Bloodgrapes and Black Diamonds. In virtually all of these works, he has identified and examined key issues in contemporary art and criticism and, in doing so, has helped set the terms within which scholars explore them. Ngũgĩ is here [in Canada] to participate in the University of Toronto Writers' Series "Conversations: Writers and Readers in Dialogue." "Conversations" is a project designed to facilitate dialogue between writers from Africa and the African Diaspora on the one hand, and between writers and readers from Africa and the African Diaspora in Toronto on the other. Ngũgĩ is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine.

UE: Welcome to Toronto, and thank you very much for coming to this interview. What exactly is your mandate at the Center for Writing and Translation, and how do you go about fulfilling this mandate?

Ngũgĩ: First, thank you for the introduction. In fact what lured me to California from my job at New York University, where I was for ten years, was the prospect of being able to direct the International Center for Writing and Translation. As you know, this issue of languages is very interesting.[2] When I went to California there was really no mandate other than one of providing a vision in this whole area of languages. So the first thing we (my Associate Director and others) had to do was to evolve a vision for the Centre. We came up with two broad interpretations of translation based on the notion of translation as conversation. The reason we choose translation as conversation is because conversation assumes the equality of conversers. Contact between languages has to be on the basis of equality. You cannot have a conversation without the assumption that those who are holding it are equals. Otherwise it would no longer be a conversation; it would either be a command, a directive, an instruction, a lecture, or something else. So what we did was this: we looked at languages in the globe today and grouped them in two categories: dominant and marginalized. Dominant languages are largely European, especially English and French. There are others which are more or less dominant, but let's say that the most dominant group of languages today is European. With the exception of Japanese or Chinese, the marginalized languages are from Asia and Africa. By this we don't mean that they are marginal, but that they are marginalized in terms of global power. Thus, we felt that it is very important to promote dialogue between dominant and marginalized languages and between marginalized languages themselves. In the world today, there is little by way of exchange between, say, Yoruba and Miq'mak, or between Cherokee and Cree, or between Igbo and Gujarati, or between Zulu and Gĩkũyũ. And even within the same country, there's very little dialogue between African languages. So we're saying it is really important to promote the idea of translation as conversation, especially among marginalized languages. But it's also important, of course, to promote contact between marginalized and dominant languages. Of course, there has always been contact between them, but it is by way of the marginalizing dictating to the marginalized. The marginalizing has also functioned as a way of making or providing visibility for intellectuals from communities whose languages are marginalized. In a way, dominant languages like English have functioned as enabling languages for intellectuals from marginalized cultures by providing them with visibility. But while they give them visibility in the world, they also make them invisible to their own people and cultures. So we're asking: how can we promote the idea of conversation rather than dictation? How, indeed, can we make or challenge dominant languages to enable without disabling, to enable visibility without, at the same time, uprooting intellectuals from their languages and cultures? This must be the function of translation: playing a key role in all of that conversation. In other words, we see translation as the language of languages or as the language which all other languages speak.

UE: I'll probably come back to this question of translation later. But perhaps it is necessary at this point to identify the sort of obstacles that you might encounter in trying to carry out the very ambitious project you have just outlined, and to explain how you would go about addressing them. For example, some people might contest your linguistic categories ("marginalizing" and "marginalized") and your characterization of English as a marginalizing language since, for them, English has been and still is enabling.

Ngũgĩ: English enables, it's true. It enables visibility. For instance, many African intellectuals, including myself, have in the past written all their books in English. So we become known to the world through the English language. To a large extent, this is also true of a number of intellectuals from Asia as it is of Native American and First Nations intellectuals in Canada, and Maori and Aboriginal intellectuals in New Zealand and Australia. English, or French, but let's say English, enables that visibility. Sometimes writing in a dominant language even gives a country visibility. I can go farther and say that it may even give a writer visibility among her nation's middle class, the indigenous languages of its constituents notwithstanding. But English, in so doing, enables by disabling, because it uproots the same intellectuals from their native languages and cultures. They become visible to the world as writers, just as English made me visible to the world as the author of Weep Not, Child, and other novels, all of which deal largely with the history and struggles of the Kenyan people. The characters I write about are formed by the history and struggles of Kenyans. So, these novels have rendered me visible. But they have also taken me out of the indigenous Kenyan languages and cultures which formed those struggles in me in the first place. So this is what I mean by saying that English enables visibility and invisibility for intellectuals from communities whose own languages are marginalized.

Basically, at the Center, we have two programs. We call one "From Here to There: Languages in Conversation." In this program, we invite writers and intellectuals from different marginalized languages and cultures to come and exchange ideas about their choice of language, whatever that language may be, and to explore the impact of that choice on their native languages and cultures. Writers and intellectuals converse among themselves, but also share their ideas with their audiences. For instance, in our first seminar, which explored the impact of indigenous languages on North American culture, we brought Hawaiian and Native American writers and intellectuals to participate in the discussion. The next group of intellectuals came from different parts of Africa, while the next came from New Zealand, Samoa, and the Pacific Islands. That program continues. We hope that in time we will have had many intellectuals to discuss minority languages in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean Islands, and so on. We hope to complete some kind of global conversation in this area. Another program or series of seminars that we have at the Center is what we call "Other Ways of Knowing: The Challenge of Cultures in Contact." This program actually takes its inspiration from Aimé Césaire, who says that culture contact is the oxygen of civilization.[3] So we invite intellectuals working on unusual projects. For instance, we have invited a few Maori intellectuals from New Zealand, one of whom has made a film of The Merchant of Venice in Maori.[4] Although the film is a very different interpretation of The Merchant of Venice, since it represents the play through [the] Maori [language] and, thus, reveals a very different view of Shakespeare, it is nonetheless faithful to the narrative. We also had Peter Nazareth, who came and talked about Elvis Presley as a Third World visionary. We also promote conferences which deal with the idea of restoration. We are calling this second track "The Restoration Project," an idea which takes us back to the problem of enabling and disabling functions of dominating languages. By restoration we mean restoring these intellectuals and their works in the original languages and cultures from which they came, and also in other marginalized languages and cultures, if that is possible. This idea is already taking place in bits and pieces. What would happen to those languages and cultures if Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and Ama Ata Aidoo are translated not only into Igbo, Yoruba, and Akan, but also into Gĩkũyũ, Zulu, Luo, and other African languages? To restore works that have been produced in dominant languages would not be to violate their integrity. We are not talking about producing something new. We are talking about restoring something already produced. What if we went further, and translated works by intellectuals of the African Diaspora into African languages? What would happen to writers at the highpoint of the Harlem Renaissance and after - writers like Richard Wright, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez, and Angela Davis? What might happen to George Lamming, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, and a whole range of other writers? What about those who write in other European languages? Wouldn't we produce in this way a real renaissance in African and Diasporic African writing? So those two tracks are the bases of many of the activities at the International Center for Writing and Translation.

