Decolonising the Mind The Politics of Language in African

Decolonising the Mind The Politics of Language in African Literature Studies in African Literature Series [PDF / EPUB] Decolonising the Mind The Politics of Language in African Literature Studies in African Literature Series Ngugi describes this book as a summary of some of the issues in which I have been passionately involved for the last twenty years of my practice in fiction theatre criticism and in the teaching of lit Ngugi describes this book as Mind The PDF/EPUB ¶ a summary of some of the issues in which I have been passionately involved for the last twenty years of my practice in fiction theatre criticism and in the teaching of literatureIn the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Europe Decolonising the PDF or stole art treasures from Africa to decorate their houses and museums; in the twentieth century Europe is stealing the treasures of the mind to enrich their languages and cultures ContentsAcknowledgementsPrefaceA StatementIntroduction Towards the Universal Language of Struggle The Language of African Literature The the Mind The PDF/EPUB ½ Language of African Theatre The Language of African Fiction The uest for RelevanceIndex.


About the Author: Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo

Kenyan teacher novelist essayist and Mind The PDF/EPUB ¶ playwright whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of postcolonial writers After imprisonment in Ngũgĩ abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favor Decolonising the PDF or of Gikuyu his native tongue The transition from colonialism to postcoloniality and the crisis of modernity ha.



10 thoughts on “Decolonising the Mind The Politics of Language in African Literature Studies in African Literature Series

  1. says:

    “Education far from giving people the confidence in their ability and capacities to overcome obstacles or to become masters of the laws governing external nature as human beings tends to make them feel their inadeuacies their weaknesses and their incapacities in the face of reality; and their inability to do anything about the conditions governing their lives” Ngugi wa Thiong’o Decolonising the MindI’ve never seen colonialism described as succinctly as in the following passage “The real aim of colonialism was to control the people’s wealth what they produced how they produced it and how it was distributed; to control in other words the entire realm of the language of real life Colonialism imposed its control of the social production of wealth through military conuest and subseuent political dictatorship But its most important area of domination was the mental universe of the colonised the control through culture of how people perceived themselves and their relationship to the world”I read this book with my experiences in Africa conversations with my relatives and friends and my education at the back of my mind Trying to make sense of history and my place in it made this book invaluable to me and helped clarify and reiterate a lot of things The I read books on Africa be they about art language history or politics the I’m amazed how the continent is seen in many people’s minds as a homogeneous country This passive thinking really masks the complexity of issues in the continent Even without colonialism Africa would have been uite intricate but colonialism has truly caused mayhem in the entire continent And in many ways language is one of the biggest weapons the colonialists used to do soI like wa Thiong’o a lot Not only is he a great writer but it’s also clear he is a very passionate person with a lot of love for his country his continent and his language and a great advocate for the traditional arts He is very blunt and I admire that a lot Nobody is safe from his criticism even a few of my personal favourites such as Achebe Soyinka Cesaire In a sense he thinks they were brainwashed for putting the language of the colonizers on a pedestal I think it’s an interesting argument to be had but it’s hard for me to pick a side because I’m admittedly colonized myself and English dominant although it’s not my first language I found it useful to read wa Thiong’o’s perspective regardlessAnd wa Thiongo’s perspective is important He grew up during colonialism after all so he unlike me had the opportunity to study in his native language and unfortunately had to endure being forced to assimilate into the English languageHe details how the British tried to suppress local languages in Kenya how they arrested those who tried to encourage cultural proliferation and controlled the gathering of people in places He sees the differences in himself and his society before and after English language education was forced on him and his explanations and insights are very precise and often personalwa Thiong’o is very thorough in how he discusses the role of language as a carrier and transmitter of culture and what happens when that language is taken away from people This is such a common story not just in Africa but even here in Canada and I think we’re beginning to understand just how damaging it is to suppress and devalue language In what planet does it make sense that a Kenyan student in colonial Kenya would be punished for speaking Gikuyu or Swahili instead of English? Personally I remember how I was often treated better than my cousins just because I could speak English and they couldn’t; I learned early on how language can be elitist “I believe that my writing in Gikuyu language a Kenyan language an African language is part and parcel of the anti imperialist struggles of Kenyan and African peoples In schools and universities our Kenyan languages– that is the languages of the many nationalities which make up Kenya– were associated with negative ualities of backwardness underdevelopment humiliation and punishment”Another great thing about wa Thing’o is how he respects the peasantry his choice of word The other day I was reading about the Third Estate in France during the 19th Century revolution and this reminded me of how in Africa the peasantry are the majority and that’s where the culture comes from Who makes the oral stories who upholds the culture? It’s nice to see the peasantry being accredited with maintaining culture and tradition “These languages these national heritages of Africa were kept alive by the peasantry The peasantry saw no contradiction between speaking their own mother tongues and belonging to a larger national or continental geography They saw no necessary antagonistic contradiction between belonging to their immediate nationality to their multinational state along the Berlin drawn boundaries and to Africa on the whole”I was struck by the violence caused by colonialism Colonialism was celebrated and that’s the world I grew up in gratitude to the colonialists for “rescuing” us But what we know now is that it was very very violent and the wounds are still there If like wa Thiong’o said in 1984 the president of the West German Federal Council visited Togo in order to celebrate the centennial of Germany establishing Togo as a German colony to commemorate not the resistance to colonisation but the glory of colonisation” then clearly we haven’t learned much and dialogue still needs to be hadThe constant unlearning the decolonizing that needs to be done because we were lied to is something that I thought of throughout this book And it’s only now that I’m realizing in detail just how horrific colonialism was just how much we’ve lost What I aim to do myself how I aim to decolonize my own mind is by reading of my history I’ve also been thinking about how I’ve been influenced by other cultures so I wonder how far I can be decolonized This got me thinking about globalization and how that has affected us I would be interested to hear Thiong’o’s thoughts on this This is definitely a must read for everyone there is so much we don’t know or realize about the impact of the actions of those who came before us and this is a great start


