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Worlds Apart. Worldbuilding in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s The Perfect Nine:The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi

Luna's fifth Call for Papers, Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction is now in pre-order and will be released on Tuesday 27th of July. Here is a chance to discover the 14 brilliant papers you will find in the book in the order they appear.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Eugen Bacon, presenting the paper: "Worldbuilding in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi"

Eugen said:

There’s a rawness that is a haunting in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s text. Born to the Gĩkũyũ people in Limuru, Kenya, during the days of colonialism, wa Thiong’o has an intimate comprehension of atrocities—mass incarceration, relocation and massacre—by white settlers during British occupation of East Africa. Later his friends and peers would fall into politics, but wa Thiong’o skyrocketed towards culture and the literary. I grew up in East Africa and read wa Thiong’o's literature as curriculum. I was particularly moved by his novel The River Between published in 1965. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was always a voracious reader who took to the high seas hunting for treasure with Jim Hawkins, who begged and hungered with Oliver Twist in the streets of London. He is now an unstoppable writer—the first East African novelist, with Weep Not, Child (1964)— who spotlights art, literature, theatre as the promise of a new Africa. I had just finished reading The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi when I saw the Academia Lunare call for papers on worldbuilding. Is it surprising that I'd write an essay titled: “World building in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi”?


“Life has and has not a beginning. Life has and has not an end. The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning.”

(wa Thiong’o, 2020, p.189)

Creating imaginary worlds is essential in all forms of speculative fiction, whether the work is a novel or a short story. It is an investment that compounds the credibility of the work to the reader. Richly invented worlds, made-up languages, visionary topography and ingenious perspective teleport the reader to infinite possibilities inside the fictional realms of the author’s inventiveness. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi is an epic story on the founding of the nine clans of the Gĩkũyũ people of Kenya, told from a feminist perspective. This essay explores the worldbuilding, as it applies through creation mythology, culture, nature and the otherwordly, in a verse narrative that blends folklore, mythology, adventure and allegory. The author frames a large-scale metaphoric world that’s also accessible to the reader, in this lush chronicle on the genesis of Gĩkũyũ clans through valour, family, nature and nurture. The success of his creation validates Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o as a leading literary African author and scholar, a recipient of twelve honorary doctorates, and a nominee for the Man Booker International Prize.

Dr Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo (Meerkat Press), Road to Woop Woop & Other Stories (Meerkat Press), Ivory’s Story (NewCon Press) and Writing Speculative Fiction (Red Globe Press, Macmillan). Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the BSFA Awards, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Eugen is a recipient of the Katharine Susannah Prichard (KSP) Emerging Writer-in-Residence 2020. Her newest collection Danged Black Thing is out with Transit Lounge Publishing in November 2021.

Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction

is now in pre-order!


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