UE: We'll return to the idea of an African Renaissance in relation to the African Diaspora shortly. For now, however, I wonder if you could comment on the value of the study of literatures from Africa and the African Diaspora in urban universities like the University of Toronto. How would you structure a literary studies program to take advantage of the complex multiethnic and multicultural character of metropolitan centers like Toronto?

Ngũgĩ: What I would like to do in such situations is really to promote the idea of linkage. By this I mean to organize or teach, say African Literature, in such a way as to show that what we are looking for are linkages. Let me give you an example. I teach a course on Colonialism and Writing in Modern African Literature. I always begin by telling my students we are not simply looking at Colonialism like an esoteric thing that belongs to Africa and those other non-European communities. Rather, it is impossible to look at modernity without looking at colonialism. To look at the development of modernity from its beginning, we must go back to the dispensation created by the rise of the mercantile system. Historically, colonialism or colonial expansion is part of the imaginings of modernity that emerged from the ascendancy of the mercantile system in Western Europe. When you think of modernity, you think of journeys of exploration. This means that you think of Vasco da Gama sailing around the Cape of South Africa to India. And you think of Columbus in this part of the world. These explorations happened at the same time as other things were happening in Europe. In other words, in Europe colonial expansion or exploration of new territory happened at the same historical moment as the discovery of classical (Greek and Roman or Latin) knowledge. At the same time as Europeans were exploring new intellectual horizons, they were also extending [their territorial] boundaries. All these developments are linked; they are part of each other. It is very important to see Africa as an integral part of that formation of modernity.

UE: Here is how, in 1982, you described your vision for a global world order: "A new world economic and political order would mean a new world cultural order and this would see the flowering of a great modern culture in Africa and the rest of the developing world, a culture that has roots in the dynamic progressive aspects of a national tradition while remaining open to the progressive and humanist cultural elements all over the world."[5] Please comment on globalization today and prospects for the realization of your vision for "a new world order" from the vantage point of the 21st century.

Ngũgĩ: Globalization divides the world into two: a few haves and many have-nots. This division, which exists both among and within individual nations, is widening and deepening. I think this economic gap characterizes globalization today more than ever before for the simple reason that information technology, the rapid movement of finance capital across national borders at will, and global organizations like the United Nations that take the world as their theatre of operations, are braiding far flung communities into one. But the two major rifts of haves and many have-nots are also sources of great insecurity. At the same time, they tend to be reflected in the areas of cultural production and, particularly, cultural consumption. That is why I say, if we could find a way of struggling against these two rifts, we would actually free people's imagination. In turn, this unleashing of the imagination would be accompanied by what I called ‘moving the centre,' since we would now be able to view the world from different centres that reflect each other rather than from one centre, as we are currently obliged to do. In such a dispensation, cultures would have both particularity and universality. By having universality I mean that we would need to share more and more; by having particularity I mean that their singularity is the form in which that universality - that need to share - would express itself. Sometimes I use the example of a flower garden, especially a spring garden, to explain this idea. I find it very interesting that what we admire about flowers in a garden is not only their singularity of being or colour, but their variety. Spring, as you know, is fascinating. But in a spring field no flower, regardless of its colour, can really say, "I am more of a flower than other flowers." If a flower is red, then its ‘flowerness,' if you like, is contained in its redness. The same principle applies to the white flower. Furthermore, although bees sip from all the flowers and so create honey, the honey of life they produce from the different flowers mix[es] equally [the nectar of the different flowers].

UE: Your argument here recalls a statement you make in "The Universality of Local Language": "local language . . . is part of the main, part of the sea."[6] Would you care to elaborate on the process by which local and global knowledge merge?

Ngũgĩ: This summarizes very well my view on writing in African languages. Languages can be both particular and universal. No language, in and of itself, is universal. All languages, be they English, French, Gĩkũyũ, Igbo, can be global, although our whole colonial mentality leads us to assume that English is, in some strange kind of way, more universal than other languages. Of course, linguistic experience is primarily local, since we don't experience things in their universality. We experience the universal in particular expressions; this is what I was trying to say in my response to the paper that Clifford Geertz gave at Yale.[7] I argued that the local and the universal are in a dialectical relationship with each other. If you were to detach the particular from the universal, you [would] enter into a conceptual prison. Another image that I normally use to explain this is being at home. For all of us, being at home is wonderful. But a home which has no connection with other homes would simply become a prison. A prison is a restriction between one dwelling place and others. So a home is defined as a particular entity by its connection with other homes. The security of the home, the safety you feel in your own house, is actually linked to the fact that your home is connected with other homes. By itself, your home would provide the same kind of security that prison provides. By its linkage with others, your home provides experiences and security arising from its uniqueness among other homes. This is my view of the universality and particularity of languages and cultures in a globalized world. In my view, globalism is distinct from globalization. The latter means the movement of Western finance capital in and out of nation states like Kenya without any interference. Globalization takes the world as its theatre. Globalism, by contrast, is rooted in the particular cultures and experiences of the different communities. I think of globalization as a highway, like the trans-Canada highway, that connects, say, Toronto to other parts of Canada but bypasses all local sites so that users traveling on it don't see much of the country. But, in fact, to experience Canada, it's not the highway that you need. Rather, it's all those other feeder roads that go through villages. Such roads may not be as smooth or speedy as the highway, but they are the ones that will make you think you know a bit of Toronto. Globalization is like the highway while globalism is like those other road systems.

