Resuming a Broken Dialogue: Prophecy, Nationalist Strategies, and Religious Discourses in Ngugi’s Early Work

Mark Mathuray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper departs from and problematizes the almost exclusive focus in criticism of Ngugi's early works on Christianity and the effects of the colonial intrusion. Following Ngugi's exhortation to resume the broken dialogue with the gods of his people, Ngugi's early novels are read in relation to precolonial East African discourses and practices of prophecy, Gikuyu religion, and Gikuyu nationalist strategies that drew on different and opposing prophetic traditions, and, in a broader sense, discourses of religion in Africa. By locating his early work within the nexus of these discourses, a far more nuanced view of Ngugi's relation to religious and nationalist discourses emerges. This paper also attempts to uncover a symbolic geometry in Ngugi's novels determined by Gikuyu religious and cultural concepts. A focus on The River Between reveals certain authorial deployments of historical inaccuracies and dislocations in the interests of a schematization of the conflicts in the novel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-62
Number of pages22
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • African Literature, Traditional Religion, Sacred, Ngugi, Christianity

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