Harvard To Honour Chimamanda Adichie With W.E.B Du Bois Medal

A photo of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

 

Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is set to be awarded the W.E.B Du Bois Medal by Harvard.

The medal will be presented on the 6th of October, 2022.

The W.E.B Du Bois medal which has not been awarded to anyone since the beginning of the pandemic is the highest honour given by Harvard in the field of African and African American studies.

Harvard made the announcement via their Twitter handle. Fellow recipients of the award include activist and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, award-winning actress Laverne Cox, Patron of Arts and Education Agnes Gund.

Chimamanda is known for her elegant storytelling and her advocacy for gender equality.  She was also a speaker at the Harvard College Class Day in 2018 and was previously a Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow between 2011 and 2012.

A professor of the university and director of the Hutchins centre said in a statement that,

“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 times.”

The medal allows her to join the list of trailblazers like Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Ava Duvernay, Dave Chappelle, Queen Latifah, Nasir “Nas” Jones, John Lewis, Steven Spielberg, athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick, and others who are past recipients of the medal.

Chimamanda has been described by The New York Times T Magazine in its 2017 ‘Greats’ issue, as ‘one of those rarest of people: a celebrated novelist who has also become a leading public intellectual’.

Former president of the U.S, Barack Obama, called her “one of the world’s great contemporary writers;” and Hillary Clinton has written that “she has the rare ability, to sum up even the biggest societal problems swiftly and incisively.”

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her second, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), won the Orange Prize for Fiction the world’s most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman.

She has received 16 honorary PhDs and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Decolonizing Ignorance and Stereotypes: A Review of Burying The Ghosts of Dead Narratives

Soonest_Nathaniel_Burying the Ghosts of Dead Narratives

 

By Paul Liam

The concept of decolonization in African literature is rooted in the attempt by pioneer modern African poets and scholars to decolonize the minds of Africans against the background of the barbaric narratives of European exploiters and colonizers who painted the continent as a jungle of apes and barbarians lacking in civilization.

African poets, therefore, sought to reeducate Africans about their histories, cultures, and traditions as a way of helping them to regain their lost self-esteem and humanity. They did this through poetry, fiction, drama, and criticism. This ideological drive was heralded by the African literary philosophy known as Negritude.

The consumption of the negative narratives on Africa by European and western readers ensued in the establishment of a permanent false image of Africa and Africans in their consciousness and sub-consciousness, as a people without civilization and humanity.

Several years after colonialism, the story hasn’t changed much as Africans are still considered second-class humans by Europeans and Westerners despite the fact that their ancestors claimed to have brought civilization to Africa against the historical evidence of Africa’s rich civilization and epistemology, they have perpetually been unable to unlearn the false histories they were nurtured with.

Several decades and centuries after their offsprings continue to interact with Africa within that narrow prism created by those racist and Eurocentric travelogues and narratives.

Well, we cannot deny the legacies of debasement, exploitation, and continuing imperialism by European and western establishments in Africa.

African poets like Gabriel Okara, Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka, Leopold Sengor,OusmaneSembène,Abioseh Nicol, Kwesi Brew, Frank Parkes, John Pepper Clark, Lenrie Peters, George Awoonor Williams (Kofi Awoonor), Mbella Sonne Dipoko, Michael J.C. Echeruo, and OkogbuliWonodi and several others employed the instrumentality of poetry in conscientising Africans to take pride in their Africanness and liberate themselves from the clog of mental slavery occasioned by colonialism.

Consequently, Soonest Nathaniel has returned to that literary tradition with his collection, Burying the Ghost of Dead Narratives, in an ambitious attempt to decolonize the minds of his readers, but his readers this time around are not Africans or Nigerians, but Europeans and Westerners, many of whose perception of Africa and Africans is shrouded in deep ignorance and stereotypes harvested from a backlog of warp colonial history.

It is paradoxical that this decolonization project is enabled by Britain, through the British Council. Cultural exchange programmes and dialogue are key in the pursuit of intercultural relations and dialogue, especially in a world that has become a ‘global village’.

Soonest Nathaniel’s collection is an exemplifier of the functional use of art and in particular, poetry as an instrument of socio-cultural appropriation and dialogue.

The collection does not hide its intention to educate an external audience about Africa and in many instances, about Nigeria. The exogenous motif of the collection is telling of the underlining ideology behind the poems.

Using a didactic and prosaic style which is synonymous with all literature with an agenda to instruct, he teaches his audience about Africa, sometimes using satire and humor to conceal the gravity of his messages.

Central to the messages in the collection is the notion of the single story that westerners have of Nigeria and Africa in general. In Burying The Ghost of Dead Narratives, we encounter subtle yet lacerating derision of the ignorance of westerners of Nigeria and Africa at different levels in a postmodern world.

