Africa-Press – Lesotho. Literature dynasties of sorts are emerging in Africa. People in families of certain established authors are turning out to be writers and artistes of note.
Brothers, wives, cousins, children and grandchildren of long established writers are taking to the pen with direct or indirect encouragement of the presence of a major writer in the family.
In Kenya there is the Ngugi dynasty while in Zimbabwe there is the Mungoshi dynasty. These families have become dominant actors in the literature of the two African countries.
Ngugi Wa Thiongo is a household name in African literature. He is best known for his first novel Weep Not, Child. His other novels – The River Between, A Grain of Wheat, Matigari and Petals of Blood – confirmed his stature as one of the major African writers of our time.
Ngugi, who turned 85 in January this year, is currently a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, and is still writing.
However, his sons — Tee Ngugi, Nducu wa Ngugi, Mukoma wa Ngugi and his daughter, Wanjiku wa Ngugi are all published authors, showing the father’s influence on his family. Tee Ngugi, the eldest of Ngugi’s offspring is a writer, columnist and singer-songwriter of note.
His short fiction, essays and commentaries have appeared in several publications including New Orleans Review, St Petersburg Review, Kwani, Brittle Paper, Timbuktu, New Black Magazine, Jahazi, and The East African, among others.
His collection of short stories, Seasons of Love and Despair, was published in 2015 by East African Educational Publishers. A graduate of Yale, Tee has worked in the academic and NGO sectors in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya.
He lives in Nairobi, Kenya. In his short story called ‘Light from the Chapel,’ Tee Ngugi writes about the girl, Noni, who grows from innocence to experience in a religious set-up.
When she is in high school, she naively believes in the purity of priests, nuns and all religious people. Noni thinks that sin is a far away thing for all people who follow the cross.
Then suddenly she catches the local church priest in a very compromising position! Noni is also starting to realise that: “There is a mysterious space where pure sexual and spiritual experiences connect.
” She discovers that spiritual ecstasy appears to be in tandem with coital energy.
Later, at university, now a more “reasonable” Marxist feminist, Noni appears to learn that reality is universal and we only give it different names depending on where we stand and that Christianity, marxism and feminism tend to coalesce in their findings about mankind.
Meanwhile, Tee’s sibling, Nducu wa Ngugi is an educator and writer with noticeable art activities in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Nducu’s writing has appeared in such magazines as Wajibu and Pambazuka.
“I do not feel pressure knowing my dad is who he is, I enjoy writing,” says Nducu to one online journalist. Nducu has published novels such as City Murders, The Dead Came Calling and Benji’s Big Win.
In The Dead Came Calling, a detective novel, Nducu writes about an Indian businessman, Vishal Mehta, who is found murdered inside his garage in Tigoni, Limuru.
Then Jack Chidi, an investigative reporter with The Daily Grind, is called in to investigate. Jack has no idea why Mehta’s wife, Anarupa Mehta, has decided to call him.
She informs him that it was Mehta, who had asked her to call him should anything happen to him, a few weeks before his death, signalling that he knew his life was in danger.
Jack’s life is in danger as he discovers that the killing of Vishal exposes an international ring of criminals. My own estimation is that Mukoma Wa Ngugi could be the most academically gifted of all the offspring of Ngugi Wa Thiongo.
An Associate Professor of Literatures in English at Cornell University, Mukoma is fast becoming one of the key names in African literary scholarship. Mukoma is the author of The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Identity and Ownership, the novels Mrs.
Shaw, Black Star Nairobi, Nairobi Heat, and two books of poetry, Logotherapy and Hurling Words at Consciousness. Often Mukoma appears alongside his father, conducting many public lectures across the world.
His father often smiles approvingly as his erudite son explains very complex issues in African literature and politics. Ngugi Wa thiongo’s daughter, Wanjiku Wa Ngugi is the author of the novel The Fall of Saints (2014) and she is a former director of the Helsinki African Film Festival (HAFF).
She was a columnist for the Finnish development magazine Maailman Kuvalehti, as well as a jury member of the Cinema Africa Film Festival, Sweden. Her story ‘Hundred Acres of Marshland’ was published in New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent, edited by Margaret Busby (2019).
Her short stories and essays have appeared in Nairobi Noir, Houston Noir, St. Petersburg Review, Auburn Avenue and Barelife Review, among others. Meanwhile, the late Charles Mungoshi of Zimbabwe is also a household name in African literature.
His literary profile is compact. He was a novelist, poet, short-story writer, playwright, film script writer, actor, editor, translator and consultant.
His last book, Branching Streams Flow in the Dark published in 2013 after a long break due to illness is a transcendental novel; marking then the long awaited ‘return’ of leading Zimbabwean author, Charles Muzuva Mungoshi.
The prize-winning author of Coming of The Dry Season, Waiting For The Rain regular Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura? who had been ‘silent’ ever since his major single publication, Walking Still in 1997, had chosen a special way of returning.
