35 pages 1 hour read

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Decolonising the Mind: the Politics of Language in African Literature

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1986

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Chapter 2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 2 Summary: “The Language of African Theatre”

Ngũgĩ begins this chapter with a short story of how he came to join the Kamiriithu Community Centre after several invitations from a woman from the local community. This short introduction serves as Ngũgĩ’s way of touching on the larger history behind the role and function of cultural centers, particularly those centered on theatre, for formerly colonized populations. As Ngũgĩ notes, Kamiriithu was established by the British during the Mau Mau uprising to cut off ties between the guerillas fighting for national liberation and Kenyans in other villages.

However, given the colonial history of Kenya, Ngũgĩ asks whether his participation in the community center and introduction of theatre into its programming was appropriate, or if it involved the perpetuation of colonial narratives and ideology. Ngũgĩ explains why the introduction of theatre into the community is significant: “[D]rama has its origins in human struggles with nature and with others” (36). Or as he remarks further on: “[T]heatre is not a building. People make theatre. Their life is the very stuff of drama” (42). In place of theatre influenced by British colonialism, Ngũgĩ, along with Micere Mugo, writes The Trial of Dedan Kimathi and radically alters the traditional way in which theatre was produced.