Thus, this collection is solid in its objective of debunking the perversion that emanates from stereotypes in a sense akin to what ChimamandaNgoziAdichie regards as the ‘danger of a single story’.

Single stories all over the world are products of limited consciousness enabled by ignorance and sometimes the unwillingness to unlearn prejudices that fuel ignorance and stereotypes.

Understandably, unlearning can be difficult as it humbles and puts the individual in an uncomfortable position of having toadmit either to themselves or to others of their weaknesses. So, how do you teach an unwilling learner about your country and people?

Nathaniel tells us to invoke metaphors whether dead or alive to renegotiate our perception of each other particularly through new narratives that speak to our shared values and humanity.

Soonest Nathaniel is one of Nigeria's leading poets.
Soonest Nathaniel is one of Nigeria’s leading poets.

 

To bury the ghost of dead narratives implies that we should put aside those stereotypical assumptions that hinder us from fostering genuine friendship and intercultural relations between the continent of Europe and Africa.

Dead narratives have divided us for far too long and to create new narratives of trust and mutual respect, we must tell positive stories about ourselves, our country, and our continent.

This supposition is corroborated by many of the poems in the collection. For example, in the poem, “Africa is Not a Country”(p.15) the poetic persona attempts to debunk the stereotypes about Africa when he says in the first stanza that,

Africa is not a country at the edge of old stories

Lingering between exploitation and aid.

Not a slaughterhouse nor a shrine

Where children’s bones are crushed

Into fine powder to be made into potions

In a bid to sate the protein needs of dying fathers.

The poem, aside from debunking the stereotypes about Africa being a country, and AIDS, and diseases and, goes further to illustrate some historical context about the real Africa and its glorious heritage. The fourth stanza of the poem is instructive as it provides deep posers for reflection,

No! she is not poor.

She provides for them all both high and small.

In her barns are roots, tubers, cereals and nuts.

In her banks are diamonds, platinum, gold,

uranium, bauxite, steel, copper

aluminum and coal,

there’s great wealth in the depths of her soul.

There is no favoured approach to understanding

the bondage from which she has risen,

surely, not through coloured-prism

of flattery.

We cannot undo the hours,

but even in the heart of darkness,

her light has found a place to bloom;

let the forbidden conversation find a tribe.

In the poem, “I am the other Nigeria” (10), the persona performs the same duty as in the poem “Africa is Not a Country.” He debunks the stereotypes about Nigeria in a creative way that seeks to appeal to the reader rather than castigate the offenders being addressed in the poem.

He highlights the global feats accomplished by Nigerians indicating that Nigeria and Nigerians are not defined by the stereotypes ascribed to them by the west. The achievements by Nigerians across fields of endeavour is projected as being the real Nigeria.

The poem could be regarded as a patriotic tribute to a country vilified by negative narratives because of the actions of a few citizens in the face of overwhelming evidence of exceptional brilliance and valor.

The first stanza of the poem summarises the functionality and can-do spirit of the Nigerians,

not the one on page 419 of the history book,

but the one in the next chapter where you’re yet to take a look.

The one for who impossibility is forbidden, the fractured frame

still holding immaculate pictures.

The one who knows water can be cruel

and the earth is not always a grave;

the one who understands that local hands can build global brands

and parallel line may meet and agree.

In his collection, Soonest Nathaniel urges us to put aside those stereotypical assumptions that hinder the fostering of new connections for mutual benefits.

 

In the “How to bury the Ghosts of Dead Narratives” (p.29), the persona talks about the need to bury the paste and embrace the new realities staring us in the face. He alludes to the paraphernalia that accompanies physical deaths and burial procession in Nigeria which he opines are not necessary for burying the ghosts of dead narratives.

He instructs on what should be done instead in stanza seven of the poem, he enjoins the mourners not to make light of the trauma in the tales being buried.

There should be poetry and loud music at the wake,

Tell jokes but don’t make light of the trauma

These tales have wreaked.

And in conclusion, in the poem “The New Story”(p.30), the persona in a reflective mood reconciles the past with the present in a bid to find peace and closure, he seeks a new beginning after burying the ghosts of dead narratives. He remarks in the first stanza of the poem thus,

It is not about what your fathers did to us,

nor is it about what our sons did to yours;

it is a chorus chanted

after the rooster regained her voice,

a tale told from the finish line—

where the earth

has annulled her contracts with neglect.

This is a fine collection that speaks to the essential issues of our humanity. We need to talk about them more openly and with the genuine intention to heal and move on. So, let us bury the ghost of dead narratives and weave new narratives of love and humanity.

Nigeria Lacks Heroes To Inspire Young People, Says Chimamanda

A file photo of Chimamanda Adichie.

 

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie says the country does not have “heroes” who will inspire its younger population. 

Adiche made the comment on Monday in her keynote address at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos State.

