This year’s Calabash International Literary Festival, Friday, May 30 – Sunday, June 1, at Jakes in Treasure Beach, will welcome Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the famed Kenyan writer whose richly imaginative and politically aware novels have become classics in world literature, Jamaica’s Observer reports. But he will not be coming alone. As it happens, Ngugi wa Thiong’o has been working hard at the ensuring a remarkable future for African writing by fathering two up-and-coming writers, the novelist Wanjuki wa Ngugi and the poet and novelist Mukoma wa Ngugi. The three writers will share the stage for the very first time anywhere at Calabash 2014 reading from their recent works and representing the rich and expanding tradition in African writing.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o belongs to a small and impressive group of writers whose fictional work is matched easily by their contribution to larger socio-political and intellectual thoughts about the world in which we live. Ngugi’s most recent books include two volumes of a planned three-part memoir, Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir (2010) and In the House of the Interpreter (2012), which trace the development of this fiery and often controversial writer who famously declared in 1986 that he would devote himself to writing exclusively in his native language, Gikuyu. It has been widely recognised that the three novels by Ngugi that are in fact translations from the original Gikuyu, namely A Devil on the Cross, Matigari and Wizard of the Crow constitute some of the most innovative examples of modern fiction coming out of Africa. This prolific author has never slowed down in his scholarly and literary output and his work continues to shape areas of academic scholarship like post-colonial literature.
The son and daughter of Ngugi who have discovered their own passion for writing are creating their own reputations for trying to chart the experience of Africans on the continent and abroad. Wanjiku’s wa Ngugi’s debut novel, The Fall of Angels, leaps with lively abandon into the world of the thriller with a New York-based soccer mom caught up in a complex of human trafficking and other criminal intrigues that has her travelling around the world to battle the bad guys. Wanjiku wa Ngugi is credited for the multiple twists and turns in a plot that has excited readers of the genre and others. Wanjuki now resides in Helsinki, Finland and her appearance at Calabash has been facilitated by funding from Carib Export.
Tellingly, her older brother Mukoma wa Ngugi appears to have found a productive niche in his crime novels that expand the genre in important ways. Mukoma, in many interviews, shows himself to be a serious scholar, activist and thinker on matters pertaining to world culture and the position of Africa. He has published several books already including a highly praised collection of poems, Hurling Words at Consciousness. He is also the author, most recently, of the novels, Black Star Nairobi (Melville, 2013), and Nairobi Heat (Melville, 2011). He has been shortlisted for both the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing and the Penguin Prize for African Writing. In 2013, the internationally respected New African Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential Africans.
“What excites me most about this line-up,” says Calabash director Kwame Dawes, “is the way it demonstrates so many critical dimensions to African writing all contained in one family. First, there are the dynamics of language and translation represented in the father, the emergence of internationally positioned women writers from Africa represented in the daughter, and finally, the genre-traversing innovations that we see in the son. Ngugi wa Thiong’o is an icon in African writing, so in this instance, we are triply blessed to have him at Calabash with his gifted literary family.”
Calabash is made possible by the generous support of the CHASE Fund, Carib Export and The Jamaica Tourist Board and is hosted at Jakes in Treasure Beach. The British Council and US State Department will also facilitate the appearance of authors at the festival.