Language as a Liberation Aesthetic: Ngũgĩ’s Use of Gĩkũyũ in Mũrogi wa Kagogo [Wizard of the Crow] and Other Works


  • Maina wa Mũtonya



Gĩkũyũ language, decolonising, cultural identity, liberation aesthetics, exile


This paper examined the aesthetics and politics of writing African literature in local vernaculars as opposed to writing in what proponents of this discourse have termed as colonial languages, like English and French, amongst others. The focus of this article is on the writings of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the most vocal critic of ‘imperial languages’, and also an ardent advocate for African languages as well as a practitioner of his vernacular language, where most of his published fictional works are in his native Gĩkũyũ language of Kenya. This paper then critically examines Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s application of the Gĩkũyũ language in his novel Mũrogi wa Kagogo (2006), translated as Wizard of the Crow, and his other works in the language. This paper inevitably engages with the writer’s stance on the use of vernaculars in increasingly globalizing cultures.


Article received: December 18, 2019; Article accepted: January 31, 2020; Published online: April 15, 2020; Original scholarly article


Author Biography

Maina wa Mũtonya

Maina wa Mũtonya, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at Pwani University (and currently a visiting researcher at The National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico) holds a Ph.D. in African Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He writes largely on literature, popular culture and politics in Africa. He has taught in Mexico, South Africa and Kenya and his research has been published in Africa, Latin America and the USA. His research interests include the performance of power in post-independence Africa and identity formation in popular culture in Africa and the African Diaspora. Mũtonya is currently working on migration in Africa and the Caribbean as well as on the AfroMexican identities and representations of blackness in Mexico. His other research interests revolve around the broad area of African Studies; African Art, Gĩkũyũ language and culture, Swahili, human rights and democracy, and gender studies. Recent publications include Music and Dance Research in East Africa (co-edited, 2018); ‘Grammar of Patriarchy’: Women and Elections in Kenya’ (Forthcoming); “Repensando lo Rural en la Música Popular Africana”, (2019); “Dancing to the Marriage Beat(ing): The Gender Debate in a Gĩkũyũ Popular Music Discourse”, (2018) and “Las Migraciones Transfronterizas en los Países del Caribe” (2018).


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How to Cite

Mũtonya, M. wa. (2020). Language as a Liberation Aesthetic: Ngũgĩ’s Use of Gĩkũyũ in Mũrogi wa Kagogo [Wizard of the Crow] and Other Works. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (21), 45–58.



Contemporary East African Aesthetics – Guest Section Editor Lydia W. Muthuma