  2. says:

    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o had already published four acclaimed novels in English when in 1977 he gave up the language as a vehicle for fiction A few years later he published this polemic which he said would be his last writing in English in any genreConseuently he's now probably even famous among sociolinguists than students of literature because Decolonising the Mind is a rare example of a top practitioner setting out a total rationale complete with backstory and running examples of the political and cultural implications of choosing one language over anotherIt would be possible to argue on purely artistic grounds that a local language is simply better at describing certain things – the rhythms of daily life say or regional wildlife – than another But what makes Ngũgĩ's argument so powerful is that his grounds are not artistic but political Writing in Kikuyu may give him access to new and interesting aesthetic effects but that's not why he does it – he does it to resist cultural appropriation and to target a primary audienceThere's always been a big irony in literature from former colonies that uses a colonial language – what Ngũgĩ calls ‘Afro European’ literature a useful term that I'm happy to adopt Abroad it's often praised in proportion to how well it shows us the details of different alien lives and yet it's obviously aimed at us not them the people described are often exactly those excluded from reading it Chinua Achebe's descriptions of yam farmers in Nigeria will rarely be read by yam farmers in Nigeria because most of them can't read EnglishNgũgĩ had a crisis about this after writing his third novel A Grain of Wheat still the only one of his that I've so far readI knew whom I was writing about but whom was I writing for? The peasants whose struggles fed the novel would never read itThere's an obvious answer of course which is that people write in order to communicate ideas and writing in a major world language communicates your ideas widely than doing so in a small regional language Six or seven million people speak Kikuyu whereas four hundred million speak English natively and probably almost as many again as a second language The implications of this are not just remunerative – though that's no small consideration – they're also practical if you're interested in influencing bigger audiencesNevertheless for Ngũgĩ this is an argument for having a better translation culture not for the abandonment of a writer's native language The attempt to wrangle African languages into English has been invigorating and transformative for English – one thinks of Amos Tutuola or Ben Okri – but at the end of the day why the hell should we be benefitting at the expense of other languages? ‘We cannot have our cake and eat it’ he saysWhy we may ask should an African writer or any writer become so obsessed by taking from his mother tongue to enrich other tongues?It's a fair point For Ngũgĩ there's little difference between a postcolonial English enriching itself from African languages and a colonial England enriching itself from African labour or resources The problem is circular because the lack of literatures in many smaller languages leads to an assumption even from native speakers that they are unable to support a literature let alone a world literature But if addressing that misconception is not the job of writers whose job is it?We African writers are bound by our calling to do for our languages what Spencer Milton and Shakespeare did for English; what Pushkin and Tolstoy did for Russian; indeed what all writers in world history have done for their languages by meeting the challenge of creating a literature in them which process later opens the languages for philosophy science technology and all the other areas of human creative endeavoursAs an English speaker one reads this book with first of all a renewed sense of gratitude that so many writers have in fact chosen to write in English along with a troubling re evaluation of why they felt it was necessary to do so At the very least everyone should agree that translated fiction should be out there and not just coming from the major languages Ngũgĩ is one of the few big writers putting his money where his mouth is by writing only in his native tongue but even he's had to make concessions his major work Wizard of the Crow Mũrogi wa Kagogo was translated into English by Ngũgĩ himself so he did actually write the text of the English novel that everyone's reading If that's not having your cake and eating it I'm not sure what is


