Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
The Kenyan writer and scholar of culture, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, was born in 1938. He is the son of a traditional Kikuyu farming family in Kamiriithu, Limuru. In 1952, the independence struggle against British colonial rule – the Mau Mau War – began. From 1959 to 1964 Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o studied at Makerere University in Uganda, which became independent at the same time, and at the University of Leeds in the UK. He then worked as a lecturer for English and Literary Studies at different universities.
His first novel, »Weep Not, Child« was published in 1964 and gained him worldwide fame. This was followed by the novel »The River Between« (1965), the story of two lovers who are symbolically separated by a river, because one lives according to Christian and the other according to traditional African beliefs. »Petals of Blood« (1977) tells about the investigation into the assassination of three men who benefited from the Neo-colonial structures in the country. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has always been a fierce opponent of colonialism. In his prose and essays he has always criticized the British colonial policy and the post-colonial rule of Daniel arap Moi. After his play »Ngaahika Ndeenda« (tr.: I’ll marry you when I want) was released in 1977, he was tortured and imprisoned in Nairobi without trial and his works were banned. In the early 1980s, he was granted political asylum in the UK. While in prison he wrote on toilet paper »Devil on the Cross« (1980), a piece in his mother tongue Kikuyu. The following novel »Matigari« (1986), also written in Kikuyu, was about a patriot, who, at the end of the liberation war realizes that the struggle has only brought about minimal changes, that the son of the whites still control his country, and that he has to fight on. After the new government of the »Rainbow Coalition« under President Mwai Kibaki came to power in 2004, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o returned to his home for the first time. However, after an assault against him and his wife, he went back to the USA immediately. After more than twenty years he published his next book, »Murogi wa Kagogo. Wizard of the Crow« (2006), a satire about African despots and the West in a globalized world. The novel is set in a fictional African republic under the authoritarian dominion of a so-called ruler who wants to control everybody in his country. In 2010 he published »Dreams in a Time of War«, the first volume of his autobiography, which will have four volumes in the end.
For his work, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2009. He lives in Irvine, California.