Thursday, July 3, 2014, 13:08

ngugi wa thiongoa selection of my favorite pieces from his books. Click title to read them



The true seeker of truth never loses hope. The true seeker of real justice never tires. A farmer does not stop planting seeds just because of the failure of one crop. Success is born of trying and trying again. Truth must seek justice. Justice must seek the truth. When justice triumphs, truth will reign on Earth.

P 164: 'where it pains, it's their sweat that feeds the catechists, the wardens, the deacons, the ministers, the bishops, the angels . . . the whole hierarchy. Still they are condemned . . . damned.

'I am a priest, a father-confessor, and looking through the tiny window, the clotting blood . . . it is all on their faces and in their eyes, so bewildered. Tell us, tell us before we confess our sins: who makes these laws? For whom? To help whom? I cannot answer the questions . . . but as I said, they open a window for me to see the world.

'I ask myself: what happened? What happened? I take all these books . . . I read, trying to find wisdom and the key to the many questions. Our people had said: Let's not be slaves to the monster: let us only pray and wrestle with the true god within us. We want to control all this land, all these industries, to serve the one god within us. They fought . . . shed blood, not that a few might live in Blue Hills and minister to the molten god, the god outside us, but that many might live fully wherever they live. The white ministers, seeing defeat, now turned to sneering and jeering at the new priests. Look at these destroyers: we are going, yes, but these people will surely destroy all the canon laws . . . and we, who were educated in their schools, beat our breasts: we destroyers? We break the canon law? We are as civilised as you, we shall not be the ones to dismantle the monster-god, and we shall prove it to you. You'll be ashamed that you once had all these doubts about us.

'it's an old story. You say that you were in Siriana with Chui. I was also there, but much later, years later. We used to hear of Chui . . . but he was then described as a destroyer. My ambition was to become a priest: a highly educated priest. So I hated Chui. The very name brought images of the night prowlers of the jungle. . . Then Peter Pooles who had thrown a stone at his dogs. The trial raised a lot of interest in Siriana. We were all happy when he was condemned to death. But do you know? Fraudsham called a school assembly. He argued about the need to be sensitive to animals. The measure of a civilisation was how far a people had learnt to care for animals. Did we want to be merciless like those Russians who, in the face of world protest, sent a dog, poor Laika, into space to die? Pooles had been a little excessive, maybe. But he had been prompted by the highest and most noble impulse; to care for and defend the defenceless. And he read us a letter he sent to the Governor appealing for clemency, ending with a very moving quotation from Shakespeare.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

We left the assembly with guilty, downcast eyes. A few of us wept. Can you believe it? We wept with Fraudsham. But still there were doubts, and I did not understand the whole thing. How could I? The education we got had not prepared me to understand those things: it was meant to obscure racism and other forms of oppression. It was meant to make us accept our inferiority so as to accept their superiority and their rule over us. Then I went to America. I had read in a history book that it was a place where they believed in the equality and freedom of man. While I was at a black college Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I saw with my own eyes a black man hanging from a tree outside a church. His crime? He had earlier fought a white man who had manhandled his sister. There was so much tension in that town. Aa! America, land of the Free and the Brave!'

He stopped and it seemed as if his eyes were fixed on a distant past. Then he started humming a blues song by Josh White:

Southern trees

Bear strange fruits

Blood around the leaves

And blood at the roots

Black body swaying

In a Southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging

From poplar trees.

