Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o delivers speech in Gikuyu at an international event attended by Catalonia's President [Video]

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is the author of the River Between

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o [Pambazuka News]

Celebrated author, playwright, and activist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o on Thursday evening used his mother tongue Gikuyu language while making an acceptance speech for the 31st Catalonia International Prize by the Catalan government.

Ngũgĩ was honored with the prestigious award for his distinguished and courageous literary work and his defense of African languages.

The ceremony for his award was presided over Catalan president Quim Torra and was held virtually due to Covid19 concerns.

The celebrated author said he received news of the award in December 2019 while bedridden at a hospital in California where he had undergone a bypass heart surgery.

"When I received news of this award, I was admitted at UCL Hospital unable even to kick a fly as I had just come from surgey where my chest was opened to treat three of my heart blood vessel known as a triple bypass heart surgery."

"Before my heart surgery, I wrote my will. So when I heart of this award, I felt like I was being celebrated for returning to the land of the living after my battle in the land of the dead," the author of the River Between said.

He dedicated the award to his late mother, Wanjiku wa Ngũgĩ, in a traditional kikuyu song.

Premi Internacional Catalunya – Catalonia’s most prestigious award given to people who has significantly contributed to Humankind throughout the world.

Others who have been awarded include anti-apartheid activist Bishop Desmond Tuti, activist Malala Yousafzai, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, philosopher Karl Popper, among other international icons.

Ironically, Ngũgĩ was imprisoned and forced to flee to exile over his Gikuyu works, particularly the play, Ngaahika Ndenda which earned him over a year at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

He currently lives in California where he continues writing in Gikuyu and at the same time teaching literature at the University of California, Irvine.

Here is his speech with Spanish subtitles:

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