Analyzing Decolonizing the Mind, from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Part of the world conceives Africa as a place where colors, fusion and nature prevail, but also poverty, garbage and ignorance resulting from a colonization that for years has consumed the hopes of communities with unique potential. These and other issues are treated from the cultural branch, more specifically through Kenyan literature, poetry and theater in the book Decolonize the mind, from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, one of the great thinkers and authors of the largest continent in the world.

Decolonizing the Mind: Exposing the Root of the African Problem

Decolonizing the mind is possibly one of the best books on the problems of Africa that you can read, partly because it approaches the conflict from its very roots, relying on art and education as two values ​​intertwined and at the same time crushed by an imperialism whose vestiges are still imprisoned not only by the peoples of Africa, but also those of Asia. Latin America, whose inhabitants the author refers to as "condemned of the world." But let's go in parts.

Decolonize the mind is an essay that brings together four lectures conducted between 1981 and 1985 by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, an academic of the Gikuyu people, in Kenya, exiled abroad for more than twenty-five years for the fact of daring to challenge neocolonialism from the culture, the main subject of the book.

Imperialism in Africa during the XNUMXth centuryEnglish, French, German or Portuguese, was a trend that not only appropriated the lands of the Africans, but also forced them to look towards their own culture with shame and focus their interests in pursuit of a western one to the that they could never access. Of course, in this new vision there was a total exclusion of African literature (an example of this was the Congress of African Writers of English Expression held in Uganda in 1962 and to which the Tanzanian poet Shabaan Robert, one of the most universal in Africa, he was not invited due to the fact that he published all his work in Swahili). In Decolonizing the Mind Thiong'o deals with this and other facts derived from both imperialism and neocolonialism, the main current problem in Africa.

Africa is a continent of many peoples, ethnic groups and languages, of a unique oratory and poetry. For this reason, one of the first measures of the cultural colonialism to which the West subjected Africa was to influence its new generations by replacing their language with English or implementing an educational system in which African tales were being replaced by plays by Shakespeare or TSElliot, for books in which Europe's exotic vision of the Third World was that of a place of wild and uncivilized man. This "headwashing" in Africans has been the great problem for the African population according to Thiong'o, who long before his exile wrote a play that analyzed such a problem and whose success among the population was reason enough to end up in prison.

Thiong'o: The gikuyu as a weapon

The right to write in your language

Thiong'o was born in 1938 in Limuru (Kenya), being a direct witness of the revolt of the Mau Mau for the independence of his country, achieved in 1963. At the same time, and thanks to his good grades, he managed to gain access as an academic to that imperialist elite class that made (and continues to do so) the most important decisions in the country, a position that allowed him to act for the defense of minority languages ​​and cultures. Among Thiong'o's novels we find The river between (1965), A grain of wheat (1967) or, more recently, The Raven Witcher (2006). However, the cornerstone of his work would be the writing of the play Ngaahika Ndeenda, performed at the Kamiriitu Community Cultural and Educational Center in 1977 and the reason why, a year later, Thiong'o would be taken to prison. It was there that he would write his first gikuyu work, Caitaani Mutharabaini, on a roll of toilet paper thick enough, an imperialist "detail" to make local prisoners suffer even when they went to the bathroom. After being released from prison, Thiong'o and his family moved to the United States, from where the author has continued to defend his cause.

Decolonizing the Mind is possibly the author's most explicit book regarding the problems of Africa. In fact, I will quote verbatim some of the quotes from the book as proof of that rabidly current essence:

Studying the historical continuity of a culture: why can't it be the African one? Why can't African literature be at the center, so that we can consider other cultures in relation to it?

In turn, from this call to action arises the main problem in Africa today, according to Thiong'o:

The neocolonial state is the denial of the progress and development of Africa. The defeat of imperialism and neocolonialism, and, therefore, the liberation of natural and human resources and of all the productive forces of the nation would be the beginning of the authentic progress and development of Africa.

Days before starting the book I had ready a story on neocolonialism set in Cape Verde that has been more than influenced by the words Thiong'o.

A man who risked his life to turn a language and the culture that derives from it into the best weapon in pursuit of peace, of the equality of the African peoples with respect to an oppressive world.


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  1.   Piper valca said

    The only thing I can refute is your opening sentence: trash and ignorance? I think it is too risky to define an entire continent under those words. I return the question: what do you see when you look towards Europe? Cleanliness and culture? You are assuming that in Africa there is no culture without an argument that supports it and gives it validity, perpetuating its image of savagery, just because its culture is different from yours, and therein lies the problem.

    You are making the mistake of basing yourself on the fact that your social and / or cultural conditions are universal rules, and that everything that is different or out of that canon is negative.

    What are your references? Is it strictly necessary to give that image of Africa to open the article (which is generally very good)?

    Sorry if I sound aggressive.