Accepted paper:

Colonization, Christianity and social division in Ngugis's novel "The river between"


Bruno Ribeiro Oliveira (Universidade de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

Ngugi's novel The River Between is a source to understand how the missionary work caused division and struggles among the Kikuyu people of Kenya. Ngugi recreates the scenario from the point of view of a Kikuyu teacher that must deal with the two sides of the river, the western and the traditional.

Paper long abstract:

Released in 1965, the first novel published by the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (1938-), The River Between, is the story about a teacher called Waiyaki that must deal with the Kikuyu characteristics of his traditional life, Western civilization features and Christian religion that sweeps through the hinterlands of a Kenyan region. This situation causes a division among the Kikuyu population between the traditionalists and the Christians. This novel is influenced from real debate and clash that happened in the Colony of Kenya between 1920 and 1930 when converted Kikuyu rejected the authority of European missionaries that were trying to ban the tradition of circumcision performed by the Kikuyu people. Thiong'o recreates this scenario and discuss the division this caused over individuals that walked among institutions and ideas introduced by the colonial British rule, its missionaries and the cultural values of the Kikuyu people. This book provides us a valuable source to understand how literature deals with the history of missions and missionaries effects over the Kikuyu community in Kenya.

panel P20
Literary approaches to the relationship between colonization, Christianity and civilization