DJ: In "Creating a Space for a Hundred Flowers to Bloom: The Wealth of a Common Global Culture,"[8] you trace current repressions of the "voice" of colonized African peoples in the European literary imagination from Shakespeare to J.M. Coetzee. You argue that representations of the colonized as language-less, enervated, and mute in Western literature dramatize a racist and "Eurocentric" global vision that is ideologically aligned with the project of Western political hegemony and capitalist exploitation. Against four centuries of the West's monologue about the colonized, you argue that non-Western languages and literatures are "creating space for a hundred flowers to bloom on a global scale," and urge cultural studies to "reflect this multi-coloured reality of the human creative stream." What do you mean by "multi-coloured reality?" Does it refer, for example, to racially defined artists, art, and audience? Is colour here a racial concept and, if it is, what is its relationship with artistic consciousness?

Ngũgĩ: I think I use the image of flowers, the colours of the flowers, a multi-coloured garden, to explore multi-coloured places, multi-coloured thought, multi-coloured experience, multi-coloured particularities of our being. This is what I am talking about. The universality of the human experience is not necessarily the particularity of one culture. That particularity is not universal. Although it contains the universal, it is not itself the universal. And I think it is egocentric to valorize one's particular experience of history, space, and time as the universal. Quite apart from the issue of his expropriation of Caliban's material resources, Prospero does not even bother to work out what language Caliban speaks with Sycorax, his mother. Prospero is not aware that Caliban has a language; he assumes that Caliban lacks language, and so cannot participate in human exchange. In other words, Caliban lacks particularity. So Prospero believes that he gave Caliban language, the means by which Caliban could even begin to understand himself and organize his thoughts. What you find in Prospero you also find in Crusoe. At no point in the discourse between Crusoe and Friday does Crusoe ask Friday his name or his language. Instead, he offers to teach Friday language, names him "Friday" because he "discovered" him on Friday, and instructs him that his name is "Master." From then on, these become the terms of their relationship or their discourse. I find the same in Conrad's Heart of Darkness which, by the way, I really admire. I think Heart of Darkness is a very sharp critique of colonialism. But in terms of agency, it does not find agency in the colonized, in the exploited. That's the problem with the novel, or Conrad's vision. For him, the colonized is mute, except when he speaks in pidgin - "Mr. Kurtz, he dead." That's the only time we hear the voice of an African character in his narrative. Coetzee takes Conrad's denial of agency to Africans a stage further. In Foe, Coetzee's Africans are completely mute. I know he wants to imply that they've been made mute by apartheid and Western capitalism, but he denies them agency. No matter how we interpret Coetzee's work, we cannot escape the fact that he denies these people agency.

UE: Let us return briefly to the University of Toronto Writers' Series, whose theme is ‘21st Century Challenges and Opportunities.' Please comment on this theme, especially as it applies to writers in Africa and its Diaspora.

Ngũgĩ: What with globalization, the real challenge writers face is no doubt in communications. The world is becoming one, whether we like it or not. Quite frankly, whatever happens in China now will become known by the evening. What makes this instant communication possible is translation, the internet, and other communication technologies. When the [2004] tsunami disaster happened, it instantly became part of the global experience because of the speed of communication technology. But, at the same time, the world, through becoming one, is actually becoming more and more divided. In other words, if you look at the world today, you will notice that it's divided in this way: rich nations, mostly European and American, are becoming wealthier, while other nations, largely in Asia and Africa, are becoming relatively poorer. Or, to put it differently, the economic gap between the advanced industrial nations grouped largely around the G8 and the others is widening every day. That's one division— the global. The other division is within nations. The economic gap between racial and ethnic groups and between social class fractions that comprise the citizenry of each nation is also widening everyday. So we are seeing two major divisions in the world today: on the one hand, the division between rich and poor nations and, on the other, the division between rich and poor. Furthermore, the middle area is being squeezed between the two polarities of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Now, in terms of challenges for peace, stability, human progress, and development, this polarization is a challenge that writers and intellectuals face because the two economic divisions are also reflected in the areas of cultural production and consumption. In turn, divisions in the realms of economic and cultural production affect language use, because they are reflected in the grouping of languages around G8 or European and non-G8 countries. By this I mean that the division reinforces and exacerbates relations of dominance between marginalizing (English and French) and marginalized languages. Even poorer nations and their middle-classes tend to operate in English and French at the expense of indigenous languages. I think the challenge for intellectuals is how to bridge the gap. We can't bridge it economically. But we can challenge the two rifts and, drawing as much as possible from the area of cultural production and from the cultures of various linguistic communities, bring them into dialogue. By so doing, we can bring writing and the idea of a common humanity, an idea which is being challenged by these two divisions, together. These divisions, the global and the national, assume an uncommon humanity. This assumption is the opposite of what I think writers and intellectuals should be striving for. We should be reminding ourselves all the time that there is a common humanity being crushed by the two divisions among nations and within nations.

UE: Whether driven by force or circumstance, today more African writers reside abroad than ever before. Some live in other African countries. Others make their homes outside Africa, especially in Europe and North America. Please comment on some of the consequences of displacement on your art and scholarship.

