Ngugi With a Touch of Wangari

Ngugi
wa Thiong’o.

I
was up late, eating the dinner I thought I could forgo, thinking, talking to my
dad about Lingala, negotiating the terms under which he could give me some of
his music, watching old crime shows.

But
Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Somehow,
I began to watch, video after video, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Now,
most days I do believe I am quite the catch, being the so, very, exciting, witty
creature that I am.

But
there are days, you know.

There
are days when I choose to look, or at least find myself looking, at myself with
other, less forgiving eyes.  And I see
things; the kind that make me wish that some of my circumstances would not be
as they are, things that make me see the gravity of certain kinds of lack; that
make me feel a deep, unsettling dissatisfaction. From the superficial to the
internal, from the financial to the more romantic aspirations, I am a being
riddled with unfulfilled desires; a being radically scared of what her
inadequacies mean.

But,
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, you see.

The
man is saying things, things about how we
should not accept the story people tell about us so readily; how we should be
bold about our story; our being, our identity; how we should loose ourselves
from enslavement and seek empowerment. And he is saying these things largely within
the framework of language; that not knowing our mother tongue but knowing five
foreign languages is enslavement, but knowing our mother tongue and then five
foreign languages is empowerment; how we should give African languages their
proper place, but, at 2:33 a.m., Ngugi is speaking this and something
altogether different in my life.

I
hear, I should tell my own story as I know it. I should use the yardstick
proper to me and not society to measure my ability and my possibilities and my
sheer greatness-es. That maybe I should
wear this skin, this life more proudly because I am ashamed only insofar as I have
been taught to be so.  That shame exists
insofar as it is accepted.  

And
so with a certain humility I will gain pride in that which I have been ashamed
of, as part of my wild, delicious journey of life, because this, after all, is
the only way it can be wild or delicious. A certain level of daring is required
to live life as boldly as people like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Wangari Maathai,
even the Mau Mau live or have lived; these people who make it a glory; a certain marker of character, to be Kenyan. It’s a release to those wild, delicious principles that
is the stuff of a nation, a movement, a life, of joy, of art.

A
certain refusal to deny yourself truth.

And
so…maybe I’m just saying that I'm feeling just a bit dangerous.

 You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself. That values itself. That understands itself.
  • - Wangari Maathai.

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