Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s latest book is set to be released soon according to his Nairobi publisher, East African Educational Publishers. It will be released in the next 90-days and perhaps will be one of the most experimental creative works that he has written.
The US-based Kenyan author writes all his fiction in his mother tongue. Written and published in Gikuyu, the latest book will be no different. The books is called Kenda Muiyuru: Rugano rwa Gikukyu.
This new book will be a rallying call for Africans to celebrate their cultural heritage.
“I’m excited about the possible release of my Gikuyu language epic, Kenda Muiyuru. I would like to encourage Kenyan writers to create epics based on the stories of their communal origins, like Homer did for the Greeks and Virgil for the Romans,” Ngugi said in an interview.
His last book, Murogi wa Kagoogo (Wizard of the Crow was immediately translated to English and the English version was released not long after the Gikuyu one. However for this new novel, English speakers will have to wait a while before they can buy the translated copy of the book.
Gikuyu or Kikuyu is a language of the Bantu family spoken by the Gikuyu people, the largest ethnic group in Kenya. They make up about 22% of Kenya’s population. It is spoken in the reading between Nyeri and Nairobi. Other authors who write in Gikuyu are Gatua wa Mbũgwa and Waithĩra wa Mbuthia.
Ngugi formerly wrote in English and now works in Gikuyu. His writing includes novels, plays short stories, and essays ranging from literary and social criticism to children’s literature. Since he wrote Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986) and Moving the Centre (1993), Ngugi has said that writing in foreign languages is a sign of colonial servitude.
One of his more recent books, Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance, makes the argument for the crucial role of African languages in the resurrection of African memory. A review of this book in publisher’s weekly said, “Ngugi’s language is fresh; the questions he raises are profound, the argument he makes is clear: ‘To starve or kill a language is to starve and kill a people’s memory bank.'”
Ngugi’s name was previously James Ngugi, but after his 1967 novel A Grain of Wheat established his political stance, the author renounced English, and Christianity and changed his named to Ngugi was Thiong’o.
Once imprisoned for his poltical beliefs, he has said in an interview that imagination, and all art, for him is a form of resistance. He wrote the novel, Devil on The Cross, in 1978 during his year-long imprisonment on the prison-issued toilet paper. The novel is about a young woman dealing with racial and gender oppression in neocolonial Kenya.
“It’s hard to say how I would have reacted after 10 years. But I was scheming as to how I’d survive. I was thinking I’d write the novel in Gikuyu. I didn’t know how long that would take. If it took a year, I thought I’d take another year translating it into Kiswahili or English. I was planning ahead, even then,” he told the Guardian.
This latest book could reference the mythical first family that is believed to have given rise to the Gikuyu community. Kenda Muiyuru (a full nine) is often mentioned in reference to the daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi.
“If I meet an English person, and he says, ‘I write in English,’ I don’t ask him ‘Why are you writing in English?’ If I meet a French writer, I don’t ask him, ‘Why don’t you write in Vietnamese?’ But I am asked over and over again, ‘Why do you write in Gikuyu?’ For Africans, the view is there is something wrong about writing in an African language.”
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