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

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter 3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3 Summary: “The Language of African Fiction”

Ngũgĩ begins this chapter with a brief retelling of his imprisonment for being an active participant in the Kamiriithu Community Educational and Cultural Centre. At that time, he was also the Chair and an Assistant Professor in the Literature Department at the University of Nairobi. While it may seem puzzling at first as to why the Kenyan government would imprison a professor and theatre director, Ngũgĩ provides the following explanation that sheds light on the threat posed by Ngũgĩ’s theatre from the eyes of government officials: In my case the regime wanted to keep me away from the university and the village and if possible to break me (64).

In prison, Ngũgĩ had the idea of committing himself to reconceiving the African novel as a literary work that functions in a similar way to African theatre, in that it reconnects African peoples with their heritage and history of heroic anti-colonial struggles. As Ngũgĩ says, this realization came to him when a prison guard warned him against writing novels in his native tongue: “[A] very cruel prison superintendent warned me against any attempts at writing poems—he obviously confused novels with poems. But why a novel? And why Gikuyu language?” (64).