Ngugi Essay, Research Paper
Ngugi wa Thiong o had a goal of not being associated with the English language and starting to write in his native language Gikuyu. In his mind English in parts of Africa was like a process in wiping out the memories of pre-colonial cultures and history, as well as putting in a new fashion of colonialism. Ngugi wrote Decolonising the Mind, with a mental state that of turning back to the roots of Gikuyu traditions. This quote from summarizes his thoughts and beliefs. A specific culture is not transmitted through lanuguage in its universality, but in its particularity as the language of a specific community with a specific history, (Thiong o 15).
The thought of language in our minds shouldn t be about everybody s doing it so that makes it o.k. No, its about the keeping its meaning and importance in single groups. Knowing the specific s of your culture is important. As well as knowing your specific s of your language. Their like two peas in a pod, that s why it was important for Ngugi to write in his native tongue.
The debate about What is African literature? Caused emotions to fly. All the writers at this meeting were adapted to the language of the English folk. So it was no flat line decision made, this people had been washed by the English language and that s how it was to be. But how important should our native tongue be to us? For some people there is no choice but to live in a way that is custom for their environment. Kind of like what Chinua Achebe said:
Is it right that a man should abandon his mother tongue for someone else s? It looks like a dreadful betrayal and produces a guilt feeling. But for me there is no other choice. I have been given the language and I intend to use it .
We need language to communicate period. It can be used to tell a story about one culture to another if put in the right hands. I say that because, for example the writers at the conference meeting. Did not know or utilize their native tongue. All they had was the English language, so what good would the writings of other cultures be to their natives and what good would the writer be? In my view language was the most important vehicle through which that power fascinated and held the soul prisoner, (Thiong o 9). Ngugi knew how powerful language had to do with us and our relationship with the universe.
From Ngugi s childhood in speaking Gikuyu, he understood that language was more than letters make words, words make sentences, sentences compose conversations, no this represented power. Ngugi utilized this power thourgh his experiences in education. When he reached the age to attend school he was disappointed, he didn t know why the language he was born to love wasn t the priority for his schoolmates. When English became the primary language in Kenya it didn t only effect Kenya but it the language that everybody bowed down to.
English was so enforced that some were punished if they got caught speaking in their native. It became the establishment of a child s educational growth. English took over literary education. It was thought that this language were starting to separate the beliefs of who a person was and always have been and turning he/she into this supreme being of unknown character.
Colonialism was reason enough for the crossover of English. It was already predetermined that whoever has control over people s culture, had control over the people and that was the aim behind this switch. Ways that colonialism used to control were through military conquest and subsequent political dictatorship. As I stated earlier this control was mainly mental, whoever controlled the minds of the people, had full coverage. Economic and political control is of some value also but not complete without the mental.
Some habits cannot be broken. That is why instilling the English language into the minds of these Africans was thought to be a dominant control factor. It was but, not by choice. This is reason why the colonial had a huge advantage when it came to the written language. The child was basically raised a second time when he attended school. I say this because when he/she were brought up they were taught ways of their native, but when they went to school they had to learn how to live all over again by learning, speaking, and writing a foreign language. It was said because the child would be isolated mentally from his natural and social environment.
Our history is our culture that people look to in order to stay sane in this world. Which makes it more difficult for this African child that was being exposed to the twistedness of a foreign culture that was like not even as equal to his known culture. Imagine being told that your way of life and everything your parents taught to did not matter anymore. Being tortured for accidentally communicating in a way that was common. These children had to take up an attitude that their culture was the low of the lowest, humiliating, stupid and just not worthy to be called a language anymore. While the foreign language was broadcasted to be the perfect world.
Some of the the Africans began using their creative talents. Like writing stories, novels, poems, etc. Usually good writers, when they write, write about heart-felt topics, things they ve known and felt for years and years. But this wasn t the case for these writers, they had to write about their new culture and in a way that they could not reflect upon. And the readers couldn t read them so it was like they were writing for their colonizers instead of for the people. Even though these writers did not approve, they were given the identity of African literature as if literature was new to them.
African heritage was kept alive by the peasantry class. It wasn t a problem for them to identify with their native Africa and the world to that matter as a whole. They were even fine and dandy with the languages and cultures they represented. Even though the foreign lifestyle were being imposed upon them, they still found ways to uphold their native culture and to keep it alive. Ways they did this were like through singing and writing their own stories, stories they reflect and relate back to. There were also some that just flat out refused to adapt to the foreign ways. They believed that real African literature must be written in African. They realized that the African writers had to come to the realization that educated African writing were being lead in a direction that know one would follow.
Finally in 1977, Ngugi saw the light and began to write in his native tongue once more. He did this for the future children of Kenya.