“Mother Wanjik?, wherever your soul rests, I beg you to forgive me for all the years I had abandoned the tongue you gave me at birth; the language through which you sang me lullabies; and told me stories that thrilled the heart. I have come back home: I embrace my mother tongue. The prodigal son is back,” he told a virtual audience this week.
True to his standpoint on the equality of languages, renowned novelist and essayist Prof Ngugi Wa Thiong’o didn’t deliver his acceptance speech in English when, on Thursday, he was honoured as the 31st recipient of the Catalonia International Prize for his daring and distinguished literary work and defense of African languages.
The Kenya writer, who dropped his colonial name (James) decades ago, drove the point home by speaking in his mother tongue – Kikuyu.
This piece is, therefore, a product of a translation. We tried our level best to retain all nuances.
The virtual award ceremony took place in Catalonia, Spain, where President Qium Torra said he was honoured to present the award to Prof Wa Thiong’o though he regretted that it had to be presented from a distance.
Prof Wa Thiong’o thanked the Catalonian government for the El Premie Internacional.
The award had touched his heart in so many ways, he said.“I received news of the award, in December 2019, while I was in a hospital bed in UC Medical after undergoing a triple bypass surgery on my heart.
Physically helpless and contemplating my testament, this award made me feel celebrated and appreciated on my journey back to the land of the living,” he told the audience. UC stands for the University of California where he teaches.