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Home » , » Ngugi wa Thiong'o as a postcolonial writer

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a prolific writer as well as an outspoken critic of imperialism. Petals of Blood (1977) is his fourth novel in which he depicts the plight of the common people of Kenya. In this novel, the writer denounces the neo-colonial elite who have taken control of the government in the wake of the departure of the British colonialists. According to the novelist, these elite-class people have betrayed the hope of the people in post-independent Kenya. They actively work with the former colonialist powers to exploit the peasants and working-class people. Thus, as a postcolonial writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o comes out as a voice of the new nation of Kenya. 

In Petals of Blood, Ngugi shows that the new ruling class has virtually established a type of colonial regime by fully embracing imperialist capitalism. They have given no attention to improving the fate of people by modernizing agriculture; rather they are preoccupied with their self-interest. Ngugi clearly indicates this in the drought episode which unmasks the hypocrisy of the ruling elites. During the drought, the villagers of Ilmorog form a delegation to visit their MP in the capital Nairobi. In this epic journey to the city, they seek help from the priest Jerrod Brown and the educational leader Chui, but they are rejected by both of them. Again, the businessman Kimeria holds some members of the delegation hostage and shapes Wanja. Their MP Nderi offers them only a reluctant welcome. Then the poor villagers are imprisoned for breaching peace although they are later released with the help of a benevolent lawyer. 

The capitalists and their agents Chui, Mzigo, and Nderi start many development projects. Transnational corporations and _ international development organizations give loans to the peasants. They persuade the workers to sell their plots and invest in commercial businesses instead. In this way, the peasants accumulate debt and their land is confiscated by the bank. As a result, the peasants are disillusioned with independence which does not secure their land against foreign intruders. In fact, the capitalists transform the city of Ilmorog into a proto-capitalist society with all the attendant problems of prostitution, social inequalities, misery, and inadequate housing. 

The rapid transformation of Old Ilmorog into New Iimorog brings cultural and moral decline. This is perhaps best captured in the consumption of Theng’eta. In the past, Theng’eta was homely made; it was drunk at beautiful circumcision ceremonies as a communal experience. But Mzigo, Chui, and Kameria buy the Theng’eta business which was originally initiated by Abdulla and Wanja. Now there is only factory-produced Theng’eta which brings about only drunkenness, degradation, and industrial disputes. The so-called modernization is achieved at the expense of the common people who lose their land and livelihood. 

This invasion of capitalism has affected all the main characters. Abdulla, a freedom fighter, tries to survive by selling sheepskin and oranges on the street for tourists. Wanja, on the other hand, runs a brothel targeting high-class businessmen. Neo-colonialism not only manifests itself in terms of economic oppression, but it also has psychological effects on the colonized subjects who tend to think like businessmen. As Wanja explains to Karega her reason for building a brothel: “You eat or you are eaten.” Wanja’s worldview is a manifestation of how the conscience of the - colonized is affected by the exploitative ideology of capitalism. 

In this way, Petals of Blood is a unique creation of the novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The novelist here unmasks the hypocrisy and the greed of the neo-colonialist elite, which is the direct cause of the deprivation of the common mass, Finally, the novelist hints that a release from this dismal situation can be achieved through protest and constructive violence as it is envisioned by Karega.


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