Ngugi speaks at Fort Hare
Professor Ngugi Wa Thiongo gave a public lecture at University of Fort Hare on 4 March 2017. He was in East London to address the Dispatch Dialogues on the decolonisation of universities and their curricula. The focus was on the role of African languages in transforming Africa in relation to the global order.
The event attended by the ViceChancellor Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, The Deputy Vice Chancellors Support Services, Prof Gilingwe Mayende and a number of deans, Also seen in the audience was Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas and SABC3’s Isidingo star Jet Novuka and the event was facilitated by Xolela Mangcu a Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. Speaking to a packed ABC Hall in East London, the multi-award winning author, a distinguished professor at the University of California. Wa Thiong’o said “something needed to be done urgently to change colonial street names so they could reflect on the identity of the majority of the inhabitants.He told the crowd of more than 1000 people that mostly consisted of academics, students, business people, that SEK Mqhayi City would be an ideal name for East London, “or else rename it after anyone who is relevant to Africa”.
The so-called father of decolonisation also spoke about the importance of prioritising indigenous languages in education to improve the continent’s development. “If you know all the languages of the world and you don’t know your mother tongue or the language of your culture that is enslavement. They gave us their accents in exchange for access to our resources,” Ngũgĩ told a roaring crowd. He went on to say that “It’s not right to embrace European languages, spoken and used by only 10% of the population, as the language of power, commerce, education, of law and justice. The fact is that in any independent African nation today, the majority are rendered linguistically deaf and mute by government policies that have set European languages as the normative measure of worth in every aspect of national life,” he said.
He went on to question our language use highlighting the fact that English or French are languages of power and has influenced our need to use them at all times and that we don’t have to use it in all circumstances, sighting the Mandarin and Japanese approach to social language. Ngũgĩ believes that Africans should own their resources from languages, make dreams with our languages which will lead Africans to other natural resources within the continent and therefore Africans will make start making innovative solutions for the African continents and thereafter consuming some and then be in a position to exchange them with the rest of the world thereby driving economic prosperity.
He elaborated to say “The moment we lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea. The moment we accepted (or being made to accept) that we could not do things with our languages was the moment we accepted that we could not make things with our vast resources,” said the novelist and playwright.
Xolela Mangcu, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town, described the Kenyan scholar as “titanic” and a “lion” of African literature, said it was not that difficult to decolonise the curriculum at South African universities, and that “we owe it to ourselves to do that”.