A Mind Decolonized

Part 1: Bi Anyisi…

If this book is considered to be a literary bible, I have a confession to make to whoever considers themselves a literary priest: the tongue of my mothers rolls more strangely out of me than that of my colonizer.

I am afraid that if this revolution is to happen, I will have no language to write in.

Part 2: To…

This book is those books you have on your to-read list. And if you consider yourself a seeker of wokeness , some time during your journey, you’ll hopefully get to read it. In my case, it called me on the shelf of one of my woman-friends. It demanded to be read by me and so I read it. (Well a semester later but who cares?)

This is those books that lie on your desks demanding to be read. And if you heed its call be prepared to reread and restart because the message is piercing but just like the Bible, sometimes, you are leading yourself into slumber-temptation in the name of dim lights, slow music and a glass of wine. Okay,maybe not the last but still, be warned!

Part 3: Wach moro chanda …

At 12, I decided not to learn my mother tongue, Dholuo. I was young, I was smart and my country-people were fighting… I thought this very act made me tribeless , and since tribe was a bad thing, I desperately wanted to be everything that’s good.

It’s 2017, another election. The internet says people whose name is of this tongue are being killed. Some are not yet old enough to even speak the tongue but they are dead. Some have only known this tongue, they are dead. So I guess it didn’t matter after all, tongue or not.

The worst weapon the white man left behind when he rented out his country to us was this thing called tribalism. I hate it.

Part 4: Ngugi owacho…

I’m those people who place blame on the west for 50% of Africa’s problems.I’m those people who place blame on the elitist governments for 25% of Africa’s problems.I’m those people who place blame on the petty bourgeoisie for the final 25% of Africa’s problem. The Chinese economic invasion, racism, tribalism , closed borders, xenophobia, corruption, land grabbing, stolen histories,patriarchy and global warming are all close cousins. Statistically , standard errors.

But maybe Africa has no problem. Maybe it is these people that bring problems to our Africa. Remember, framing and language have power. After all, this is a book about the politics of language.

Ngugi says that to tackle neocolonialism, we must start with the language. I agree.
They are hard concepts but even you will agree with the little you pick up.

He however calls the books I love AfroEuropean books. Am I allowed to disagree? Or are his words merely bringing to the surface segments of colonization within me that I am hesitant to divest from?

There is a certain absoluteness about our forefathers. They like it black with no sugar. I think it is no longer so. I think Africa is strong enough to no longer have a fixed meaning. I think we have learnt new ways of knowing and sometimes this has come in languages we did not birth but adopted. How long does it take for a language to be considered African? Is a century enough? Literary priests do not condemn me yet!

But I am not those naive Africans. I hope.
I know some of what Ngugi meant by this. I see it in the languages considered international in my American school. I see it in the way we respond differently when an African says they speak 7 African languages in comparison to a European saying they speak 2 European languages. What’s even worse is how proud we are to gain a new foreign tongue. We add a new section to our CVs just to proclaim how much effort we made in learning it. Do we do put such effort in learning our mother tongues?

There is hierarchy in language and the global south is far from the top. Hopefully not for too long. Let’s wait and see.

Part 5: Aparo niya…
It’s scary to see how relevant this book is so many years later. Perhaps, we are either stuck in the past or recycling it. I call this the problem of the second hand mentality. I sometimes suffer from it, some times more than others. I guess that’s why the beginning of the title is so important. Decolonizing the mind is a continuous process. It’s in the reminder that English did not automatically become an official language. It’s in interrogating the role Swahili plays in schools and the representation of local tongues within the curriculum and the arts.

Part 6: Atieko gi ma…
How does a product of ,at best, an Afro-European upbringing review this book?
Maybe that is not the point. Maybe the point is to use this book to interrogate our relationship with our tongues and the journey we are taking towards decolonization.

Sometimes it’s as easy as taming the Uncle Tom in many of us that has us proudly correcting other people’s pronunciation as if we are guards of the English empire on African soil.

Oriti!

Happy new year 🎆!

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Atieno Otieno

An intersectional learner, unapologetic feminist, radical afro-centrist and holistic wellness enthusiast passionate about decentralizing knowledge and leaving an impactful footprint in this digital world.

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