Ngũgĩ: I was away from Kenya from June 1982 when I was forced into exile. In fact, I just went back to Kenya last August. In my case, the impact of displacement is even more complicated. If you remember, in 1979 - and emphatically in the early 80s - I had decided to write my work largely in Gĩkũyũ or Kiswahili or both.[9] I had committed myself to writing in our indigenous national languages. I made the commitment to writing in Gĩkũyũ in prison as part of my resistance to state repression and as an expression of my will to survive imprisonment. In prison, I had to do something to assert myself. What I did was to write in the very language which had been the basis of my incarceration. Writing was very, very important. I don't think I would have found the psychological energy to write in Gĩkũyũ had I not been imprisoned. It was as if I needed a challenge to overcome in order to generate this psychological energy, somewhat like a mountain-climber calls upon hidden resources to make that final climb. I took exile in the same way, although prison is an extreme form of exile. Now, the community of Gĩkũyũ language speakers abroad is very tiny. And while there may be many Gĩkũyũ people abroad, they operate largely in English. So Gĩkũyũ is spoken daily only in Kenya, and then not in the whole of Kenya, but only central Kenya. So here I was in exile in England, and I had to write in Gĩkũyũ. But in England, I was immersed in an English-language environment every single day. For me, that was a very big challenge. How do I bridge that gap? Any writer, whatever language he uses, draws from the everyday. In other words, as a writer using a certain language, you really want to be aware of that language as it is being spoken, because language changes every day. You want to mingle with people in the market, shops, and meeting places. So, that need to immerse yourself in spoken language becomes a challenge for any writer who is in exile. In my case, it was doubly so. In exile, the day-to-day is removed from you so you have been distanced from the material bases of your inspiration. So that's a very big disadvantage. But there's also another side. In a way, all writers, wherever they are, live in a state of exile to the extent that they must distance themselves emotionally and intellectually from their societies. They must be both inside and standing outside their communities to see them a bit more clearly. So for a writer, being away from one's community or home means two things. One is a longing for home. There's a way in which all writers are longing for home. That's why many writers always recall memories of their childhood. As for me, return is a very dominant theme in all of my works. But wherever your exile is, being away from home and reaching for it from exile allows you to see it more clearly. So, being in exile is not always a disadvantage, since exile allows you to see home from a different perspective in relation to your domicile. When forced into exile, you lose something, but you gain some other things. If we look at the intellectual history of the world, or the history of ideas, we discover that important, even radical ideas were formed in exile. We tend to forget this. Christianity, for instance, is rooted in exile. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and his family went into exile in Egypt. Moses, the founder of Judaism, was born in Egypt and grew there.[10] The Disciples of Christ were dispersed all over the world. They went west, south, east, and north, to the Middle East, Africa, India, and Europe. Islam, too, was forged in exile. We know that Mohammed fled Mecca to Medina. Historically, too, there was a time when Islam found refuge in Ethiopia. So exile is constant. The whole idea of Pan-Africanism emerged from exile. As a political vision, the concept of Africa as really one was actually born outside rather than within Africa. It's Africans who had been taken into slavery and whose intellectual formation emerged from experience garnered in the Diaspora who developed the idea of a unified Africa, culminating in DuBois and the Pan-African Congress of 1919.[11]

UE: I'm happy you brought up exile because I want to cite George Lamming. Lamming considers exile animating, although he admits that insecurity further complicates it for West Indian expatriate writers. As for him, he claimed that the "pleasure and the paradox" of exile is that he "belongs wherever" he is.[12] As one forced into exile, you must have your own insights about it, one of which may have to do with the opportunity it afforded you to meet with and share experiences, ideas, insights - both literary and otherwise - with writers of the African Diaspora. Historically, a similar literary cross-fertilization between writers from the continent and the Diaspora which occurred in the early 20th century produced Négritude. Is the current displacement of writers from Africa and the Caribbean to nations of metropolitan capitalism engendering a comparable artistic creativity and, if not, why?

Ngũgĩ: Sometimes literary or cultural patterns emerge later on. Probably we shall see a pattern emerge a few years from now, in the same way we saw the Négritude movement emerge. Patterns in literary expression are seen afterwards as movements. We saw movements like Indigénisme emerge in a similar way in Haiti. Similar patterns of cultural emergence have occurred in Cuba, Brazil with Afro-Brazilism, and the United States with the Harlem Renaissance. So we don't know what patterns are emerging today as a result of Soyinka's interactions with writers from different cultural communities, or my constant interactions with Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Angela Davis, and other African-American intellectuals with whom I feel I share not only a common cultural heritage but also a common intellectual project. Now I think of Sonia Sanchez in the same way as I think of Wole Soyinka or Ama Ata Aidoo. When I went to South Africa to give the Fourth Annual Biko Lecture, Sonia Sanchez was there and we shared the same platform.[13] Since we don't know what patterns are really emerging from these interactions, we must wait a little bit.

UE: Could you project what this pattern of literary and cultural production might look like, based on your interactions with these people?

Ngũgĩ: I think the question of language - I may be biased here - in one form or another will become important. Here I am thinking of language broadly, in terms of those spoken in Africa. But I am also thinking of it in terms of new languages developed by Africans in the Diaspora. And it is not so much the discovery of those languages as it is the recognition of their impact on national and global cultures. For instance, I'm thinking of what has been produced by the entire African-American oral tradition, as in hip-hop. But you could also think of jazz and the spirituals - formations of culture that happen daily in the streets. What is the impact of this popular culture, nationally and internationally? What is its impact on intellectual production in Africa itself? The other day in London, I met a Senegalese hip-hop group performing in Wolof. They discovered, they said, that hip-hop was original to Africa, and that it has come back home. So, for them, performing hip-hop in Wolof is not copying others. As far as they are concerned, in performing in Wolof, they are reconnecting hip-hop with home. I found similar groups who do hip-hop in Kiswahili in Kenya. So, these cultural formations are crosscurrents, not only of languages, but also of orality. Eventually, when we look back at this period, we will observe how much we have been enriched by orature. Then orature will be seen as having been very important not because of its discovery, but because of its role in the awakening of our consciousness of our heritage.

UE: Your view on literary language in Africa is well known. Contending that imaginative works written by Africans in English and other European languages are "Afro-Saxon" and "Afro-European," you urge African writers to write in indigenous languages. What underpins this proposition is a conception of any people's language as a means of communication and "collective memory-bank."[14] But some might object that this conception of language is instrumentalist in a narrow sense. That is, it advances a limited view of language as a tool. Such people would not contest the view that language facilitates communication. However, they could suggest that linguistic utterances are not just conduits of human thought. For example, a speech act theorist might point out that some utterances do things rather than transmit ideas.[15] Others might argue that linguistic utterances are intrinsically valuable. Now, if such objections are valid, might adherence to your definition of language not hinder writers from exploring realms of experience and imagination that lie beyond our need to communicate with each other?