  3. says:

    In this work Ngugi wa Thiong'o bids farewell to his practice of writing in English adding that he hopes translation will enable him to continue to communicate with all He then explains the passionate reasoning behind his belief in the use of African languages by African writersI have come to realise and that work any work even literary creative work is not the result of an individual genius but the result of a collective effortTaking as a founding principle that imperialism and its internal allies will never develop Africa he critiues the notion that tribal conflict is the source of discord in Kenya and across the continent invariables like biological nationality cannot be the true source of conflict which would be eternal and unchanging if that were the case he says Rather the divide and rule practices of colonialism are at the root of such conflict He identifies two traditions of thought in Kenya the imperialist tradition of the international bourgeoisie and 'flag waving native ruling classes' and subjugation of the people enforced by police boots barbed wire clergy judiciary supported by state intellectuals AND the resistance tradition of the working peoplepeasantry and 'patriotic' petty bougeoisiemiddle class including students and intellectuals supporting all nationalities in the area against imperialist dominationImperialism is the monopolistic and parasitic rule of consolidated finance capital The freedom for Western finance capital to go on stealing from the working people of the global south is maintained by conventional and nuclear weapons but importantly by 'the cultural bomb' that annihilates the self belief and solidarity of the people Ngugi wa Thiong'o explains that language allows us to define ourselves in relation to our national and social environment our capacity to confront the world creatively is dependant on how those images of nature and nurture formed by the dynamic process of history culture reflecting each other correspond or not to that reality how they distort or clarify the reality of our strugglesHe describes his experience of learning through storytelling alongside everyday communication and shared experience in his mother tongue Gikuyu and how the harmony of his learning life was broken in colonial schools where speaking Gikuyu was punished while all achievement in English was rewarded and prioritised Native languages are associated by colonial education with low status humiliation corporal punishment stupidity and barbarism For the African child in this context thought itself takes the visible form of a foreign language and thus she feels disassociated from her natural and social environment Ngugi wa Thiong'o explains that culture is transmitted not through language in universality but in its particularity of a specific socialhistorical context The way English is used in African countries is not the same as the way it is used in Scandinavian countries as a tool of communication but as an instrument of controlLiterature written by Africans in European languages by anti imperial petty bourgeois authors articulated resistance to racist European colonisation and drew on African cultures and histories to give that class self confidence This work armed uprisings inspired by political awakening and drew stamina and substance from proverbs and fables of the peasantry helping struggles for independence But as neo colonialpro imperial governments gained power this literature became disiullsioned and cynical Its authors wanted to communicate with a working classpeasant WCP audience but they were hampered by their use of Euro languages They created WCP characters who spoke English and projected their own evasive self contemplation existential anguish and crises of identity onto them falsifying historical processes and realitiesWhile African authors were worrying about a crisis of identity in African literature and accepting with some exceptions the 'fatalistic logic' of linguistic Europeanization of African cultural output the very neo col rulers they were haranguing in their books were busy issuing 'distortions dictatorial directives museum type fossils paraded as African culture feudalistic ideology superstitions and lies' in the languages of the WCP So the result of colonial education as intended is to cut off communication between petty bourgeois intellectuals and their intended audienceNgugi wa Thiong'o delineates a minor tradition praising its great talents such as Achebe Armah etc and works of Afro European literature which he says will last as long as neo colonial rule Since writing in Gikuyu he has been asked why he chose to do so by all kinds of people Some academics have asked 'why have you abandoned us?' But Gikuyu is his mother tongue This reversal of common sense relates directly to other upside down thanks Fela Kuti logics of imperialism Africa enriches Europe but Africa is made to believe that Europe needs to rescue it from poverty Africa's natural and human resources continue to develop Europe and America but Africa is made to feel grateful for aid from those uarters that still sit on the back of the continent I love the section on African theatre Colonialism pretends there is no tradition of African theatre but is it has a long and deep heritage