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Sender: owner-afrlabor@acuvax.acu.edu
From: Peter Limb <plimb@library.uwa.edu.au>
Reply-To: AFRLABOR@acuvax.acu.edu
Message-ID: <199510100059.IAA05255@docker.library.uwa.edu.au>
Subject: Ngugi & Osofisan & working class
To: afrlabor@acuvax.acu.edu (carolyn aflabor)
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 1995 08:59:05 +0800 (WST)

message: From owner-afrlit@acuvax.acu.edu Tue Oct 10 00:32:53 1995
From: "P.K.Muana" <P.K.Muana@sheffield.ac.uk>
Subject: Ngugi & Osofisan

Ngugi & Osofisan & working class

By Patrick Kagbeni Muana, 10 October 1995

> Peter Limb writes:
> Another interesting comparison of African political literature, this
> time of drama/theatre, is the unpublished Masters thesis by Taiwo
> Sanusi, "Traditional and modern elements in African political plays
> (East and West)" (Dept. of English, University of Western Australia,
> 1994). Taiwo compares Femi Osofisan's The Chattering and the Song,
> Once Upon Four Robbers, Who's Afraid of Solarin, Red is the Freedom
> Road, and A Restless Run of Locusts + Ngugi's The Trial of Dedan
> Kimathi and *Ngaahika Ndeenda* (I Will Marry When I Want).

I find the comparison compelling and interesting on the thematic level too. Whereas both writers draw heavily on their oral cultures and situate their themes in similar political situations in their countries, they maintain a distinct difference in their perceptions of what language to use.

I was with Femi at the Mediums of Change Conference in London just over a week ago and amongst other things, I found his unforgiving appraisal of Ngugi's call for the use of "local languages" as the discourse of change a bit intriguing. Whereas he recalled the age - old excuse of Universal readership, and the universality of Literature as the reason for writing in English that may be fluxed out and localised, I found his viewpoint disagreeable in this regard.

Ngugi's real reason for advocating for the use of local languages can be put thus: The oppressed working class that is dehumanised by the rabid acquisitive class is largely illiterate and their exclusion from the privilege of sharing the same medium of discourse (English) is symptomatic of their exclusion from that society in which they produce all the wealth. In essence, for a message of social and political empowerment, the language of change should be the media that the oppressed class comprehends and utilises fluently to articulate its daily predicament. I don't see a problem with this viewpoint although the Marxist intimations are inevitable. If cross- cultural translations enhance or faciliatate the universality advocated for by Femi, then the happier the writer (more jingling coins & international fame); but if the writer chooses to be faithful to his own society and "shun" the trappings that external readership would bring, then why fault him for his social agenda?

Anyway, Femi's reading of his latest play EKUN was quite refreshing for a conference that was momentarily stalled by intellectual crossfires on the validity of the "post" in the term "post-colonial." In recounting the faddishness with which all the "posts" have been adopted for conceptualising critical discourse, Abiola Irele's light-hearted suggestion of "post-office" drew gleeful laughter.

Will get back to all soon.

Patrick Kagbeni Muana
Dept. of Lang & Ling
Univ. of Sheffield,
United Kingdom.
Dept.(0114) 282 6296 Home. (0114) 275 1463|

Peter Limb

University of Western Australia
Nedlands 6907, W.A. Australia

email: plimb@library.uwa.edu.au
fax: +61 9 380 1012 phone: +61 9 380 2348