Art

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Happy ‘village girl’ bestriding global stage

Chimamanda Adichie

BY ORIAKU IJELE

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a writer of many influences. But she was primarily influenced by Chinua Achebe, one of the most respected figures of African literature during her teenage years in the university town of Nsukka.

It is important to add that Things Fall Apart, Achebe’s first novel that depicts pre-colonial Africa, and growing up on the campus of University of Nigeria, where her father was also a professor like Achebe, were also major influences on Adichie’s writing career.

However, in addition to coming fully made, Achebe had at other times, used different terms of endearments to also describe the gifted writer who is now a global literary icon.

But this talented Nigerian novelist is known for many things. Apart from her interest about the past, especially with regard to Nigeria’s Civil War where she shares stories about conflict, pain, loss, identity, happiness and love, Adichie is also concerned about breaking down gender-based barriers that limit the growth and development of women in most African societies.

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Therefore, as an unrepentant reformist-feminist, she abhors any form of social inequality and subjugation, and she uses her literature for these purposes and more.

But Adichie is also concerned about history, good governance, youth development and a future of equal opportunities for everyone irrespective of race, sex and status.

So, regularly, she speaks and addresses world leaders, professional bodies, agencies of government, non-government organizations, institutions and even children on human issues and why the world must change, and immediately too, in this age of knowledge and technology.

And, her interventions and commitment to a better world is already yielding some dividends in spite of the many challenges facing humanity. Today, she is closely associated with what is now well known and accepted in literary circles as “the danger of a single story”.

According to her, “if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding”. And as a conscious writer, Adichie believes that no story deserves to be the only story, that is why she pushes and uses any available opportunity, both in speech and writing, to challenge stereotypes, prejudice and exclusion of any kind.

Adichie, the brilliant and renowned novelist, writes with purpose. So, with every piece of writing, she expresses herself profoundly without encumbrances. And she writes to provide important information and where necessary, persuade readers, especially those sitting on the fence on the need to take a stand.

This thread is unmistakable, and it is evident in nearly all her books irrespective of the genre. For instance, Americanah explores issues around Blackness and the dilemma of the African-American in the New World.

She even provides greater insight in Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions where she argues that sexism is more deadly than racism. On the other hand, Purple Hibiscus deals with issues of religious hypocrisy, love and freedom, all real-life situations that confront every society.

Conversely, Adichie in Half of A Yellow Sun, tells the tragic story of Nigeria’s Civil War from different active perspectives while the Thing Around Your Neck, her short story collection, remains great because of its power and African flavour. Her other books include Zikora, We Should All Be Feminists and Notes on Grief.

This writer of many parts is a top-selling author of books in great demand. In addition, being a celebrated writer also comes with many advantages. Luckily for her, she has not stopped harvesting from the power of her pen and the popularity that follows her everywhere as the awards keep coming.

They include Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, MacArthur Fellowship, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction, National Book Critics Circle Award, Pen Open Book Award, Shorty Award for Literature and other recognitions from institutions and respected global voices like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Beyonce as well as numerous others.

Indeed, this amazing writer from Anambra State is a true Nigerian brand: resourceful, courageous and making impact across the world. Although leaving Nigeria gave Adichie the opportunity to create her own world and succeed, going to the United States also came with a huge culture shock.

“First of all, I wasn’t black until I came to America. I became black in America. Growing up in Nigeria, I didn’t think about race. Nigeria is a country with many problems and many identity divisions but these divisions are mainly religion and ethnicity”, she says.

But in spite of her creativity, popularity and acceptance everywhere, Adichie remains a simple and humble lady. “I am going to be a very happy village girl. It’s home, it has many problems but it’s home. There is a saying I like: your mother is your mother even if one of her legs is broken”, she reveals.

And like some Nigerian writers living abroad, she fully appreciates the fact that Nigeria is broken and needs fixing urgently. “I am an ambassador for myself. I don’t represent Nigeria; there are things about Nigeria I don’t like, but at the same time I am very proud of my Nigerian identity.

I was born and raised in Nigeria, which I didn’t leave until I was 19. I’m proud to be Nigerian, I’m proud to be African, I’m proud to be Igbo. I would not be who I am today if I wasn’t all of those things. So, it’s important to me”.

Outside writing, feminism, women’s rights and gender equality, Adichie holds robust views on colonialism, nationhood and good governance. The works of this award-winning post-colonial writer, believed to be one of the most famous women in the Black world today, has already been translated into nearly 40 languages and the translations are continuing.

She also continues to receive accolades for her work and for what she now represents in the world arena. The Nigerian writer who is now a global literary phenomenon was awarded the W.E.B Du Bois Medal by Harvard on October 6, 2022, four years after speaking at the Harvard College Class Day.

This is a great home-coming for Adichie who was a Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow between 2011 and 2012. “Whether they’ve distinguished themselves in the arts, civic life, education, athletics, activism, or any combination of the above, these medalists show in all that they do, their unyielding commitment to pushing the boundaries of representation and creating opportunities for advancement and participation for people who have been too often shut out from the great promise of our time”, writes a professor of the university and director of the Hutchins Centre.

Adichie will be joined by other fellow recipients of the award like basketball legend and activist, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, award-winning actress, Laveme Cox and Agnes Gund, patron of arts and education. With this award, the Nigerian writer has now joined the exclusive list of past recipients like Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, John Lewis, Queen Latifah, Steven Spielberg, Dave Chappelle and other trailblazers.

For many years now, Adichie has received a number of awards and honours in recognition of her work as a novelist, public speaker and scholar. In 2017, The New York Times T Magazine described her as “one of those rarest of people: a celebrated novelist who has also become a leading public intellectual”.

At different times, she was called “one of the world’s great contemporary writers” and somebody who “has the rare ability to sum up even the biggest societal problems swiftly and incisively by Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, respectively. If literature is the mirror of society, then Adichie and writers like her must keep faith with their chosen career by shaping society and giving young people the power to bring about positive change.

QUOTE:

Indeed, this amazing writer from Anambra State is a true Nigerian brand: resourceful, courageous and making impact across the world. Although leaving Nigeria gave Adichie the opportunity to create her own world and succeed, going to the United States also came with a huge culture shock.

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DailyTimesNGR

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