As his wife, the acclaimed actress Jesesi Mungoshi states in the dedicatory note, ‘it took Charles over 20 years to write this book and he was still perusing through it when he fell into a coma on the 30th of April, 2010’. It is therefore befitting that this book is about living beyond malady.
During her darkest and loneliest moment, when her baby dies of AIDS and her husband runs out of the house and her mother is virtually unkind, Serina Maseko sees through herself and others, as if she were beyond pain and reproach.
She is floating because during this period, before the advent of Anti Retro Viral Therapy use in the management of the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), being diagnosed as having the infection is an automatic death sentence.
Serina begins to write a very long and winding letter to a long-forgotten school mate, Fungisai Bare. In that letter, Serina forages through her turbulent life and that of people around her, confessing her sins and confronting all the ghosts in her life, searching for certain key moments to hold on to.
And then Serina comes across one Saidi on a city bus. It is just by chance! As you read on, you want Serina and Saidi to fall in love. You tell your foolish self that this is love at first sight! It is because Serina and Saidi are forlorn because they have AIDS.
But Serina soon learns that Saidi is and has been much closer to her than she has ever known. Saidi leads Serina to her long lost father – the evergreen Samuel Maseko.
Saidi leads Serina to her runaway husband, the brilliant coward – Michael Gwemende. Saidi leads Serina to his own mother, Samuel Maseko’s first wife – the indefatigable Stella Mkandhla Dube! Finally, Saidi leads Serina to a path into herself.
All these ‘streams’ begin to branch into what was threatening to remain unknown. Here, as in the novels of Jose Saramago, especially Blindness, seeing can be both disease and recuperation. Mungoshi died in February 2019.
Charles Mungoshi’s younger brother, the late David Mungoshi, who died a year later in August 2020, appeared to always having followed his elder brother’s footsteps in literature ever since their childhood herding cattle in Manyene.
They share a warm relationship of exchanging books and writing techniques. Their physical resemblance tended to confuse many. Only a few years before Charles published a book about a woman with HIV/AIDS, David published a book, about a woman with cancer in 2009! It is called The Fading Sun.
It is a novel about both living and dying. Very few novels from Zimbabwe will come close to it as regards exploring a miscellany of human emotions and experiences in one breath.
Here is sadness, bottomless joy, puzzlement, memories, regrets, fear. . . the whirlpool goes on. A woman in menopause stops in her tracks to take stock of her life.
From the leeward side, Mary has more than her fair share of maladies. Mary’s skin is wrinkled. Mary suffers from bouts of migraine and arthritis. Mary has had each of her three deliveries by caesarean section.
Mary has lost one of her ovaries early in life. Mary has a thyroid problem which has led to thyroidechtomy. Mary has lost one of her breasts through mastectomy and she wears the breast prosthesis.
Sadly, the surviving breast is also deteriorating and the pain is just unbearable. Mary’s sun is slowly fading. She makes you realise that much of living and dying too, go on inside of the individual.
Towards the end, she becomes very mystical like that woman who charms and is charmed in return by the spider in ‘A Passage to India’. Midway, you realise that this is a novel that you cannot take all in, with a one off reading.
The layers are many; history, geography, anthropology, politics. . . This novel must have taken David Mungoshi lots of meditation (and fasting too) that when such a script was finally released, he must have felt like collapsing from the sudden release.
In addition, David used a rigorous language and you may suggest that this story must be sung with the accompaniment of an instrument. This book pitches much higher than what David achieves with his debut novel, Stains On The Wall (1992).
It is the kind of English language with the rigor you can only associate with the other good non-English writers writing in English, like Joseph Conrad and Ayi-Kwei Armah.
In 2016 Charles Mungoshi’s first born son, Farayi published a scintillating collection of poems called Behind the Walls Everywhere. Farayi Mungoshi’s short stories stun with their shocking intensity and tenderness.
Almost everywhere – from the bridge on the road that leads into the township and from the top of the all knowing tower light, and even from within the house of mourning, to the faraway lands of their supposed refuge – men and women, black and white, strip off their masks to reveal passion at its most elemental and sublime.
Here is a powerful and wild book, containing the genuine short story, sincere, individual and strictly economical. Farayi is also a film-maker. Farayi’s younger brother, Charles Mungoshi Jnr is also a writer of motivational books.
He is a regular voice on the social media scene, motivating people to carry on with their lives. In 2016 he published five motivational books on the same day!
To cap it all, their mother Jessesi Mungoshi, wife to the late Charles Mungoshi himself, is a household name after starring as Neria in the film Neria.
It is a story about the challenges that widows face in African communities. The Neria role was career defining for Jessesi, who is still referred to by the name of the movie’s main character by fans.
“Here in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries, I’m strongly identified with the character I played in the film. Some do not even know my real name!” she tells one publication.
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