Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Matigari, first published by Heinmann in 1989, tells the story of a former Mau Mau fighter who returns to his land ready to lay down his weapons and ‘trade them for the belt of peace.’ Determined to rebuild his home, and start a new life, his life instead becomes a search for peace and justice. He finds that despite gaining independence, his people are still dispossessed and being exploited by their corrupt leaders. In time, he finds his quest for peace and justice to be futile.
In Matigari’s predicament, Ngugi exposes the futility in trying to drive parasites off your land when their means of attachment have not been broken off, of how the African will continue to be oppressed by ‘settlers’ if they do not first deal with the sellouts i.e. ‘the boys’ amongst them.
Ngugi’s Matigariis one of his best works on Marxism. It describes in detail how the colonialists have managed to eat deep into the African society to the extent that to be considered successful in society, an African must have a foreign education. It describes the role the sellouts play in the difficulty of ridding the African continent of foreign influence.
‘Matigari’ highlights the battle between the colonial masters who strived to enslave the minds of the African and the Africans who decided that enough was enough, and that they would not allow their colonial masters to reap where they did not sow. It shows the struggle between the loyalists, the patriots and the sell-outs. It tells of the way the oppressed masses instead of standing up for one another chose instead to oppress the weaker ones amongst them. It tells the story of how people who should stand together and speak as one chose instead sell out their brothers because of political offices. It tells of how the Government of a country instead of getting the endorsement of her populace prefers praise from foreign countries.
This is the story of the masses needing a savior; someone who can think for them and tell them which way to follow, someone who can speak for them against their oppressors, someone who has their interest at heart.
But what I see as problematic in the story is Ngugi’s suggestion that the quest for truth and justice can only be realized through the force of arms. Is Ngugi implying that to confront injustice we have to use force? Also in the concluding part of the book when the hero and heroine die, is he implying that to go on a quest for truth and justice one has to be ready to die?
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