The accessibility of progressive ideas to the people


Mahmood Mamdani’s Citizen and Subject implies that two parallel spheres were created during colonialism. Courtesy of colonialism’s civilizing mission, a chasm emerged between “civilized” society and our communities’ ways. In some places in Africa during the early years of colonialism, Africans had a choice, to take up western education as well as religion to serve civilized society and accumulate capital or to cling on to tradition and “stagnate.” Waweru in Ngugi wa Thiongo’s novel Petals of Blood was faced with these choices. He chose the former which was responsible for the change of his name to Ezekieli.

In some ways, we are faced with similar choices every day. In our daily living, should we foreground “the civilized ways” over the “the uncivilized ways?” Are we going to serve the civilization mission or are we going to reafricanise ourselves? Social conditioning – a product of our colonial past – will have us pick the former consciously or unconsciously. Just look at the way our presidents – past and present – read their speeches in impeccable English and then when it comes to Kiswahili they improvise(d) instead of the other way round. But wait, aren’t I doing the same thing as I write this column in English with the hope that I will somehow spark the minds of the people into action? Maybe the late Audrey Lorde would probably ask me “can the master’s tools dismantle the master’s house?”

My point is, there is a need to disregard “formality” of expression and embrace styles of expression that are more accessible to the people. That is why Ukombozi Review strives to be less academic and in its ninth edition embraces poetry as its main medium. More importantly, the choice of language in most of the pieces – Sheng/Kiswahili – is a departure from English which is and has been referred to as a language of social prestige in Kenya. Pengine nafaa kudo the same na hii editorial maze! Kwani ni nini kinanizuia? In many cases, underlying our preference to use the language of social prestige is a disdain for own languages and ways. To paraphrase Malcolm X: “Who taught you to hate the language of your people?”

Welcome to Ukombozi Review’s ninth edition.

Mwongela Kamencu
Assistant Editor

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