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Petals of Blood. Silencing Voices in Kenya

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Literature plays an important role in preserving and upgrading the African languages, through its various creative forms in poetry, criticism, and novel that developed a stunning development in recent years, as well as the theater in its various forms and short story and the art of the article and other forms that can restore the African language to the place it deserves. Hence, it is common that language is the mirror of society, reflecting the formulas of giving in order to know the logic of verbal suggestion of the phenomenon of understanding. At the same time, it is the instrument by which the individual has the power to defend himself and to communicate his ideas in an understood way as well as to think of linking the meaning of the expression in a coherent manner.

In the light of this, a lot of African tribes would rejoice if an educated person were born and grown in it; because he would be the defender of the culture and identity of the African peoples and the appearance of their places of excellence. This is what the one finds in many modern African novels which contain an important linguistic and historical document by which the writer’s status as guardian of the language and new in its patterns is remarkable.

Therefore, chapter three deals with the discussion and the analysis of the controversial novel Petals of Blood that was written by the East Africa’s most celebrated writer, imprisoned for his outspoken views Ngugi Wa Thiong’O in 1977 who before was known as James Thiong’O Ngugi and when he knew that this name is only a dependency of the colonizer who plundered Africa and pillaged its wealth he changes it into Ngugi Wa Thiong’O a pure African name in addition to that he willingly changed the language of his creative writings from English to a local Kenyan language ‘Gikuyu’ such as Caitaani Mutharaba-ini (1980) i.e., Devil on the Cross, Matigari ma Njiruungi (1986) i.e., Matigari and Mũrogi was Kagogo (2004) i.e., Wizard of the Crow.


The title of Ngugi’s novel Petals of Blood (1977) comes from a poem “The Swamp” by Derek Walcott that was mentioned in the dedication of the novel as follow

Fearful, Original Sinuosities! Each Mangrove Sapling

Serpentlike, Its Roots Obscene

As A Six-Fingered Hand,

Conceals Within Its Clutch The Mossbacked Toad,

Toadstools, The Potent Ginger-Lily,

Petals Of Blood,

The Speckled Vulva Of The Tiger-Orchid;

Outlandish Phalloi

Haunting The Travellers Of Its One Road.

Derek Walcott, from the Swamp

In the beginning Ngugi wanted to title this novel as the “Ballad of a Barmaid”, thus, Barmaid is a reference to one of the most important character in the novel whose name is “Wanja”. Nevertheless no one knows the real reason behind this change, thereon, the term of Petals of Blood appears many times differently during the novel, starting with a child among the pupils of Munira who tries to describe the color of a flower as it is mentioned in the novel;

“He picked flowers and taught them the name of the various parts: the stigma, the pistil, pollen, the petal. He told them a little about fertilization. One child cried out: ‘Look. A flower with petals of blood.’” (P: 21)

Then, it is applied through the story for the purpose of describing flames which have a nexus to virginity and this was shown in Munira’s fantasies about sexual relationships. Despite all of that, there is no explanation for the purpose to not highlight individual “Wanja”, and here many critics argue that the reason may lay on the belief of Ngugi that naming the novel after one individual it goes against Ngugi’s belief that individual qualities shouldn’t over take community action so probably calling it “Ballad of Barmaid” would unnecessary highlight the individual character rather than the collective conscious of the people, the novel Petals of Blood deals with the social and economic situation in Kenya after the independence and it also deals with several issues like history and origin; the novel gives light to an ideal socialist vision that the urgent needs to create a socialist society in which the peasants and workers are no longer exploited by foreign and indigenous capitalists.

The Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s defined as the unti-colonialist aggressive violent revolution at that time. Many believe that the Mau Mau was the reason of freedom in Kenya but many who faught in it do not receive any gratitude from the government the reason that made most Kenyans believe that the real heros of Kenya’s freedom struggle have never received the recognition which they deserve and Ngugi himself was a close witness of the Mau Mau rebellion in his childhood and he always felt that their spirit has been betrayed by the politicians of the Post-independent Kenya.

Thus, Petals of Blood is Ngugi Wa Thiong’O’s fourth and last novel which was written in English language, the novel released by a Kenyan minister in July 1977, who in that occasion spoke in defence of the freedom of speech, the need of free flow of ideas and democratic spirit, but ironically, after five months Ngugi was arrested in prison where he spent one year without being charged.

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