Literary giant Ngugi wa Thiong'o to be feted in US

Veteran author Prof Ngugi wa Thiong'o. [File, Standard]

Former Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and lawyer Maina kiai will lead celebrations to honour literary giant Ngugi wa Thiong'o in Atlanta Georgia. 

Mkawasi Mcharo Hall, an African study, language and cultures scholar from Washington DC will be among the guest speakers at the fete scheduled for June 22, and organised by the Kenya Diaspora Alliance-USA (KDA-USA). 

The trio will lead Kenyans and Africans in the Diaspora in the ceremony that is expected to attract 300 people from across the globe to celebrate Prof Ngugi where his remarkable contributions and influence in academia and contemporary culture over the decades will be showcased.

Serenading the congregants will be renowned Mugithi artist Kwame Rigii who's songs such as  "Mwene Nyaga" and "Iceembe" have brought him acclaim. 

Kwame is a talented creative artist who uses song to tell captivating stories of love, spirituality and tradition. His urban folk style of music seeks to inspire the Gikúyú to embrace its identity.

Others who have organised the event are Association of Kenyan Diaspora Organisations (AKDO), One Voice Consortium (OVC) and the Kenya Studies and Scholars Association (KESSA).

KDA-USA founding president Saisi Marasa said the event will bring together scholars, students, Kenyans and Africans living in America.

"Ngugi has been prolific for six decades, since his first novel, Weep Not, Child was published in 1964. With over 30 books published, spanning multiple genres from novels, to plays, to a collection of poems, children’s literature, essays, some in his native Kikuyu language, Ngugi remains the most prolific writer in Africa," Dr Marasa said during a briefing on the event which will be livestreamed globally.

 "He is the most deserving, a globally recognised and celebrated author all over the world, but he is yet to be recognised with a commendation by his country of birth. This is a shame. If he dies today, he will be given a state burial," he added.

KDA-USA founding president said that the fete will be a step towards ensuring that Ngugi’s contribution to Pan-Africanism, quest for an African identity, promotion of the usage of African language and culture are applauded.

Mukurima Muriuki, a member of the KDA-USA, said: “In America such people get a Medal of Honor from the President, they get statues and celebrations. To this day, he only has one honorary degree from Kenyan institutions, and not even from his alma mater. At 86, he certainly deserves his flowers.”

Muriuki said Kenya owes Ngugi reparations for the time he undeservedly spent in jail,

“He had to also go to exile for the sake of a better Kenya. It’s hard to find such a breed. And all he deserves is a thank you,” he said.

“Prof Ngugi has forced us to see, or at least debate, a national and indeed a continental failure to decolonise minds. Words from the barrel of Ngugi’s often-acerbic pen have inspired millions to continue wrestling post-independence ills that crush young dreams,” adds author and medical device manufacturing executive Washington Osiro.

Hall, a Baltimore-based scholar, says: “Mwalimu’s character lives in culturally identifiable spaces, yet he easily brings it home with global audiences that read and celebrate him, proof that one does not need to abandon their culture to be accepted by others; true to the Swahili adage that mwacha mila ni mtumwa.”

The event will be open to women, men and youth seeking to honour Ngugi and his works. 

Speakers will include his contemporaries in the literature and scholarly fields as well younger generations inspired by the values he espouses.

“Deliberate outreach will be extended to his alma maters, universities where he has been a professor as well as Mwalimu’s publishers,” said Dr Marasa.

“Mwalimu Ngugi is an academic who has graced the corridors of several colleges. He has received over a dozen honorary degrees from institutions across the globe. He continues to engage, write and teach as opportunity allows,” he added.

Marasa said the organisers are open to partnering with different entities and individuals who feel inspired by Ngugi’s works to make “the event as colourful as it can be.”