Ngugi wa Thiong’o: Reading from ‘Dreams in a Time of War’


Kenyan literary giant Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o – a recurring candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature – here reads a passage from his praised, eye-opening childhood memoir ‘Dreams in a Time of War’, in which he describes the magical moment when he learned to read and “discovered the secret of stories in the daytime.”

Born in 1938 in rural Kenya, Wa Thiong’o came of age in the shadow of World War II, amidst the terrible bloodshed in the war between the Mau Mau and the British. His memoir of a Kenyan childhood filled with dreams in the worst of times, bears witness to the social and political changes of life under colonialism and war. Wa Thiong’o grew up with four mothers and one father, and in the evening they would go to any of the mothers’ houses to hear stories – stories which the children were told only existed in the evening, and disappeared in the daytime. The part Wa Thiong’o reads from depicts how his biological mother, by sending him to school, enabled him to read stories any time he pleased.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (b. 1938) is a Kenyan writer. He grew up during the colonial period in Kenya, and his dream of a free Africa has shaped his oeuvre, which is written both in English and in Kikuyu. In 1977 he began a new form of theatre ‘Ngaahika Ndeenda’, which sought to liberate the theatrical process from what he considered “the general bourgeois education system.” Despite its success, the authoritarian Kenyan regime shut it down and he was subsequently imprisoned for more than a year. Adopted as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, however, he was released and left for the U.S., where he still resides. Among his work, which includes novels, plays short stories and essays, are ‘Weep Not, Child’ (1964), ‘Petals of Blood’ (1977), ‘Wizard of the Crow’ (2006), ‘Dreams in a Time of War’ (2010) and ‘In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir’ (2015). Wa Thiong’o has also taught at Yale University, New York University and the University of California, Irvine. Moreover, he is the founder and editor of the Kikuyu-language journal Mũtĩiri.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o read from his childhood memoir ‘Dreams in a Time of War’ (2010) at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2015.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm and Jakob Solbakken
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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