The book “Decolonizing the mind” is on the politics of language in African literature. The author, Ngugi explains the way European imperialist powers colonized the African nations with differing cultures and languages. They had the aim of looting the treasures of wealth that their lands owned; at the meantime, they had to control over the mental universe of the indigenous people, for without it, the people would have gone out of control. The exploitation of their native languages and making them write in their languages was to enrich their languages and culture while leaving the original or mother tongues away in order to isolate them.
He tries to bring consciousness among people so as to bring back the culture and languages along with all their patriotic writers which Africa is in dire need of since they are their own.
It is the story of 1884 when the European powers sat in Berlin and carved an entire continent. They divided them into different languages of European powers. Subsequently, they began calling them African countries with ‘English-speaking, French-speaking,’ and so on. They had that much control over their minds that they tend to believe the renaissance of African literature lay in languages of Europe.
He discussed a meeting which he had attended entitled as “A conference of African writers with English expression” dated back in 1962. The conference, as he pens, included every African writer who wrote in English or other European languages, while leaving behind the best of African authors who pen in their indigenous languages. He, fortunately, makes it because of his two short stories which were prior published.
To mention, Ngugi himself has written in English for 17 years till 1977 when he departed from English in order to write in his Gikuyu native language – one of the African languages. Moving afterwards, the attendees included Chinua Achebe, one of the most prominent African authors ever set foot on earth. He said that just as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, we must have an African version of English of our own. It would have assistance for expression of our ideas, thinking and philosophy. Ngugi never agreed on his philosophy and presented a contrasting viewpoint in his book of the words that Chinua Achebe narrated in that conference.
Ngugi shares his own life as an instance of how they have been robbed of their indigenous languages. Childhood, indeed, remains the very beginning of a child’s uprising and to catch him young is the ultimate goal of colonizers. He says that when he used to go to his farms in early childhood with his people, they used to talk in Gikuyu, shared stories in it, played altogether speaking their own language, but it was when he joined a colonized school that had complete ban on their native languages. Thus, the most humiliating experience was to be caught speaking their languages in the vicinity of school. The punishment were high amount of money which they could not afford, plus having something carried on which it was written as “I am stupid” or so something else.
Every written or orature in English was awarded, while in own language that pupil was deemed as lower-intelligent. It is how they made students believe that their language, culture, land and intellectual figures were nothing in comparison to theirs.
Ultimately, they aimed at making them believe that they all were a wasteland where they could not figure out anything of worth. It was through their censored boards that books of educational institutions were and through them the natives started perceiving them and their culture. It was gradual that they snatched the ‘written’ language from them as orature was tough to. Their main focus always remained on letting not the indigenous people keep the written which could only be acquired through constant practice and study.
On one hand, they controlled people’s wealth by military conquest, political dictatorship, while on the other, mental universe was of more significance which was made successful due to the domination of languages.
They misinterpreted the people and their image in front of others. One of American actors writes in his autobiography on how because of result of some literature that he had read, he had compared Africans with snakes: and once he had to stay in an African hotel, so he stayed awaken the whole night in thoughts of snakes might come out from the downside of bed.
Indeed, the intellectuals had the mindset of their languages and culture as a past of wasteland which is of no worth. The only thing that is of great significance was deemed to be European languages and the culture they own. The intellectuals’ minds that had been corrupt, he tries to make them realize of how the European who have had looted the treasures are now enriching their languages and cultures by you all.