in Kenya where it was destroyed by the British any free public gathering is dangeous to authoritarian domination Part of this tradition was the concept of 'empty space' among the people where theatre took place Colonialism attempted to destroy this by confining that space in community halls proscenium theatres and even in prisons and detainment camps where inmates were encouraged to produce neo colonial and anti Mau Mau propaganda plays Radio drama was also encouraged in which the African as clown was ridiculed laugh at your own stupidity and simplicity forget about all this freedom nonsense Anti imperial petty bourgeois writers tried to break from colonial control by taking control of the Kenyan National Theatre touring productions of anti colonial plays but these were often hampered by the use of English and confinement within walls this approach brings culture to the people rather than involving them in its creation By contrast his production of I Will Marry When I Want in Kamiriithu was defined and shaped by the decision to use Gikuyu which forced a discussion with the peasants and factory workers about the use of language and about the language of theatrePerfection of an art form as a process with a shared history is Nguigi wa Thiong'o points out in opposition to the conventional secrecy of rehearsals culminating in a presentation intended to cause amazement and a sense of 'wow I couldn't do that' This approach is in keeping with alienating bourgeois education which is a process of weakening people making them feel incapable mystifying knowledge It produces 'a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers' Those involved in the Kamiriithu project talked about how it made them feel valuable and integral how it raised their awareness The play's license was withdrawn and its writer incarceratedAnother example of the upside down logic of imperialism and capitalism generally is the possibility of development it offers and then makes impossible The arrival of the printing press in Kenya was accompanied by the familiar rhetoric of spreading education and culture and dispelling African awe of nature and superstition but with heavy censorship and careful selection it really pushed a message of subserviance via Christianity and increased awe of the whipgun wielding master Writing novels in a neo colonial context meets several obstacles one of which is that reality is often beyond satire in its grim absurdity Another is the lack of libraries and book shops in rural areas and the corresponding excuse 'the people are poor and illiterate so they don't need libraries and bookshops' Yet Ngugi's first book in Gikuyu sold; it was read by literate community members aloud at gatherings in bars it was embraced Build it and they will comeFinally Ngugi wa Thiong'o addresses the uestion of relevance and the creation of appropriate education programs He argues that orature rooted in WCP sources of anti imperial resistance should be centred in Kenyan schooling Historically he points out the great Western humanist authors like Shakespeare Austen etc who provide incisive comment on bourgeois culture have been treated as if the only themes they dealt with were universal love fear birth death etc Western education in my experience has the same imbalance universalising and depoliticising the personal diminishing the particularity of historyMany African writers have expressed concern to enrich Western literature by making African wisdom accessible and translatable Ngugi asks why they do not centre the African tradition and seek to enrich that with riches from foreign cultures He comments on the commitment fellow Kenyan authors expressed in an advocacy document not to replace English chavinism with national chauvinism centring Kenyan orature and literature but including all African and diasporic writing speaking of the need to introduce the Kenyan child to the world context of black experience Latin American and Asian literatures would also be studied with Euro American not excluded but perhaps lowest in priorityThe search for new directions in language literature theatre poetry fiction and scholarly studies in Africa is part and parcel of the overall struggles of African people against imperialism in its neo colonial stage It is part of that struggle for that world in which my health is not dependent on another's leprosy my cleanliness not on another's maggot ridden body and my humanity not on the buried humanity of othersI loved reading this and agreed with it strongly but I would like to write a few words in defence of contemporary African authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who write in English I want to humbly suggest that the paths to decolonisation may be as many and various as the people in need of it noting that the distinction between coloniser and colonised is blurred not least by class conditions and that the uses of literature are also many and various noting that the distinction between creator and audience is blurred Perhaps my colonisation and indoctrination into individualism is speaking but it seems plausible that Ngugi's Marxist conception of literature has some limitations? I look forward to reading about this subject and how thought in the area has developed


  4. says:

