Accepted paper:

Oral tradition and narration of self and nation in the memoir: Wangari Maathai's Unbowed and Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Dreams in a Time of War


Samuel Ndogo (Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I analyse Wangari Maathai’s Unbowed and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Dreams in a Time of War to demonstrate how autobiographical writings employ memory—individual and communal—as narrative strategies in the reconstruction of the history of postcolonial Kenya.

Paper long abstract:

Starting from the premise that the genre of the autobiography is part and parcel of the cultural imagination in the postcolonial discourses, this paper explores the various ways through which Maathai and Ngugi utilise memory not only in remembering the past, but also as a trope in narrating the story of the self as well as that of the postcolonial Kenyan nation. Drawing from Ngugi's concept of memory as advanced in Re-membering Africa (2009), I show how the two writers variously appropriate the oral history in telling their personal as well as communal experiences. Finally, I discuss specific aspects of the oral tradition such as myths, legends, songs, the epic, characterisation, and how they are integrated as modes of narration in the respective memoirs.

panel P031
The evolving social role of oral literatures in 21st century African communities