Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. As tools that are meant for communication, it is hard to ignore that in a ‘postcolonial’ world the languages of colonisers rule over African writing. African literature, both fictional and nonfictional, is usually written in colonial tongues such as English, French and Dutch. It is this domination of language which excludes, deprives, and ignores African people who strive to keep their native tongues alive.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Europe stole art treasures from Africa to decorate their houses and museums; in the twentieth century Europe is stealing the treasures of the mind to enrich their languages and cultures.
Translation is a voice that is silenced in every respect, however, in relation to Africa, it is the bridge that needs to be rebuilt to for Africans to achieve true decolonisation. If most Africans had access to decolonial literature would revolution have been different? Would we have seen innovative ways of gaining freedom? We will never know the answer until we change the system; and it is up to us, to find those missing voices.
Many of the ideas are familiar from Ngugi’s earlier critical books, and earlier lectures, elsewhere. But the material here has a new context and the ideas a new focus. This leading African writer presents the arguments for using African language and forms after successfully using an African language himself.
After 25 years of independence, there is beginning to emerge a generation of writers for whom colonialism is a matter of history and not of direct personal experience. In retrospect that literature characterised by Ngugi as Afro-European – the literature written by Africans in European languages – will come to be seen as part and parcel of the uneasy period between colonialism and full independence, a period equally reflected in the continent’s political instability as it attempts to find its feet. Ngugi’s importance – and that of this book – lies in the courage with which he has confronted this most urgent of issues.
—The New Statesman