Ngugi wa Thiong’o Interview

NPR’s Noah Adams talks to Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o about the importance of creating literature in under-represented languages. Ngugi’s perspective is interesting, particularly because he started writing in English first (as ‘James Ngugi’) and eventually turned to writing in his own language, Gikuyu. He made the decision while serving time in jail over a play he’d written. Here’s a quote (approx. 2:50 mn):

If you’re an African intellectual, you can do for your language what all other intellectuals have done for their languages. Through translation, the Gikuyu language can talk with English, or with Japanese, or with Swedish. But the situation…for African people is that they are expected to give up their language altogether and operate in another language.

The title of the NPR piece, though, “Creating Literature in Native Languages” itself presumes the dominance of one culture/language over others. I mean, aren’t all languages ‘native’ to the people born to them? Shouldn’t it be something like “Creating Literature in Your Languages”?

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