[Daily Independent] Resolving Language Debate In African Literature

Daily Independent (July 4, 2010) — “Resolving Language Debate In African Literature”


The recent challenge by a Cameroonian writer and literary critic, Peter Wuteh Vakunta of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States of America (USA) against the most published postulation of foremost Kenyan writer and apostle of indigenous language, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, on strong recommendation of writing literature in indigenous language, is a clear indication that there is need for global writers to readdress the claim. The attention of the world toward embracing indigenous language should not be treated with levity, experts have suggested.

Peter Wuteh Vakunta
Peter Wuteh Vakunta

According to Vakunta’s review, “the question of language choice in African literature has caused significant ripples in the pool of literary criticism. The genesis of this discourse dates back to Obiajunwa Wali, who in 1963 wrote an article titled “The Dead End of African Literature.” In the referred works of arts, Wali argued that “the whole uncritical acceptance of English and French as the inevitable medium for educated African writing, is misdirected, and has no chance of advancing African literature and culture.” He further pointed out that until African writers accept the fact that any true African literature must be written in African languages, they would be merely pursuing a dead end. Wali even sounded a fatalistic note when he opined that “African languages would face inevitable extinction, if they do not embody some kind of intelligent literature, and the only way to hasten this, is by continuing in our present illusion that we can produce African literature in English and French.” These postulations have given rise to a groundswell of contentious, even tendentious discourses among writers and critics of African literature.

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