“There are two worlds. There is the world of those who accept things as they are, and there is that of those who want to change things. Which world do you belong to? ” (p. 76) Throughout Ngugi wa Thiong’o”s novel, Matigari, the main character proves himself to be a strong, intelligent, peaceful man who appears to have his head on straight and sees the state of the world in the precisely right shade. From page one he allows the reader to gain his trust and from then on you find yourself cringing at the “upside-down” world Matigari is trying to navigate his way through.
The main purpose of this paper is to show that decolonization does not only mean the transfer of power to an independent homeland, as it will not be successful. But rather, it must also encompass the freedom of the nation’s spirit and the personal culture of all its citizens. Matigari ma Njiruungi is a radicalist. The two-day journey that takes place during the course of the novel is an adventure that Matigari embarks upon to try to regain what is rightfully his.
This can be a metaphor of sorts in saying that Matigari is really trying to turn the corrupted world of imperialism back on it’s feet, back into something that makes sense. By definition, imperialism is the “policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas. ” Matigari had spent his life, or at least all that he can remember about it, under somebody else’s rule. First being Settler Williams and then the entire opposing government.
His story is not unlike that of Kenyan citizens during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The colonial period of Kenya was exhibited by social pressures and intense oppression. The English rulers restricted the voice of the Kenyans and took away their rights of political participation and alike. These imperialistic policies of England triggered a mounting resentment amongst the Kenyans and created many rebellions and protests, just as Matigari had. It’s a known fact that Matigari, the novel, was actually banned from circulation in Kenya soon after its publication.
The Kenyan government believed that the story’s character was a real-life revolutionary plotting to overthrow the government. This was obviously not the case, however it just goes to show how unstable the dictatorial government of Kenya was at the time and how this insecure method of rule could actually be the cause of all the backwards, unfair happenings in the world at this time. The underlying motive of this novel involves Matigari gaining his land back. The land and the property that he created with his own bare hands. This metaphor is comparable to the messy decolonization of Kenya in multiple aspects.
When under colonial rule the land of Kenya was owned and operated by the white settlers, and native Africans only occupied minimal measures of desolate land, while majority had no land at all. Therefore, land was a huge economical problem during the colonial history of Kenya. After World War II, as the decolonization movement swept across the world, Kenya started its journey toward independence. The political struggle among white settlers, African natives and the colonial government worsened but eventually, division of agricultural land and ownership was settled through bargain.
Matigari spends much of the narrative on a quest to find “truth and justice” but everywhere he goes, and everyone he runs into gives him some piece of advice that leads him back to himself. I believe that this is Ngugi’s way of explaining that native citizens under colonial rule, or under any type of oppression for that matter, have the power to change things themselves. Matigari didn’t know it at the time, but it was his mission, his struggle, that will lead his fictional community to freedom. It was his personal belief and willpower that will lead Muriuki to victory in a life free of imposed and forced practices. Remember that a country’s welfare and stability are dependent on three kinds of people: the wealthy, the soldiers, and the leaders — that’s all we need. ” (p. 97) This quote, from the minister, farther proves my point that colonial ruled countries tended to not see the big picture as far as their citizens were concerned. A successful, peaceful place would not exist under these types of biases, which is exactly why decolonization took place all around the world. Precisely like Matigari, citizens would no longer stand quietly under unfair conditions. It dawned on him that one could not defeat the enemy with arms alone, but one could also not defeat the enemy with words alone. One had to have the right words; but these words had to be strengthened by the force of arms” (pg. 111). Matigari, although fictional, does a great job of taking its readers through the struggle of an oppressed citizen under colonial rule. It’s an uplifting story that allows the reader to feel capable and able to do our own part to help rid the world of all its upside-down harshness.