“We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore,” the award-winning writer said during the event.

According to the author, Nigerians should be open to self-criticism. This, she said, will engender good leadership in the nation.

READ ALSO: Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar Attend NBA Conference In Lagos

“As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults,” Chimamanda noted.

“My experience made me think there’s something dead in us, in our society; a death of self-awareness and ability for self-criticism.

“There’s a need for resurrection. We cannot avoid self-criticism but criticise the government. We cannot hide our own institutional failure while demanding transparency from the government.”


The award-winning writer was one of the several guests at the conference which has the theme ‘Bold Transitions’.

Some of the personalities who graced the event on Monday include the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart Atiku Abubakar.

But the All Progressives Congress (APC) flagbearer Bola Tinubu did not attend. He was instead represented by his running mate Kashim Shettima at the conference which started on August 19 and will end on August 26.

The NBA had earlier said Tinubu and the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso did not confirm their availability for the conference.

Other presidential candidates at the event were that of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) Dumebi Kachikwu and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Prince Adewole Adebayo.

Chimamanda’s Undying Love For Made In Nigeria

Chimamanda Adiche is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories, and nonfiction. The literary giant who has deep affection for her African roots has recently displayed support for Nigerian artists. 

These photos culled from her Instagram handle @chimamanda_adiche shows her stunning at various international events wearing exquisite designs by Nigerian artists.

She recently stunned on the red carpet of Glamour Woman of the Year Awards, New York wearing @the_ladymaker. Also, at 2017 Eudora Welty Lecture Lincoln Theatre, Washington DC she wore @sheisdeluxe, at Harpers Bazaar Women of the Year Awards, London she was spotted wearing @moofadesigns while at Centre de Cultura Contemporània, Barcelona, the prominent African writer dazzled in @adabyalterego.

The fashionable author, who is attracting new generation of readers to African literature, with her ‘Wear Nigerian’ Project is also exposing Made-in-Nigeria fashion to the international stage.

See more photos below…

 

 

Davido, Mafikizolo To Perform At The MAMAs

davido2MTV Base has announced multiple MAMA nominees, Davido and Mafikizolo as the first performers at the MTV Africa Music Awards KwaZulu-Natal supported by Absolut & The City of Durban (MAMA).

Popular Omo Baba Olowo crooner, Davido and South African Afro-pop duo, Mafikizolo are both tied with Uhuru as the most nominated artistes in this year’s MAMA, notching up 4 nominations each, and going directly head-to-head in Song of the Year, Artiste of the Year and Best Collaboration. Additionally, Davido is nominated for Best Male, while Mafikozolo leads the contenders in Best Group.

The 2014 awards are set to feature stunning performances from African and international artistes, including the awards’ signature collaborations between artistes of different genres and cultures – a high point of every show.

Nominees from the length and breadth of sub-Saharan Africa are represented in the nominations for this year’s music categories, including 2Face, Burna Boy, Chidinma, Clarence Peters, Danny K, Davido, Diamond, Don Jazzy, Dr Sid, Efya, Fally Ipupa, Flavour, Fuse ODG, Ice Prince, KCEE, Mafikizolo, Olamide, P Square, Professor, Phyno, R2bees, Sarkodie, Tiwa Savage, Uhuru, Wizkid, Zakes Bantwini among many other local and international acts.

In this year’s newly introduced lifestyle award categories, Chimamanda Adiche, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Trevor Noah, Lupita Nyong’o and Yaya Toure are nominated for Personality of the Year. Clarence Peters, Leti Arts, Rasty and Anisa Mpungwe are nominated in Transform Today by Absolut. The nominees for the MTV Base Leadership award and Best International are still to be revealed.

EN: Critics Sing Praises Of Love And War Movie, “Half Of A Yellow Sun”

half of a yellow sunIf you read Chimamanda Adichie’s award winning novel, Half Of A Yellow Sun, then you are about to get a second dose of awesomeness.

If you haven’t, consider this an exciting second chance as the film adaptation of the book has passed through its first screening, in Lagos, ahead of its much-anticipated April premiere.

Popular movie critic, Shaibu Husseini said “if you had read Chimamanda’s book, you will not expect anything less from this film,” stressing that the movie is “a pointer to the fact that good movies can actually come out from here”.

Another critic, Funsho Arogundade rated the movie ‘A’ in terms of delivery. He mentioned that the Nigerian cast had done justice to their characters, especially Onyeka Onwenu.

On his part, famed movie maker and actor, Kunle Afolayan, commended the overall effort put into re-enacting Nigerian history.

Also, EN is casting its spotlight on African Magic Viewers’ Choice Award winner for best documentary, Stanlee Ohikuare, who bagged a statuette for his documentary entitled ‘Deadwood’. In this interview, Ohikuare tells us the inspiration behind the true-life documentary.