Ngugi gets lifetime award from Africans living in United States


Author Ngugi wa Thiong’o during an interview with The Standard. He has been awarded a lifetime award by Africans in the diaspora. [File, Standard]

This one is special and personal. Kenya’s literary giant Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o got a lifetime award from more than 300 Kenyans and Africans living in the US for his contribution to literature and social activism.

Converged at Georgia State University in Atlanta, African professionals, business people and literature enthusiasts lauded Mwalimu Ngugi’s works and agitation for social justice since the 1960s.

They awarded him what they termed the People’s Nobel Prize for literature. And the author, poet and lecturer termed the award his greatest honour.

“I have been awarded 14 honorary degrees from different universities across the world, but this recognition by the African Diaspora and especially Kenyans in the US, feels very special and personal,” said Prof Ngugi.

The 86-year-old author said his works of literature are dedicated to freedom of expression and inspiration for all global citizens suffering oppression of any kind.

Kenya Diaspora Alliance president Saisi Marasa said Prof Ngugi’s works have inspired millions of people worldwide while agitating for the decolonizing of minds.

“Mwalimu’s searing pen has been a powerful tool against social injustice, and support for cultural identity. As a social-political critic, Ngugi remains a go-to mind when engaging on salient issues. From things national to personal, his opinion makes for points of debate and departure, and inadvertently, his personal life occasionally becomes a point of introspection into matters as taboo and socially relevant as those in his literary characters live through as art imitates life,” said Dr Marasa.

Senior counsel Pheroze Nowrojee, who presented the award to Ngugi, said the author has been consistent in his writings and fight for social justice. He said Prof Ngugi has been an embodiment of resilience, standing on one’s principles.

“Prof Ngugi’s intellectual works continue to challenge oppressive regimes and agitate for freedom of expression and justice for everyone,” he said.

Diaspora One Voice Consortium founder Robert Chiuri read Kenya Tourism Board CEO June Chepkemei’s tribute citing Prof Ngugi’s works as bold and representing the best Kenya has to offer the world.

“... For decades, Prof Ngugi’s writings have stirred our collective conscience, forced us to confront uncomfortable truths, and inspired us to keep fighting for a more just world,” she said.

Prof Chantee Earl from Georgia State University said Prof Ngugi’s contribution to literature and fight for writing in African languages will help preserve cultures and people’s identities. Human rights lawyer Maina Kiai said Ngugi’s works have had a profound impact on the ordinary man, including push for change.

“ Ngugi’s works give the poor a voice and ability to demand what they deserve. One time, in high school, I directed Prof Ngugi’s book “Trial of Dedan Kimathi and got expelled from school, but that triggered a desire to fight oppression at that early age,” he said.

In his acceptance speech, Prof Ngugi called for freeing Africa from neocolonialism, the preservation of African culture and languages. He challenged authors to write and publish stories in their mother tongues.

“Respect your identity and African languages. The power of resilience and enduring story-telling will make the world listen to you,” he said.