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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Decolonising the Mind: the Politics of Language in African Literature

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1986

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Preface-IntroductionChapter Summaries & Analyses

Preface Summary

In the Preface to Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o introduces the series of essays collected in this text. Largely written as a dedication to several individuals and communities at Auckland University, New Zealand, Ngũgĩ emphasizes that due to the nature of the subjects with which he is concerned—the politics of language, the histories of colonization and European imperialism of the continent of Africa—he was pleased that his residency at Auckland University coincided with the celebration of the Maori people and their culture. Making this connection with the Indigenous Maori people and his own Kenyan heritage, Ngũgĩ remarks that every work of art, including his own, is a collective effort, dependent on both explicit collaboration and the collective history and culture that informs it.

Given Ngũgĩ’s subject matter, he emphasizes that the following essays are “not dealing so much with the language policies as with the language practice of African writers” (xi). His intent is not to criticize the brilliant writing of Kenyans who choose to write in European languages but rather to characterize the broader infestation of European bourgeois influences in Kenyan art and culture as a form of neocolonialism that persists long after the United Kingdom formally withdrew from Kenya.