Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a renowned writer from Kenya, whose literary pen speaks eloquently in both English and Gikuyu, was born on 5th of January 1938. Originally named James Thiong’o Ngugi, the prolific writer has penned down many plays, novels, short stories and essays – not only in the familiar English but also in Gikuyu his mother tongue.
Ngũgĩ was born in Kamiriithu, close to the district of Kiambu in Kenya. The war of Mau Mau, which lasted ten years (1952 – 1962), affected him largely. Right from time, Ngugi was a fierce fighter against economic and social injustice, an attribute that he has demonstrated many times both in his country and in most of his writings.
Mnwagi, Thiongo’s half-brother was a member of the Land And Freedom Army in Kenya fighting the land war – a recurrent issue in most of
Ngũgĩ’s novels. Also, his mother was tortured during wartime at Kamiriithu home guard post. With this, growing was not fun for the Young
Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o. However, none of these would wear out Ngugi’s love for writing. He started to write at an early age. His first play
The Black Hermit produced in Kampala in 1962; he wrote it while a student.
As a critic, Ngũgĩ once wrote a controversial piece titled I Will Marry When I Want, which led to his arrest by the Kenyan President, Daniel Arap Moi on December 31, 1977.
Even in prison, Ngũgĩ’s intense love for writing prompted him to write on toilet tissues, his first novel Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ in Gikuyu. This work was later published in English as Devil on the Cross. He was released in December 1978 after a strong international campaign against his arrest.
But his voice as a writer cum activist, renowned lecturer in colleges and universities was sored. He was barred to perform for the country under Moi’s dictatorship. Thiong’o’s life in Kenya during this trying period made him launch his novel
Devil On The Cross in Britain. As if that’s not enough when the renowned African literary genius returned to Kenya, Moi’s men were reportedly said to be after his head.
As a result, he remained in exile for 7 years (1982 – 1989) first in Britain, later in the U.S. He resided in America for 12 years (1989 – 2002). Still, Moi tracked him, traced him and schemed for his deport from London and other countries he visited.
In 1986, an effort to get him assassinated was foiled by the securities at the conference in Harare. Nonetheless, not all of these were enough to distract the indefatigable Kenyan novelist from continuing to engage I what he loves – writing. In short, he worked harder in exile. His novel Matigiri in Gikuyi was published in 1986 after he was saved from the claws of assassins.
Moi ordered his arrest a second time. He thought the novel’s main character was non-fiction, which personalized a political feature. When Moi later realized this was true, he then banned the novel, not to be sold anywhere in Kenya. Moi went to the extent of removing all Ngũgĩ’s books from educational institutions in the country.
He worked with the London Based Committee for 14 years (1982 – 1996). There he pursued the release of political prisoners in Kenya. He was determined to work tirelessly to put an end to constrained rulership in the country, for he longed to see a country in which freedom, human right and fairness will be established. Also, Ngugi shuffled between universities and colleges where he worked as professor and writer on a visit. He first worked at Bayreuth University (1984), Borough of Islington, London (1985).
In 2006, Ngũgĩ published yet another novel titled
Wizard of the Crow , an English translated version of Murogi wa Kagogo which, instantly like many of his works, became a hit.
Ngũgĩ is a gem as far as great work of literature is concerned, most especially one that documents the African heritage in its truest and most graphic form.