TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Ngugi wa Thiongo on Kenya’s Struggle for Democracy

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In numerous liberation struggles, writers are key fighters in the battle for the collective imagination. In the case of Kenya, no one has garnered more glory, and few have suffered more gravely, than novelist, playwright, journalist and lecturer Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

He’s the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal Mutiiri. He’s a professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and he’s taught at Nairobi University, Yale, New York University and the University of California at Irvine. He’s the recipient of seven honourary doctorates.

In his long literary career, he’s written many novels including Weep Not, Child; Petals of Blood; Devil on the Cross; and the recent Wizard of the Crow; he’s also written the plays The Black Hermit, and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi about Kenya’s revolutionary hero.

In addition, wa Thiong’o penned many essays, particularly to describe the imprisonment and repression he faced at the hands of the post-colonial government of Jomo Kenyatta, which led to his exile in 1977, the same year Amnesty International named him a Prisoner of Conscience.

Those essays and similar writings are collected in volumes such as Writers in Politics; Education for a National Culture; Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary; Writing against Neo-Colonialism; and Power in Post-Colonial Africa.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o famously argued that Afrikan writers of all countries should write in their own languages instead of colonial tongues, which had become standard, waging his culture war in books such as Barrel of a Pen: Resistance to Repression in Neo-Colonial Kenya; Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature; Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedom; and Penpoints, Gunpoints and Dreams: Towards a Critical Theory of the Arts and the State in Africa.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o spoke with radio host Daniel Tsang on Subversity on radio KUCI from Irvine, California, on January 21, 2008, shortly after Martin Luther King Day, discussing Kenyan history, the struggle for democracy, regional conflict and the early 2008 election violence.

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