Born in 1938 in Kamiriithu, Kiambu County in Central Kenya, Thiong’o is arguably the greatest writer in Kenyan History. His official website simply describes his profile as literary and social activist. Renowned for both his English and Gikuyu works, many have compared him to the likes of Nigerian Wole Soyinka.
He joined the prestigious Alliance High school in 1954, fulfilling his childhood dream and later acquired his B.A in English from Makerere University. Ngugi also attended the University of Leeds in England on a British Council scholarship. While still at varsity, he authored many books including the popular ‘Weep Not Child’ and ‘The River Between’, which were his first and second novels in his library.
“Don’t worry about me. Everything will be all right. Get education, I’ll get carpentry. Then we shall, in the future, be able to have a new and better home for the whole family.”
A quote from ‘Weep Not, Child’
His political activism and criticism of the regime of the day landed him into trouble and was detained at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. While at Kamiti, he wrote a novel in Gikuyu, ‘Devil on the Cross.’ His publications and theatre performances were also not spared, with most being banned. This forced him to go into exile in US.
He currently serves as a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. He has also been a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, New York University and Yale University. Here is some of his renowned works:
‘The Black Hermit’, ‘Weep Not, Child’, ‘The River Between’, ‘A Grain of Wheat’, ‘Homecoming’, ‘The trial of Dedan Kimathi’, ‘Petals of Blood’, ‘Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature’, ‘Njambe Nene and the Flying Bus’ and ‘Wizard of the Crow’
Over the years, he has received numerous awards and seven Honorary Doctorates. These awards include, the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Cabinet, 2001 Nonino International Prize for Literature.
His success in literature is evident everywhere and many are awaiting his Nobel Prize in Literature award.