prominent Kenyan writer, academic, and activist

mainly writes in Kikuyu language Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize

Known for: advocacy of writing in indigenous African languages, decolonization, power dynamics in language and literature


  1. “Weep Not, Child” (1964)
  2. “Petals of Blood” (1977)
  3. “A Grain of Wheat” (1967)
  4. “The River Between” (1965)
  5. “Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature” (1986)

First wrote in English but then changed to Kikuyu in effort to decolonize African literature and represent it better.

Was imprisoned in 1977 for political activism. Was sent to a maximum security prison and kept there without a trial for nearly a year. Was allowed only one hour of sunlight a day. Wrote the first modern novel in Kikuyu on toilet paper during his incarceration. Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ or Devil on The Cross

”I’m not against English, but I’m against the hierarchy of languages.”

Language as communication and as culture are then products of each other. Communication creates culture: culture is a means of communication. Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world. How people perceive themselves and affects how they look at their culture, at their places politics and at the social production of wealth, at their entire relationship to nature and to other beings. Language is thus inseparable from ourselves as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world

— Decolonising the Mind (16)