    Essential reading And re readingI couldn't even think about uoting this after 30 or so pages just had to read and read but it needs to be re readIt is the final triumph of a system of domination when the dominated start singing its virtuespage 20 The European missionary believed too much in his mission of conuest not to communicate it is the languages most readily available to the people the African writer believes too much in African literature to write it in those ethnic divisive and under developed languages of the peasantry page 26What is the difference between a politician who says Africa cannot do without imperialism and the writer who says Africa cannot do without European languages? page 26 The very fact that what common sense dictates in the literary practice of other cultures is being uestioned in an African writer is a measure of how far colonialism has distorted the view of African realities page 27


  5. says:

    Decolonizing the Mind is integral I think to understanding anti colonialist struggles The western world understands colonialism in terms of the most visible aspects of a nation namely its leadership People fail to recognize the long term effects of colonialism such as widespread poverty Decolonizing the Mind reminds us of another of these aftereffects specifically the domination of language by the Western World In a sense the language barrier has enabled social apartheid where legal separation was considered anachronistic By dominating African languages and asserting the superiority of European ones over them Western nations did and African administrations still do perpetuate a system where educated whites rise to the highest social strata while native Africans are resigned to the working classes and peasantry This domination of language has effectively prevented any native African from rising into intellectual ranks because as Ngũgĩ puts it the use European languages splits African soul in two forcing him to relinuish his roots if he wishes to climb the social ladder


  6. says:

    But the search for new directions in language literature theatre poetry fiction and scholarly studies in Africa is part and parcel of the overall struggles of African people against imperialism in its neocolonial stage It is part of that struggle for that world in which my health is not dependent on another's leprosy; my cleanliness not on another's maggot ridden body; and my humanity not on the buried humanity of othersNgugi wa Thiong'o's Decolonising the Mind The Politics of Language in African Literature is a series of essays which discusses about language and the role it plays in history culture literature and the lives of its people The deeply enmeshed reality of linguistic imperialism demarcated uniformity be it the uniformity of identity of culture or of language Seen from a colonial stance it turned children into witchhunters through its need of acceptance Our languages serve as our reflection The clearer our sense of identity the 'atrociously' visible we will be for the world but the closer we will feel with our surrounding Perhaps as can be digged out from the essays so away are we from our mother tongue that we no longer feel its absence The sense of belongingness is now gone Barring the exceptions as Ngugi said only the peasantries and working classes compendiate the African languagesThe sense of African identity and African belongingness was snatched away to be replaced by those of the Westerners It became so deeply rooted that the heterogeneous identity failed to probe through the works of art In this process African novels were also affected The control of the printing press the publishing houses and the educational context as well as the rise of African universities and colleges deepened the problems further He then talked about his struggle of writing in Gikuyu language from tonal variations to the limitations of the prevailing orthography and the surprising reception of his works in GikuyuHow we see a thing even with our eyes is very much dependent on where we stand in relationship to itThe eyes of imperialism has blinded our other world views and is driving us to homogenised thinking which in turn is taking away our ability and closeness to our surrounding


  7. says:

    I had the pleasure to read part of this work a few months ago for my Postcolonial Literature class and had been meaning to read the whole of it ever since Now that I found some time to do it I gotta say this is a MUST for anyone interested in the effects of colonization in African literature fiction and theatre Very thought provoking and even intense knowing this was actually Thiong'o's way of saying goodbye to writing in English


  8. says:

    Decolonizing the Mind is integral I think to understanding anti colonialist struggles The western world understands colonialism in terms of the most visible aspects of a nation namely its leadership People fail to recognize the long term effects of colonialism such as widespread poverty Decolonizing the Mind reminds us of another of these aftereffects specifically the domination of language by the Western World In a sense the language barrier has enabled social apartheid where legal separation was considered anachronistic By dominating African languages and asserting the superiority of European ones over them Western nations did and African administrations still do perpetuate a system where educated whites rise to the highest social strata while native Africans are resigned to the working classes and peasantry This domination of language has effectively prevented any native African from rising into intellectual ranks because as Ngũgĩ puts it the use European languages splits African soul in two forcing him to relinuish his roots if he wishes to climb the social ladder


  9. says:

    An amazing book by a Kenyan author on understanding the psychology of exploitation and oppression by colonialism and imperialism Its focus is on the exploitation of Africans by Europeans through the domination of culture but its lessons are applicable to the struggles of all peopleIt's a must read I learned about it from a Palestinian activist visiting the United States


  10. says:

    God bless this man Wow Real review to come


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