Ngũgĩ: No, I don't think so. On the contrary, if I take that as an argument, then that is why exploring African languages becomes all the more important. Obviously, if you take non-instrumentalist aspects of language such as sounds and sound patterns into account, you must admit that sometimes you can't represent or even translate them into another language. So, in fact, that area of non-instrumentality is the biggest area we miss when we do not write in African languages. It's really lost because its translation or even approximation is very difficult. If you were Ghanaian and you want to dismiss someone with whom you are angry, you would make a sucking sound with your teeth. But how do you do that in writing? At least if you are writing in a Ghanaian language, you will have a symbol that represents that idea. Presumably you can do it in English too, but then you must reconstruct the language by finding letters that connote that sound. And even if you do find those English sounds, they would neither be able to bear the emotional weight of the Ghanaian language symbol nor impart its cultural resonance. This is what we are missing, you see. Let me put it in my own practical way. I don't know about other writers and what they miss and don't miss, but I know this: since I started writing in Gĩkũyũ, there are areas of my work which I know I've explored and which have flowered a bit better than they did when I wrote in English. This is not the same thing as saying that a person cannot write original works in a borrowed language, as my critics have misconstrued in my argument. Of course, they can. You've seen this with African and Asian writers and intellectuals all over the world. Some people who have written in other languages have produced great works. My point is that their own cultures and languages are crying for a similar exploitation or exploration by their peoples.

UE: Quite a few African writers living abroad have established considerable literary reputations. Aside from award-winning novelists such as Ben Okri and Yvonne Vera, we have David N. Odhiambo, Helon Habila, Rozena Maart, and Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, all of whom are part of a younger generation of novelists, playwrights, poets, and short story writers. Not only do these writers set most of their works in Africa but, as in Okri's The Famished Road, they are often inspired by African orature.[16] Still, some have sought inspiration elsewhere, so that their literary style seems to arise from the unique circumstances of which they write. An example of this is Yvonne Vera's Without a Name, a narrative of trauma set in Zimbabwe during the anti-colonial struggles of the 1970s.[17] A critic has described Vera's novel as narrative which exemplifies "the parameters of an ex-centric symbolization compulsion," that is, the compulsion to symbolize an experience that is off-centre or abnormal and, therefore, generates metaphors that are in excess of the requirements of plot and characterization.[18] So instead of the culture of the Zimbabwe peasantry, the provenance of these metaphors is Mazvita's (Vera's heroine) own traumatized psyche - she's been profoundly violated. Now, Vera's example suggests to me that, contrary to your proposition, younger African writers are willing to let their subject matter direct them to alternative forms and narrative styles that are not rooted in African orature. How would you respond to the observation that, the merits of your proposition notwithstanding, certain subject matter might lend themselves to or invite the invention of alternative techniques for whose representation African orature is ill-equipped?

Ngũgĩ: Actually, I think it's the opposite. If one were to argue about the limitations of the African novel, I think, of the first generation, it would be because of its clear debt to Victorian realism or the 19th century Victorian novel. Because, largely speaking, these are the novels of George Eliot, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens which first generation postcolonial writers would have read as part of their classes in the English literature departments of the time. So they followed that model. If you look at The River Between or Weep Not, Child, you will notice that they follow the model of linear plot development and strict realism. And those who, like Amos Tutuola in the 50s, depart from that strictness were seen as eccentrics. They were not even seen as representing the new African literary norm. But now developments in Africa, for example the absurdities of both colonial and in particular post-colonial trauma, are beginning to make intellectuals think: how do you characterize this reality? How do you cope with post-colonial trauma? How do you understand it? Realist fiction cannot quite represent this trauma because in some ways it is stranger than fiction. So how do you write something about a situation in which facts are stranger than fiction? How do you make fiction not look as if it is a pale imitation of fact? Is Victorian realism an adequate way of coping with such strange facts? So, two things then begin to happen to the new generation of writers. One is the discovery of orature, because in orature you find alternative forms of exploring reality. In other words, in orature you find suspension of time, temporality, and space. What Tutuola did freed him from restrictions of time and space, so he could explore other possibilities in the ghost world. I think the younger generation of writers is discovering that there is another way of organizing reality. Of course (and this is the second thing), this has also been as a result of their contact with other literary and cultural streams. You know, we talked about this earlier when we discussed the displacement of African writers in metropolitan centers in the West and the impact of the Diaspora and other literary and cultural currents on their imagination. Ben Okri reads Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for instance. But he also reads Tutuola. If you look at earlier novels like The Landscape Within, you will see that when he comes to write The Famished Road he has broken away from that realist form.[19] This break frees him to do things with both language and ideas that he could not have done before. So, being in contact with other cultures leads him back to orature. Garcia Marquez prompts him to go to Tutuola and Tutuola prompts him to go to Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, and others. These writers are all part of his experience, directly or indirectly. Of course there is a way in which Garcia Marquez himself, living in Columbia, owes something to Africa because in Columbian culture you find the African stream of New World cultures.

UE: Your last novel, Matigari, was published in 1987. Since then, you have published three volumes on literary theory and criticism.[20] You have also established Mutiiri (The Guardian), a Gĩkũyũ language journal. However, many readers have begun to wonder if you have plans for another work of fiction or drama. If you do, could you say what it's about and when your readers should expect to see it in published form?

Ngũgĩ: From 1987 to 1997 I had no fiction to my credit. I tried my hand at filmmaking. I tried so many little things, but no major work until May 1997. And it just happened. I started a novel which I was hoping would be the length of Matigari, about 150 pages. But it took over my life, so that from 1997 to about March 2002 I lived in a totally different world. I knew I was teaching at New York University, and doing all my work in Performance Studies, but I, my wife Njeeri, and my children knew that I was in a totally different world because on weekends, Sundays, evenings, and whenever I had an opportunity I would write. The novel would not let me go. Even when I was holding a conversation with somebody my mind was preoccupied with this novel, whose English title will be Wizard of the Crow. It is a six-part narrative. The first two books came out last August. The third will come out at the end of April. Book four will probably come out in July or August, and books five and six, as one volume at the end of the year. So the Gĩkũyũ version of Wizard of the Crow will be published in 2005. Hopefully, the English translation will come out in spring of 2006 with Pantheon in New York and Heinemann Educational Publishers in Kenya.

