Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Violence: The (Un)real, Power and Excess in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Violence: The (Un)real, Power and Excess in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow

Article excerpt


In this article, the nature, form and content of violence are traced through the engagement of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow, situating it in the context of the postcolony. In this context, the conception of the real and unreal qua violence is interchangeable and also entangled. Thus, performativity of power depicts how violence becomes ritualised and institutionalised. The excess of the body is also problematised as a site of exercising state power. These politics of excess are clearly marked by the omnipresence of the Ruler in private and public domains of the citizens of Aburiria, his plan of constructing the unlimited tower of Marching to Heaven, funded by the Global Bank, and the politics of eating which perpetuates dispossession of the Aburirian citizenry. Though the Ruler claims to be mighty and powerful he is still caught in the clutches of the puppetry of colonial power which reduce him to a typical colonial subject.


In hierdie artikel word die aard, vorm en inhoud van geweld aan die hand van 'n studie van Ngugi wa Thiong'o se Wizard of the Crow geskets en sodoende binne die konteks van die postkoloniale geplaas. Binne hierdie konteks is die begrip van die werklike en onwerklike as geweld omruilbaar asook verstrengel. So beeld die performatiwiteit van mag uit hoe geweld geritualiseer en geinstitusionaliseer word. Die oordaad van die liggaam word ook geproblematiseer as 'n terrein vir die uitoefening van staatsmag. Hierdie politiek van oordaad word duidelik aangetoon deur die alomteenwoordigheid van die Heerser in die private en openbare domein van die burgers van Aburiria, sy plan om die onbeperkte toring "Marching to Heaven" (Opmars na die Hemel), wat deur die Globale Bank befonds word, te bou en die eetpolitiek wat die onteiening van die burgers van Aburiria in stand hou. Alhoewel die Heerser verklaar dat hy magtig en kragdadig is, bly hy vasgevang in die kloue van die skynvertoning van koloniale mag, wat horn tot 'n tipiese koloniale onderdaan verlaag.


It is in the space of the literary that political commentary is made and also in the space of the political that literary criticism is deployed. Where can it be if not in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow, the very novel which combines satire, criticism and serious political commentary? The purpose of this article is to trace the elements of violence in the postcolony by means of exposition. The manner in which violence is in the space and time assumes metaphoric forms, and the argument is that the real and the unreal are the ways in which to understand the intricacies of such violence.

In Wizard of the Crow, a form of political practice by citizens questions the manner in which they are ruled. This popular agency provokes violence from the Ruler and his power apparatus as a whole. The fear of the Ruler is the fear of resistance and thus seems to justify the Ruler's use of violence on those labelled as enemies of the state. The context through which the novel is framed suggests the ways in which violence needs to be rethought as something embedded in the existential conditions of the citizens of Abunria. The nature of this violence is both systematic and systemic in the manner in which it pervades the postcolony. The argument here lies in the fact that the traces of violence can be found in the ways in which Aburiria is the arrested time in which the Ruler dictates the modes of life in his own arbitrary rhythm. It is the traces of violence which are explored here, and it is through the engagement of Wizard of the Crow in the time and space called the postcolony that the theme of violence is manifested.

The (Un)real of Metaphor

The place of the metaphor in the political context is contested whether it assumes the figure of the real or not. It is in the blurry space of the real and unreal of the metaphor that violence is employed in its logic, desire, operation, and of course, its symptom. …

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