Is African Literature One Written by Africans in African Languages? – A Response to Prof Ngugi by Adewale Sobowale

Photo credit: LARB

In a letter to the veteran writer and the Secretary General of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Dr Wale Okediran, who had earlier invited him to give a keynote address at a PAWA event scheduled for 2023, the erudite Professor Ngugi Wa Thiongo wrote a statement. 

According to the Prof., “But African literature is that literature written by Africans in African languages.”

In 1962, a conference on African literature in the English language which was the first African Writers Conference was held at Makerere University College,  Kampala in Uganda.

I believe the mistake in that conference was the fact that it was limited to African writers of the English language. 

While recognizing the fervor of Africanness being displayed by the ebullient Professor who even changed his name from James to Ngugi wa Thiong’o, I don’t believe his declaration that “African literature is written by Africans in African languages.”

We all know that due to slavery and colonialism, most Africans have been prisoners of English, French and other foreign languages. But then, I don’t think it’s possible to rub off our colonial past with a duster.

Indeed, most African writers who use foreign languages as their mediums of expression may not be able to write in their Indigenous languages. Should that stop them from writing about their experiences?

I don’t think so.

In fact, what I would advise is that people should write in the mediums they feel most comfortable in. 

If they feel like it, they could seek the assistance of translators versed in their indigenous languages to translate their works. They could even ask for translations into other African languages as well. 

But then, given the cost of book publication, will that not be a tall dream?

I also think, with due respect, the Prof’s view could be a distraction to the problems Africa is facing now. I mean the problems of mismanagement, corruption, lack of basic things of life, hunger, human capital flight, wars, hunger, drought, desertification, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » appearance » Widgets » and move a widget into Advertise Widget Zone