UE: Who is handling the translation, if I may ask?

Ngũgĩ: The translation is being handled by me. This is because the novel is very long, and the language I use is a bit complex. In some ways, I am still working on the translation.

UE: Are there any similarities and dissimilarities between The Wizard of the Crow and earlier novels like Devil on the Cross and Matigari?

There's a connection. The Wizard of the Crow is like a further development of what I tried to do in Devil on the Cross and took to the extreme in Matigari. I think in Wizard of the Crow I'm freer to utilize what I was trying to do in Matigari. I hope it is a break, but I don't know how critics or readers will see it. But I'm definitely inspired by orality. The trickster aesthetic underlies the entire novel, including the narrative structure. This means that you don't really know what happens. A reader will probably make several conclusions about it before she realizes what is happening.

UE: Let us talk further about translation. Hans Georg Gadamer, the German philosopher, is reported as defining translation thus: "Reading is already translation, and translation is translation for the second time....The process of translating comprises in its essence the whole secret of human understanding of the world and of social communication."[21] What, from your experience translating or rereading your Gĩkũyũ novels, does this process of doubling entail? Though it is central to our understanding of our world and our ability to communicate with others, translation, according to Gadamer, is uncertain and open-ended. Bearing this uncertainty in translation in mind, as well as the fact that even the ability of language to represent things has been put in question, how do you arrive at language that corresponds as closely as possible with the language of your Gĩkũyũ text?

Ngũgĩ: First of all, I agree with the fundamental character of translation as Gadamer describes it. In a sense, I think it is Marx and Engels who, in The German Ideology, talk of the way human beings interact with nature and with one another because these are as much the means of existence as the language of human life.[22] I think this idea also underlies Gadamer's formulation of translation. It is the division of labor that is central to the formation of human community that becomes the language of nature. So what we see in translation is a series of readings or translations of translations, none of which can approximate the original. Indeed, we may even think of nurture as a translation of nature. All human discoveries are extensions of what is already contained in the human person; the telescope is an extension of the eye, machine-made tools of the hand, vehicles of the feet, and computers of the brain. So as you can see, whatever we develop is a translation of what is already there, just as nurture is a translation of nature, cyberculture is a translation of nurture. Yet even the most powerful computer is still a very poor imitation of the human brain. No instrument can quite replace human feet and hands and eyes and so on. It is the same way with translation. You don't quite get the original, but what you get can also be original in its own way. That's what we can do in translation; we try to approximate or capture the spirit of the original.

When your writing and dramatic productions roused the ire of the Kenyan regime which, in your view, maintains Kenyans in a state of "arrested decolonization," it imposed punitive sanctions.[23] Far from rendering you mute, these sanctions prompted you to write more, and in doing so, to experiment with literary form. A critic has described the literary genealogy of Devil on the Cross, one product of this literary experimentation, as "schizophrenic." He traces this schizophrenia to the narrative's vacillation between its "desire to maintain its generic identity as a novel" and its rejection of "the central ideologies that have made this form what it is, including the assumption of an elite audience."[24] Could you please comment on this characterization of Devil on the Cross?

Ngũgĩ: Well, maybe I wouldn't use that word exactly, but I think I can see what he means. If you look at the novel in terms of style or the interplay between realist and non-realist thinking, for example, you will see that the competition of robbers and thieves is not realist. So in terms of narrative, I'd begun here to reject the narrative forms and conventions of Victorian realism, and to shift from realist narrative to narrative inspired by orature, although I was not conscious of it at the time.[25] This was in 1978, when I began to think fundamentally about my relation to English and to African languages, and began to theorize and to take notes, mental notes, of what was later to become Decolonizing the Mind.

UE: The influence of Frantz Fanon on your work is considerable. In fact, he seems to preside over much of your scholarship. For example, in Writing Against Neocolonialism you not only rely on Fanon to sketch out Africa's literary history, but you also suggest that post-independence African literature can be read as an "imaginative footnote" to him.[26] Like you, many scholars today also admit that Fanon inspired that generation of post-independence African writers. Unlike you, however, some have gone further to either trace a variety of ideological and political flaws, if not aesthetic flaws, in this literature back to Fanon, or to observe points on which they depart from him. For example, one critic argues that although Ayi Kwei Armah, the Ghanaian novelist, upholds Fanon's "revolutionism" in his postcolonial novels, he also disavows Fanon's "optimism." Another even holds Fanon responsible for the execution of Kéita Fodéba, the Guinean poet.[27] Clearly there is a divergence between your reading of Fanon's impact on post-independence African literature and these critics'. Could you comment on the shifting interpretations of Fanon's influence on the African literary imagination over the past four decades?

Ngũgĩ: I don't know whether I'll be able to do that. I don't even know if I share that critic's characterization of Ayi Kwei Armah's fiction as pessimistic. I might read those narratives differently. But however one reads them, what is very clear is the centrality of Fanon in post-colonial African literature, be this centrality conscious or unconscious. When I've taught courses at Yale, New York University, at UC Irvine, I always ask people to read the chapter called "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness" in Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth.[28] It's surprising how students of all intellectual backgrounds begin to see how much of Fanon there is in all these narratives, whether directly or indirectly. But in a sense it's not so much a question of influence. Whether you are with Fanon or not, as a writer you are drawing from the same historical moment. That essay contains many germs of thought, including notions of neo-colonialism, the difference between neo-colonial and colonial, the Latin-Americanization of the African post-colonial experience, and so on. It's one of those works which has inspired people working in different areas, in economic interpretation, in literary imagination, in the whole cultural discourse of the post-colonial era. Now, for me the most fundamental question in Fanon is not so much his notion of class as his notion of the people, or what he characterizes as the people. I think when Fanon looked at the anti-colonial nationalist struggle, he saw the power of the elite as coming from their relation to the people rather than from guns or property. But when he looked at the post-colonial era, he saw the same elite, or a version of it, trying to draw its power from imperialism or the imperialist bourgeoisie rather than from the people. So he saw this class, which had no economic power, abandoning the very base of its strength, the base that had given it power in the first instance. Thereafter, he could outline the economic and political consequences of that abandonment for the people and even for the middle class. This is what we are writing about. The African novel is really about the political, economic, and psychic consequences of the abandonment by the African middle class of the people, the very source of its power during the struggles for decolonization.

