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Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o was born on 5 January, 1938 in the Kiambu district in Kenya. He published his first novel, Weep Not, Child, in 1964, which he wrote while attending the University of Leeds in England. He formerly worked in English but now writes in Gikuyu.

Ngugi’s controversial play, I Will Marry When I Want, written with Ngugi Wa Mirii, is sharply critical of the inequalities and injustices of Kenyan society. After its performance, Ngugi was arrested and imprisoned without charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, at the end of 1977. It was at Kamiti Prison that Ngugi made the decision to abandon English as his primary language of creative writing and committed himself to writing in Gikuyu, his mother tongue. In prison, and following that decision, he wrote, on toilet paper, the novel, Caitani Mutharabaini (1981) translated into English as Devil on the Cross, (1982). After Amnesty International named him a Prisoner of Conscience, an international campaign secured his release a year later, December 1978.

In 1992 he became a professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies at New York University, where he held the Erich Maria Remarque Chair. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature as well as the Director of the International Centre for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine.