The current issue of Granta magazine features an interview with Ngugi Wa Thiongo.
Ellah Allfrey takes the African-language-warrior through his forthcoming memoirs, Dreams in a Time of War. He talks about the phenomenon of the ‘concentration villages’ created by the dislocation of hundred of traditional villages by the colonists. Now, that’s a story I’d like to read.
But Ngugi never veers too far from his pet subject, the African language. Here, in a quote from the interview, he expresses his only reservation against young African writers:
‘I have not (so far – I may be wrong) seen a young writer of the new generation who takes a positive stand for and on behalf of African languages.’
This is the Ngugi-Wa-Thiongo challenge for young African writers.
Yet, I’d like to throw Ngugi a challenge of his own: an important award in his name for a work of fiction published in a language indigenous to Africa [this should let out English, French, Portuguese…]. The first award could be made in two or three years to give publishers (and writers!) a headstart. African Writing will be glad to support this initiative. Perhaps Granta will too?
Because writers do not write in a vacuum, we need to create the environment to receive these works of fiction that arrive in the languages of the ‘lesser gods’. If any African writer can spearhead such a renaissance of writing in African languages, it is Ngugi Wa Thiongo. But beyond his consistent evangelism, beyond his labour of love in the enrichment of the Gikuyu language, it will have to be with a more strategic, game-changing initiative similar to the African Writing Series, which he briefly edited in the sixties… something like an Ngugi-Wa-Thiongo Prize for African Language Fiction – which could be all the rage, as early as 2012…
& there’s the gauntlet – with a hand in it!