Posted on November 13, 2018
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist, editor, memoirist, social activist and one of the giants of the African literary sphere, is renowned for many great books like Weep Not Child, Devil On The Cross, A Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood, Wizard of the Crow and many more. One of his most beloved books Matigari which was published in 1986 in Gikuyu and then translated into English by Wangui wa Goro and issued in 1989, is set for the big screen by Nollywood filmmaker and director Kunle Afolayan.
Matigari, is a moral fable in which a freedom fighter emerges from the forest in the political dawn of post-independence Kenya. Searching for his family to rebuild his home and a new future, he finds little has changed. But his search becomes a quest for truth and justice as he finds the people still dispossessed and the land he loves ruled by corruption, fear, and misery. Rumors spring up that a man with superhuman qualities has risen to renew the freedom struggle. The novel races toward its climax as Matigari realizes that words alone cannot defeat the enemy. He vows to use the force of arms to achieve his true liberation. Matigari is a satire on the betrayal of human ideals and on the bitter experience of post-independence African society.
After its release, the book caused quite a bit of controversy in Kenya leading to then resident dictator Daniel Arap Moi issuing a warrant for the arrest of Matigari as he believed it was an individual trying to overthrow his government. When it became evident that it was a character in a book, it was then confiscated and banned from circulation.
Nollywood filmmaker Kunle Afolayan, who now wants to adapt the book to a movie for a new generation of Africans, is behind movies like The Figurine (2009), October 1 (2014), The CEO (2016), and Omugwo (2017). He made this revelation on the sidelines of the African Movie Academy Awards in Kigali, Rwanda. “Ngũgĩ is like the Wole Soyinka of Nigeria in Kenya and one of his books is going to be adapted into a film,” Afolayan had said. “It’s going to be South Africa-Kenya-Nigeria co-production and I’m representing Nigeria.” Afolayan’s latest movie Mokalik, is currently in pre-production and won’t be released until 2019.
The author’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: The River Between African Languages and European Languages, a documentary on the life of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and the struggles he faced has also been produced by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor Dr Ndirangu Wachanga. It has been screened at Harvard University, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Amherst College, University of Massachusetts—Amherst and UW-Madison.