What you need to know:
- In his acceptance speech, Ngugi shared his view on the importance of languages and cultures
- He also cautioned Africans who have lost their mother tongues in the name of adopting European languages
Ngugi wa Thiong'o on Monday received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bayreuth, Germany.
The doctorate was awarded by the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), where Ngugi had worked shortly in the 1980s as a guest professor.
Prof. Dr. Stefan Leible, president of the University of Bayreuth, Brigitte Merk-Erbe, the Mayor of Bayreuth and Prof. Dr. Dymitr Ibriszimow, head of the institute, all took to the podium to express their gratitude for Ngugi's literary works and his contribution to the upholding of culture through his work.
In his acceptance speech, Ngugi shared his view on the importance of languages and cultures. According to him, the world is like an orchestra and every language spoken is an instrument in the orchestra. When only few languages dominate, then the global orchestra shrinks, with only few instruments.
Ngugi cautioned Africans who have lost their mother tongues in the name of adopting European languages as the only form of communication. People have rejected their languages and this has put Africa in a "linguistic prison" which hinders cultural and intellectual development in Africa, Ngugi said.
"Every language, every culture, has a role to play and none is superior nor inferior to the other. This kind of thinking is a fallacy," he insisted.
The diversity of languages that characterises Ngugi's work and its worldwide reception was also reflected in the readings that took place during the event.
The literary scholar and BIGSAS graduate Samuel Ndogo from Eldoret, the translator Dr. Thomas Brückner from Munich, the scholar and translator Dr. Wangui wa Goro from the UK, BIGSAS doctoral student and journalist Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard from Munich as well as the literary scholar and BIGSAS graduate Ndi Gilbert Shang from Kenya contributed texts in three languages: Kikuyu, the language in which Ngugi's literature was originally written, as well as English and German.
On the same day, several partnership agreements between the BIGSAS on behalf of the University of Bayreuth and seven African Universities were signed.
Among those who took part in the signing were Prof. Dr. Richard K. Mibey - Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya; Prof. Dr. Wail Benjelloun - Université Mohammed V – Agdal, Rabat, Morocco; Prof. Dr. Malegapuru Makgoba - University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; Prof. Dr. Orlando A. Quilambo - Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mosambique; Prof. Dr. Brice A. Sinsin - Université Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Benin and Dr. Worash Getaneh Shibeshi - Addis Ababa University, Ethiopien.