UE: Why is it that many postcolonial African writers found more inspiration in The Wretched of the Earth than in Black Skin, White Masks, though both are seminal texts in Fanon's oeuvre?[29]

Ngũgĩ: I think The Wretched of the Earth is a more comprehensive text which, one might argue, also contains Black Skin, White Masks, although Black Skin, White Masks came first. The Wretched of the Earth is one of those texts which generate or inspire trends that sometimes may even be contradictory, just as some texts by Hegel and Marx have been. Both Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth are important. But I think the latter contains more. This is why different people or different trends find themselves in it in a way that they cannot in Black Skin, White Masks.

UE: The Wretched of the Earth was very, very influential in political organizations and activities in the 1960s and 1970s. What does the fact that it is Black Skin, White Masks which receives the bulk of scholarly attention today say about your argument that Wretched of the Earth subsumes Black Skin, White Masks?

Ngũgĩ: This development is only because of the current tendency in a lot of intellectual explorations to deal more with the psyche and with the play of language than with the reality reflected in language. Intellectual discourse now is rooted in the drama of language, the ambiguity of language, the non-absoluteness of language. And since psychology allows more of that kind of search, I would not be surprised if more intellectuals find themselves in Black Skin, White Masks. Nevertheless, if you look at Fanon's discourse on culture and the formation of intellectuals in "On National Culture," for instance, and in "Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders," a chapter which is not read as much as it should be, you will understand why I suggest that The Wretched of the Earth subsumes Black Skin, White Masks. By the way, it is from this area of Fanon's work, an area which deals with colonial violence and post-colonial trauma that Tsitsi Dangarembga and Bessie Head found their inspiration, Dangarembga from "Concerning Violence" where Fanon argues that colonialism engenders muscular tension, and Head from "Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders."[30] In the latter essay, Fanon interprets colonial violence as muscular tension which the experience of repressive colonial power engenders in the colonized. The policeman who embodies colonial authority makes sure that the colonized always remembers the threat of violence, even if he wishes to forget it. The colonized is constantly reminded of this threat in the streets. Any white person can stop him and ask, "Where are your passes?" The police can come to your house at night while you are sleeping. The colonized is dehumanized before his spouses and children. So like a person who is under torture, they develop that internal tension that could lead to an explosion at any time. Sometimes the colonized African or anybody who is colonized and lives under such conditions may internalize this violence and, as a result, commit suicide or kill other members of his group or community. Alternatively, this tension may find its outlet in organized anti-colonial resistance. You can now see why I think that Black Skin, White Masks finds its place in "Concerning Violence" and "Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders."

UE: Orality and the peasantry are often aligned in your propositions for national literatures in Africa. Thus, for example, you insist that "the new tradition in African literature" must root itself in the oral tradition just as all great national literatures, from Homer's The Iliad to the Finnish Kalevala, have done.
[31] Like the rest of the world, however, contemporary Africa is as saturated with non-oral as with oral forms, from newspapers to e-books. In their daily lives, urban Africans with the resources are as apt, if not more likely, to read newspapers, magazines, and material posted on the internet as they are to listen to street sermons, folktales, and epics. In West Africa, the Nigerian home video has saturated the urban centres and the countryside, thus altering the language and culture of the peasantry itself in very profound ways. Given these developments, do you not think that we need to carefully rethink the category of the African peasantry before we determine precisely what elements, if any, of its language and culture might actually lend themselves to the production of national literatures?

Ngũgĩ: On the contrary, we can argue this the other way around. It would be interesting to see what Nigerian people do with the home video. I predict that soon video culture and narrative are going to be oralized. But the reverse—that video narratives, which draw from global culture, will affect peasant language and culture—is also likely. Peasant cultures have been very open to wonder; something happens in the street and it is rapidly absorbed into oral discourse long before it is standardized in writing, celluloid, or video. This is because oral cultures are driven by the sense of wonder or by imagination; something happens in the street, something very small, and when it is narrated it becomes bigger. And when it is passed on, when another person takes it over, it becomes even bigger still until it is almost a legend. So I think that written narrative tries to conserve, to hold on to; video and film, by contrast, are always one step behind the oral. If you think of the oral in terms of the street, the field, or the plantation, you will observe that it is full of new things arising from its constant experimentations. For example, new words are coined in public transportation, where the collective imagination is not afraid to yoke different images that may seem to be incongruous together. I'm sure this is true in Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. When people are traveling on public transportation and they start talking to each other, they tell incredible stories about happenings in their own village or community. This is why I think that great moments in national literatures and cultures, even in music, occur when, after it reaches a creative stasis marked by formal repetitions and orthodoxy, culture reaches for new energy from what is produced in the streets. You could argue that this is what hip-hop is doing for the English language. Hip-hop is something which actually is happening in the streets and which is not saying, "I owe my being to the fact that I have read Wordsworth" or "I'm part of the great tradition of metrical poetry." It is not even consciously saying, "I am departing from that poetic tradition." It simply does it. And then what happens? As you can see on television screens in America, popular culture and commercials now borrow its style, its visual gestures. Broadly speaking, by peasantry, streets, or plantation, one is talking about people. Peasantry is not to be understood strictly in terms of a people's relationship to land, but in terms of their capacity for cultural invention and, particularly, verbal interpretations. As an example of this inventiveness, think about fashion design. As members of the middle class, we are colour conscious. We think in almost formalistic ways that the clothes we wear should have matching colours. Consequently, you might hear mothers tell their kids, "Don't wear that colour; wear this." But the homeless who have few clothes are forced to experiment; they take green and blue and whatever is available and put them together. Necessity forces them to experiment, to invent. A filmmaker then sees their invention and thinks, "Ah! That's a very interesting pattern." She sees possibilities she had not thought of before. These possibilities are what we extract from the peasantry sometimes. Inventions of this kind take place all the time among the peasantry and not, until very recently, in university classrooms or engineering workshops.

