Ahead of the release of his much-anticipated new book, a manifesto called Dear Upright African, actor-writer Donald Molosi is in Kenya to publicise the book. This week, Molosi met with award-winning writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Ngugi’s home village of Limuru.
In Dear Upright African, due for release on February 28, 2019 in New York City, Molosi shares his experiences attending school in Africa and calls for the decolonization of the African classroom.
Says Molosi of the book: “Dear Upright African is my most ambitious work yet. It advocates for education reform and calls on African governments to preserve our African languages. Beyond being entertaining to read, the book is a manifesto for putting African history and languages in the African classroom.”
Molosi is currently in Kenya as part of his promotional activity in anticipation of the release of Dear Upright African. Speaking from Nairobi Molosi says: “With my new book I am energizing a continent-wide conversation about decolonizing African classrooms. It is a revolution that was begun by Prof. Ngugi’s generation and it will complete in my generation. Young Africans have run out of patience for the colonized curriculum because they are now aware that it creates their unemployment. Botswana, for instance, has one of the most colonized curricula in Africa. That is a crisis. Our children deserve better than to suffer from unemployment that government creates on purpose.”
On Monday February 19, 2019 Molosi travelled to Limuru, a small village just outside Nairobi to meet award-winning writer and thinker Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. There, Molosi was one of the distinguished guests who attended a public lecture by Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o at St. Paul’s University. Following the event, Molosi joined Prof. Ngugi and his family for a private dinner.
“I spoke about my work with Prof. Ngugi concerning decolonization. His message to me was clear: Keep Going! One thing he said that stayed with me was that my fear for our disappearing African languages is valid. He encouraged me to keep this important conversation about decolonization alive. That, for me, was a blessing from him to me as my African elder before the February 28 release of my book.”
In 1977, Prof. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o embarked upon a novel form of theatre in his native Kenya that sought to liberate the theatrical process from what he held to be "the general bourgeois education system", by encouraging spontaneity and audience participation in the performances. His project sought to "demystify" the theatrical process, and to avoid the "process of alienation [that] produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers" which, according to Ngũgĩ, encourages passivity in "ordinary people". Although his landmark play, Ngaahika Ndeenda, co-written with Ngugi wa Mirii, was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening. Ngũgĩ was subsequently imprisoned for over a year. Adopted as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, the artist was released from prison, and fled Kenya. In the United States, he taught at Yale University for some years, and has since also taught at New York University, with a dual professorship in Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and at the University of California, Irvine. Ngũgĩ has frequently been regarded as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. In the book Dear Upright African, Molosi writes in first person and an excerpt of the book online states that, "Upright African, we need a revolution in education to take our history back into our hands, and to perform it through our eyes for humanity and ourselves. Without question, our African histories are under siege by those who would rather we believed that Africa has no history and that colonialism is over."
When it was first presented as a 2017 TED talk, Dear Upright African was presented in 2017 the talk created a lot of conversation. In it, Molosi proposed that African schools should teach African history to which a certain teacher at Maru a Pula School proceeded to attack and insult Molosi online. Although Molosi himself never responded to the attack, many Batswana labelled the attack against Molosi as a racist one as there was nothing wrong with his suggestion. Molosi says of the attack, “The world was watching that racist rant on the internet. People all over the world were disappointed to see how bad the situation in Botswana is. So I am back with this book because I desire change and yes, I am impossible to intimidate.”
The book boasts a glowing foreword by the legendary Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of Nervous Conditions one of the most important writers to ever come out of Africa. In her remarks about Molosi’s work, Dangarembga says that, “Palpably outraged, Molosi reminds us - sharing vivid examples - of how the metaphysical and physical engagement of empire with the African continent formed a carefully orchestrated strategy whose end result was to inflict large numbers of Africans, including African elites, with a chronic, debilitating self-hatred. Drawing form his extensive reading on the subject, Molosi offers practical remedies for the devastating crisis he chronicles.”
In addition, Kenyan literary superstar Binyavanga Wainaina whom TIME Magazine crowned one of the most influential 100 people in the world says of Dear Upright African, “In this manifesto, Donald Molosi shows us what a decolonized Africa would look like. This matter is vital for people in school today. It is this sort of activism that our continent needs now.”