Two faculty members of the AUN School of Arts and Sciences, SAS, on Friday, April 1, discussed two key characters in Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat in a seminar that held at the Idorenyin Akpan Multimedia Lab.
The faculty members, Dr. Agatha Ukata and Dr. Brian Reed, both of the Department of English Language and Literature, spoke on the topic, “The Awakening of the Prophet: Forgotten Hope in Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat” as part of the SAS Seminar Series.
Their presentation focused on the themes of liberation and the quest for self-preservation, thus they extensively analyzed the experiences of two characters in the book: Mugo and Kihika.
In her presentation, Dr. Ukata argued that Mugo saw himself as his people’s messiah, and is only acting out repressed dreams from his childhood.
She praised Mugo’s will to try to preserve the communal life in Africa and urged the audience to look within their communities for solutions to Africa’s problems.
“It is only through introspection that Africa will be able to solve her problems,” Ukata said.
On his part, Dr. Reed pointed out the irony in the fact that the people’s admiration for Mugo stemmed from his quest to live in isolation.
According to Reed, the more Mugo tried to run from his fate, the more he lived it out.
The professors praised Wa Thiong’o for his use of powerful imagery and profound metaphors in his writing.
The respondents to the presentation, Dr. Grace Malgwi, also of the Department of English Language and Literature, and Joseph Sowe, a junior at AUN, who studies International and Comparative Politics, praised the paper for its relevance and revelation.
Dr. Malgwi likened Kihika’s principle of sacrificing everyone to what the current Nigerian leaders do.
She disapproved of Africa’s inclination to fixate upon one thing a person does in order to make him a hero, and added that the presentation “showed readers another dimension of the book that we’ve never seen before.”
In his response, Mr. Sowe said that the story exposed the conflict that existed both between the Kenyans and the colonizers, and amongst the Kenyans themselves.
In the audience was Kenyan AUN faculty member, Dr. Hannah Mugambi, who praised the presenters for analyzing issues that people usually avoid.
“The paper brought to light secrets of conflicts that are beneath the surface, which people don’t usually talk about,” Dr. Mugambi said.
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is an award-winning Kenyan writer famous for chronicling the struggles of his people during their fight for independence. Some of his other novels include The Wizard of the Crow, Weep Not, Child, and The River Between. A Grain of Wheat, published in 1967, was his third novel.
By Zamiyat Abubakar