"African Literature - Must Write in an African Language." Essay Example

Published: 2023-08-22
"African Literature - Must Write in an African Language." Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Languages Social issue
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1177 words
10 min read

Discussion regarding African literature has been a subject among many postcolonial writers, including Ngugi wa Thiongo. Ngugi uses Decolonizing the Mind to pass his message and contribution to the use of African language in postcolonial states (Ngugi 54). Notably, both globalization, as well as modernization, have influenced African literature and how it is being transmitted from one generation to another. Furthermore, history, joy, suffering, and pain associated with Africans are inscribed within the literature, hence drawing disputes about the language that can be used to tell the story excellently. Ngugi believes that African history is best preserved using the African language. Additionally, he acknowledges the role of language in influencing the culture and overall development of society (Ngugi 4). Ngugi, in Decolonizing the Mind, intends to free the African minds against the control and influence of the colonizers and convince the natives to embrace their language, especially in writing, teaching, and communications. Ngugi's assertion that to craft authentically African literature, authors must employ the use of native language is likely to face limitations and severe implications in preserving and conveying African literature from one generation to another.

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Ngugi believes African independence from the Western's clutches over its culture and resources is only attainable through the use of native language (Ngugi 28). He expresses his displeasure on the use of foreign languages like French and English as a unifying factor among the African people. According to him, the whites invaded the African lands only to erode their culture and their way of life. Moreover, colonizers impose the use of foreign language through the education system, where the mode of communication was reduced to English only in Kenya. Ngugi narrates that their teachers were punishing children for speaking their native language within the school setting. According to him, colonizers changed their way of life and made African to think that their culture and language was inferior to English. In addition to this, the foreign language broke the harmony that existed between the spoken and written words (Ngugi 28). It was as a result of speaking in Gikuyu and writing in English languages among the African children.

Africans embraced the use of foreign language in their communication and writings, and this is what Ngugi is opposing in his book. He believes that by using English or French in writing African literature, African are helping the colonizers to expand their influence in their continent (Ngugi 26). Writing in a foreign language, according to Ngugi, is the ultimate success to whites who emptied Africans culture and source of wealth. Ngugi agitates for the growth of the African language, and he trusts the writers to assist in replacing the use of foreign language. He calls on the African writers to work on their communications to develop a language of science, philosophy, and technology within the African setup.

Ngugi Thiongo talked of being in harmony with his language and culture for the first four years of his education life. It was as a result of attending Independent Gikuyu School Associations, where the language of education was mainly Gikuyu. Ngugi further tells us of his ovation from his first writing composi5tion in his native Gikuyu language (Ngugi 11). However, it appears contrary to contemporary world literature writing, where the author tries to employs a language that is primarily understood by the audience regardless of their varying cultural and language backgrounds. Moreover, from the Ngungi's expressions, the Gikuyu schools were only preserved for the Limuru Peasant sons following the language barrier. Kenya, where he hails from, is composed of more than 45 tribes who old onto different cultures and languages. Therefore, his view of using native languages in literature acts contrary to the development of research in day today.

Like wisely, the crafting of Africa literature in native language by the authors would tend to work against the spirit of national unity within the Africa continent. Since language conveys culture and culture, on the other hand, it carries oration and literature of a given community that directly affects how they perceive themselves economically, politically, and culturally. Notably, every community will tend to fight in trying to popularize their culture and language at the expense of the national interest of the continent, prompting the conflict of culture among nations of Africa identity (Marzagora 5). Furthermore, language is inseparable from the people and with the global world today, people would call for an organic unit of communication to allow for the Africa cooperation and understanding, and without a common language, it looks impossible for the use of varied native Africa languages to bridge this gap in communicating Africa literature bye the African writers.

Writing African literature using native languages has negative implications not only to the writers but also to the audiences across the world. Many Africans are divided along tribal lines with different ethnic groups; therefore, it is for Africans to understand one another if they choose to decide to write in vernaculars. Using indigenous language will unit-specific tribes because of the prevailing culture, language, and ancestors. However, the audiences of the writers will be limited in most cases, given the language barrier and diversity across the African continent. The sharing of information, history, and writer's experience depend on the language used; therefore, African authors must choose a widely spoken language. Numerous states in Africa have adopted the use of European languages, which are being used for communicative purposes. The European adopted languages are rooted in the African way of life and their institutions' such as schools, workplaces, and administration.

Furthermore, the young generation of Africans who highly depend on the national language for survival understands the adopted words better than the indigenous languages. Using the native language in writing African literature will deny the young generation the opportunity to realize their history and culture. As noted, language is used to pass information from one generation to another, and as a way of preserving the culture, therefore, all writings must be done in a language that is best understood by not only the old generation but also the future group.

In conclusion, Ngugi criticizes the use of European languages in writing African literature due to its effects on their culture and economic development. He is opposed to the emergency of a hybrid African culture that exists by using adopted language in the continent of Africa (Marzagora 6). However, there is no harm in having a hybrid tradition, especially in the current era where globalization and modernization are sweeping the whole world. Ngugi's assertion that African literature produced by foreign language is not African is far from the truth since these same foreign languages unite many African tribes. The use of foreign language has helped in conveying the massage beyond the ethnic boundaries in many African countries and also preserve and pass the cultural values among different societies. African literature is a unifying factor that must be conveyed in a language that is mostly spoken in and outside the African content.

Works Cited

Marzagora, Sara. "Literatures in African languages." Journal of African Cultural Studies 27.1 (2015): 1-6.

wa Thiong'o, Ngugi. "Decolonizing the Mind (London: James Currey." (1986).

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