He again stopped . . . Although they did not understand all the allusions, they caught the feeling behind it. He continued:

'Is this not what has been happening in Kenya since 1896? So I said to myself: a black man is not safe at home; a black man is not safe abroad. What then is the meaning of it all? Then I saw in the cities of America white people also begging . . . I saw white women selling their bodies for a few dollars. In America vice is a selling commodity. I worked alongside white and black workers in a Detroit factory. We worked overtime to make a meagre living. I saw a lot of unemployment in Chicago and other cities. I was confused. So I said: let me return to my home, now that the black man has come to power. And suddenly as in a flash of lightening I saw that we were serving the same monster-god as they were in America . . . I saw the same signs, the same symptoms, and even the sickness . . . and I was so frightened . . . I was so frightened . . . I cried to myself: how many Kimathis must die, how many motherless children must weep, how long shall our people continue to sweat so that a few, a given few, might keep a thousand dollars in the bank of the one monster-god that for four hundred years had ravished a continent? And now I saw in the clear light of day the role that the Fraudshams of the colonial world played to create all of us black zombies dancing pornography in Blue Hills while our people are dying of hunger, while our people cannot afford decent shelter and decent schools for their children. And we are happy, we are happy that we are called stable and civilised and intelligent!'

Petals of blood
p72: "and the waves of her gentle motions made the snake in paradise full with the blood warmth of expectation before final deliverance from the pain of this knowing, this knowledge."
p163: 'It is sad, it hurts, at times i am angry, looking at the black zombies, black animated cartoons dancing the master's dance to the master's voice. That they will do to perfection. But when they are tired of that, or shall i say, when we are tired of that we turn to our people's culture and abuse it . . . just for fun, after a bottle of champagne. But i ask myself: what other fruit do i expect that what we sowed would produce? All the same I look back on the wasted chances, on the missed opportunities: on the hour, the day, the period, when, at the crossroads, we took the wrong turning. Aaah, that was a time to remember, when the whole world, motivated by different reasons and expectations, waited, saying: they who showed Africa and the world the path of manliness and of black redemption, what are they going to do with the beast? They who washed the warriors' spears in the blood of the white profiteers, of all those who had enslaved them to the ministry of the molten beast of silver and gold, what dance are they now going to dance in the arena? We could have done anything then because our people were behind us. But we, the leaders, chose to flirt with the molten god, a blind, deaf monster who has plagued us for hundreds of years. We reasoned: what's wrong is the skin-colour of the people who ministered to this god: under our own care and tutelage we shall tame the monster-god and make it do our will. We forgot that it has always been deaf and blind to human woes. So we go on building the monster and it grows and waits for more, and now we are all slaves to it. At its shrine we kneel and pray and hope. Now see the outcome . . . Dwellers in Blue Hills, those who have taken on themselves the priesthood of the ministry to the blind god . . . a thousand acres of land . . . a million acres in the two hands of a priest, while the congregation moans for an acre! and they are told: it is only a collection from your sweat . . . let us be honest slaves to the monster-god, let us give him our souls . . . and the ten percent that goes with it . . . for his priests must eat too . . . and we shall take it to his vassal, the bank . . . meanwhile let's all pray and the god may notice our honesty and fervour, and we shall get a few crumbs. Meanwhile the god grows big and fat and shines even brighter and whets the appetites of his priests, for the monster has, through the priesthood, decreed only one ethical code: Greed and accumulation. I ask myself: is it fair, is it fair for our children? 'I am a lawyer . . . what does this mean? I also earn my living by ministering to the monster. I am an expert in those laws meant to protect the sanctity of the monster-god and his angels and the whole hierarchy of the priesthood. Only I have chosen to defend those who have broken the laws and who might be excommunicated. For remember, only a few, the chosen few, can find favourable positions in the hierarchy.

P 305: 'But inwardly he knew that religion, any religion, was a weapon against the workers!'

p 333: ' he had been brought up to believe in the sanctity of private property. . . People like Karega with their radical trade unionism and communism threatened the very structure of capitalism: as such they were worse than murderers. Inspector Godfrey always felt a certain protective relationship to this society. It did not matter that for him, all these years, he had acquired very little. Still he felt a lordly proprietorial air to the structure: was the police not the force that guaranteed that stability which alone made possible the unhindered accumulation of wealth?'

A grain of wheat

This soil belongs to Kenyan people. Nobody has the right to sell or buy it. It is our mother and we her children are all equal before her.


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