Ngugi wa Thiong’o is Kenyan, and what I love about Ngugi’s writing is the familiarity of themes, including the British East Africa postcolonial themes, since I myself was born and grew up in Kenya.
I recall reading Ngugi when I was in school in Kenya. I read his very first book, ‘Weep Not, Child’, published in 1964, just one year after Kenya gained independence from British colonial rule.
I read this book, and another book, both when I was twelve years old. The other book I read was ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I recall the quiet horror that was sandwiched between both of these books, which shared the common theme of man’s inhumanity to mankind.
Ngugi’s book, ‘Weep Not, Child’, takes on the Mau Mau rebellion which resulted in the displacement of Kenyans from their ancestral lands. However, what no Kenyan knew at the time of Ngugi’s writing this book in 1964, was that the British had secretly installed their own gulags in response to the Mau Mau rebellion – a fact that was not publicly revealed until 50 years later and is documented in ‘Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya’ by Harvard University historian Caroline Elkins.
It is erie and chilling to awaken to the brutal facts that Ngugi’s first book, which was about the Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule, was written in the midst of gulags in British Kenya, at the very same time that there had been gulags in Stalinist Russia, as documented by Solzhenitsyn.