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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 1:34 a.m., Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Author-activist named to Democratic Ideals chair at UH

Advertiser Staff

HONOLULU – Ngu˜gi˜ wa Thiong'o, author of internationally acclaimed books, playwright, essayist and human rights activist, was named a 2008 Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals. Ngu˜gi˜ will be participating in public lectures at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa campus and at UH Hilo from April 28 to May 2, according to a news release.

"Few people are more deserving of being honored for a lifetime's pursuit of democratic ideals than Ngu˜gi˜ wa Thiong'o," said David Stannard, Chair of American Studies at UH Ma¯noa.

Throughout his career, Ngu˜gi˜ has received numerous honors, including endowed university chairs, honorary doctorates, peace prizes and book awards. In the 1960s, he studied at universities in Kenya and England, and returned to become a professor of English at Nairobi University. He established a theater and wrote a series of novels and plays published in Kenya and throughout the world that were critical of colonial rule.

Stung by his criticism, authorities arrested Ngu˜gi˜ in 1977 and sentenced him to maximum-security imprisonment, naming him a threat to "the preservation of public security." Amnesty International and other human rights organizations demanded his freedom as "a prisoner of conscience." The campaign was successful, but during a subsequent trip to England, Ngu˜gi˜ received word that he was targeted for assassination should he return to Kenya. He became an exile from his homeland at the same time that he was being celebrated as one of Africa's most influential authors of the twentieth century.

After years of professorships at Yale University and New York University, Ngu˜gi˜ is presently a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Irvine and Director of the International Center of Writing and Translation.

The Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals is jointly administered by the William S. Richardson School of Law and the Department of American Studies in the College of Arts and Humanities. The chair is a visiting academic position held by a distinguished public figure. The chair-holder offers lectures and seminars for the campus and the community that emphasize democratic processes and the importance of public life.