The Politics of Resistance and Liberation in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross

By Uwasomba, Chijioke | Journal of Pan African Studies, December 2006 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Resistance and Liberation in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross


Uwasomba, Chijioke, Journal of Pan African Studies


ABSTRACT

Against the backdrop of a continuing socio-economic crises in Africa stoked and sustained by Western imperialism and its agents, this paper examines and discusses Ngugi wa Thiong'o's concern and perspectives on Africa's march towards selfhood and independence via his novels Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross which represent an effort towards the liberation of Africa from the claws and shackles of imperialism as they deal with neo-colonialism in all its virulent manifestations. As political novels, they are unambiguous in their support of the views of the proletariat and condemnation of bourgeois philosophy and practice, as manifested in international capitalism, and thus reject neo-colonialism as a viable way of life for African people.

INTRODUCTION

Africa remains comparatively the least developed of all continents in terms of the production and sustenance of critically significant social goods such as physical infrastructure, telecommunication facilities, food supply, electricity, medical and health services, education, shelter, employment and other vital materials for human personal and social being (1)

The above quote captures in clear terms the pitiable and dismal condition of Africa. Africa has been subjected to various forms of naked slavery, exploitation, colonization and neo-colonization in the last four hundred years or so. The integration of the economies of Africa into the international capitalist orbit which began between 1450-1500 with its consequences has created problems of development and survival for the peoples of Africa.

To sustain and promote their interests to the disadvantage of Africa, the international hegemonic have ensured that their agents remain in power to do their biddings. These agents consider and pursue policies that satisfy their interests and those of their imperialist masters even at the brink of economic collapse occasioned by "fictitious debts" ostensibly owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and other Western banks and financial institutions, like the London and Paris Clubs.

Day in and day out, the African continent is racked by afflictions, disasters, macro-economic crisis and dysfunctions, debt over-hang, corruption, high level illiteracy, squalor, disease, hunger and other negative and destabilizing conditions thrown up by imperialism in cahoots with a greedy and unpatriotic ruling class. And the continent appears to be in limbo and suspended animation as the received development paradigm from the West has failed abysmally in addressing the ravaging socio-political and economic problems that have engulfed it. As articulated by Koki Kandiyohi in an article:

"Africa is a homeland that history has often denied and contemporary reality is constantly transforming into a quicksand; a land reputed to be among the best endowed in both human and material resources and yet much better known worldwide for its proverbial conditions of poverty, Africa the birth place of humanity and of human civilization now strangely transformed into expanding graveyards and battlefields for the enactment of some of the contemporary world's worst human tragedies (2)

It is against the background of the foregoing that Ngugi wa Thiongo's two novels, Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross become very important in understanding the sorry pass to which Africa has come and the need to mobilize patriotic and concerned people for a collective battle against the forces that have hijacked Africa's development. This paper attempts to investigate Ngugi's concern about and perspectives on Africa's march towards selfhood and independence. The focus on Ngugi and particularly the two novels becomes increasingly important given the rampaging influence of imperialism on African soil, and the need for political struggle and consequent liberation of the people.

CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATIONS

Three broad concepts are significant to this study: namely politics, resistance and liberation.

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