East African literary icon Ngugi wa Thiong’o, UCI Distinguished Professor of comparative literature and English, has been awarded the 2019 Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize for Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, about language and its constructive role in national culture, history and identity.
Lord Mayor Wolfgang Griesert, the representative of the city of Osnabrück on the prize’s jury, said in a statement, “Especially in his essays, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o refers very early to the very current discussion about the consequences of the colonial period – I am thinking, for example, of the question of the return of captured cultural assets – and the necessity of overcoming the power structures in the post-colonial states of Africa.”
“With Ngugi wa Thiong’o we are honouring a writer who is concerned with the self-determination of African cultures and with a dissociation from colonial constraints,” says the jury statement. “His attempt to create a dialogue through literature in spite of or indeed because of the different languages evokes understanding for this continent and can thus contribute towards peace.”
The prize, endowed with 25,000 euros (more than $28,000), is awarded for fictional, journalistic or scientific works that demonstrate an exemplary commitment to peace, humanity and freedom. It will be presented Nov. 29 at a ceremony in Osnabrück, Germany, the birthplace of novelist Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front.