UE: Your fiction and criticism are rooted in Kenyan history, a history shaped by struggles to which women such as Me Katilili and Mary Muthoni made significant contributions.[32] Similar testimonies of the invaluable part peasant women played in that history, especially in the anti-colonial struggles of the 1950s - the "Mau Mau struggle" - abound. According to some women who were involved, they provided food and ordinance and gathered intelligence for the guerillas, often at very grave cost to themselves.[33] What traces, if any, have women's investments in these historical struggles left on writing by Kenyan women?

Ngũgĩ: Of course, Kenyan literature was dominated by men for some time. But Kenyan women —Micere Mugo, Rebecca Njau, and Grace Ogot—have been trying to recover the women's voice in Kenyan history. Other female writers continue that project in Kenya today. For Kenyan women writers, the very act of writing is in itself an expression of their desire to reassert women's voices in our national imagination. They are not waiting for male writers to articulate their experience of history. The Gĩkũyũ word for "woman" is mutumia, which means "One who keeps silent," or "The silent one." But in writing women are breaking that silence and rejecting that characterization. Of course, they were never silent. It is only that in speaking and writing they come up against that notion of the silent woman. So, articulating their agency is very important. And, by the way, you can see this not just in Kenya but in the world. The women's movement actually has done a lot to liberate male narratives intellectually, so that now women are defining their own spaces, male writers can take cognizance of those spaces too. If you look at Kenyan narratives in the past, you would see that female characters, even when they are positive, often see fulfilling male desire as their goal in life. This applies to Kenyan women's fiction and some of my own fiction too. In these stories, mothers seem quite content to help their sons to achieve the latter's ambitions. In contemporary Kenyan women's writing, by contrast, women are now as concerned with fulfilling the family or community's ambitions as they are about fulfilling their own. They now see themselves as achievers for the common good and makers of history. This is why I consider it liberating that women writers are articulating their position.

UE: Thank you very much, Ngũgĩ, for granting me this interview.

Ngũgĩ: You are welcome.



This interview was conducted in Toronto on March 20, 2005 and recorded and transcribed by Ms. Laurie Lambert. We are grateful to the Department of English, University of Toronto, for its generous support.


Ngũgĩ was the Erich Maria Remarque Chair of Languages and Professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies at New York University from 1992 to 2002.


Ngũgĩ is referring to the following passage: "That being settled I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other . . . ; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen . . . ." Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, tr. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review P, 1972) 11.


Te Tangata Whai Rawa O Weniti (The Maori Merchant of Venice) is the 2002 movie version, (director and executive producer Don C. Selwyn) of a stage play Selwyn directed as part of the 1990 Koanga Festival in Auckland, when he was invited to stage a play in Maori. It is based on the 1945 translation of Shakespeare's play into Maori by renowned Maori scholar Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones. <>


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Barrel of a Pen: Resistance to Repression in Neo-Colonial Kenya (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World P, c1983) 86.


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1993) 29. This statement is to be found in "The Universality of Local Knowledge," an essay originally published as "Response," Yale Journal of Criticism 5.2 (Spring 1992: 149-152). Ngũgĩ was responding to two essays: Clifford Geertz, "‘Local Knowledge' and Its Limits," Yale Journal of Criticism 5.2 (Spring 1992): 129-35, and Jack Goody, "Local Knowledge and Knowledge of Locality: The Desirability of Frames," Yale Journal of Criticism 5.2 (Spring 1992): 137-47.


See note 6 above.


Ngũgĩ, Moving the Centre 24.


For Ngũgĩ's explanation of his decision to write in Gĩkũyũ, see Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (London: James Currey, 1986) 28-29.


For a recent discussion, see Edward W. Said, Freud and the Non-European (London and New York: Verso, 2003).


W.E.B. DuBois "and others" convened the First Pan-African Congress in Paris in 1919. See Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience. Vol. 4, 2nd ed. Eds. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005) 237.


George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile (London: M. Joseph, 1960) 24, 50.


Ngũgĩ gave the Fourth Annual Steve Biko Lecture at the University of Cape Town, South Africa on September 12th, 2003.


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Writers in Politics (London: Heinemann, 1981) 59.


See Sandy Petrey, Speech Acts and Literary Theory (New York and London: Routledge, 1990).


Ben Okri, The Famished Road (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991).


Yvonne Vera, Without a Name (Harare, Zimbabwe: Baobab Books, 1994). Postcolonial Text notes with regret the recent death of Ms. Vera on April 7, 2005.


Ato Quayson, Calibrations: Reading for the Social (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2003) 87.


Ben Okri, The Landscape Within (London: Longman, 1981), and The Famished Road (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991).


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Moving the Centre (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1993), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Writers in Politics, Rev. Edn. (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1997), and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams (New York: Oxford UP, 1998).


John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte, "Introduction," The Craft of Translation, ed. John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte (Chicago and London: U Chicago P, 1989) ix.


Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (New York: International Publishers, 1970).


Biodun Jeyifo, "The Nature of Things: Arrested Decolonization and Critical Theory" in Padmini Mongia, ed., Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader (New York and London: Arnold, 1996).


Simon Gikandi, Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000) 21.


See Ngũgĩ, Decolonizing the Mind.


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Writing Against Neocolonialism (Wembley: Vita Books, 1986) 8.


See, respectively, Neil Lazarus, Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1990), 42; and Christopher L. Miller, Theories of Africans: Francophone Literature and Anthropology in Africa (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1990), 60. Lazarus is referring specifically to the following: Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968); Fragments (London: Heinemann, 1969); and Why Are We So Blest? (London: Heinemann, 1972).


Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, tr. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove, 1968).


Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, tr. Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove, 1967).


See, respectively, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (London: Women's P, 1988); and Bessie Head, A Question of Power (London: Davis-Poynter, 1973).


Ngũgĩ, Moving the Centre 22.


Ngũgĩ, Barrel of a Pen 41.


See The Dedan Kimathi Papers, ed. Maina wa Kinyatti (London: Zed, 1986) 125.