Decolonising The Mind Essay

Shared ways of seeing, or culture, emerge through the shared use of language.

In other words, culture is organically intertwined with language, evolving together to create a unique collective sensibility.

Indeed, it was even worse: One of the most humiliating experiences was to be caught speaking [Gikuyu] in the vicinity of the school.

The culprit was given corporal punishment three to five strokes of the cane on bare buttocks or was made to carry a metal plate around his neck with inscriptions such as .

The language of an African childs formal education soon became foreign, writes Ngugi. In Kenya, Ngugi himself studied every subject in English at school but spoke Gikuyu at homea language spoken by more people than speakers of Danish or Croatian.

There was often not the slightest relationship between [English], and the world of his immediate environment in the family and the community.The domination of a peoples language by the language of the colonizing nations was crucial to the domination of the mental universe of the colonized. A great debate ensued in 1830s Britain on the choice of an official language of colonial administration and education.Making the winning case for English over Sanskrit, Persian, and all other local languages, Thomas B.This has been the way of the great colonialists of history, such as the Arabs in the 7-8th centuries, the British and the French in the 19th, and the Russians with the Baltic States in the 20th.Ngugi writes, For colonialism this involved two aspects of the same process: the destruction or the deliberate undervaluing of a peoples culture, their art, dances, religions, history, geography, education, orature, and literature, and the conscious elevation of the language of the colonizer.Not only that, his own language was ‘associated in his impressionable mind with low status, humiliation, corporal punishment, slow-footed intelligence’ and worse.Ngugi wrote that if the bullet was the means of physical subjugation, language was the means of spiritual subjugation of the African child, resulting ‘in the dissociation of the sensibility of that child from his natural and social environment, what we might call colonial alienation.’ [7] What then to make of literature written in European languages by Africans?No wonder language is so central to our identity and why so many political divisions have linguistic borders.Indeed, language profoundly shapes the way its incoming speakers think (this may be partly why it even makes sense to speak of an Anglophone culture), an idea that now finds support among cognitive scientists.Nor is it a mere tool for describing the world as it truly isno language can be said to describe the world as it truly is.To use a languageany languageis to interpret the world in a particular way.


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