CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE: THE QUEEN REDEFINING AFRICAN LITERATURE AND FEMINISM

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE: THE QUEEN OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN LITERATURE

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer, born in 1977 to a middle-class Igbo family in Enugu, Nigeria. Her mother became the first female registrar at the University of Nigeria, while her father was a professor of statistics there.

She is the fifith of six children, and spent most of her growing up and teenage years in Nsukka, Enugu, Nigeria. She would later study Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, where both her parents worked.

In 1996, at the age of 19, Chimamanda decided to drop out of medical school and pursue her literary dreams. She moved to the United States on a scholarship, and studied Communiacations and Political science at Drexel University, Philadelphia, United States.

CHIAMANDA ADICHIE’S BACKGROUND AND LITERARY BEGINNINGS

Whilst still a medical student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, she had written and edited for her departmental publication. However, her first foray into the literary world came at the age of 10 years old after she read Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”.

She described Achebe’s work as having represented aspects of her own life. This is most likely becuase of the experience of her family during the Nigerian Civil War which saw her paternal and maternal grandfathers lose their lives.

She has written three novels, a collection of poems, a short story collection titled “The Thing Around Your Neck”, and a book-length essy titled “We Should All Be Feminists”.

Adichie’s three novels all focus on contemporary Nigerian culture, its political turbulence and at times, how it can intersect with the West. She published Purple Hibiscus in 2003, Half of a Yellow Sun in 2006 and Americanah in 2013.

With every of her novels, Chimamanda aims to give a clearer and more detailed perspective of the African and especially Nigerian society and culture- especially to individuals looking from the outside in.

Half of a Yellow Sun is set during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970) in which the Igbo people – an ethnic group of southern Nigeria – sought to establish an independent republic.

For her plot, Chimamanda Adichie chose three peculiar characters to create her preferred narrative: a young “houseboy”, a woman professor and an English writer who identifies as Biafran.

The novel presents narratives of class, gender, race and overall ‘belonging’ throughout its course. There is also a criticism of Western colonialism and its after-effects all through the story.

Chimamanda, though best understood through her novels and other literary works, has also delved into lectures, which give deeper insights into the messages behind her writing.

In her 2009 lecture, The Danger of a Single Story, she presents a brilliant discussion of race, which is also very much applicable across broader contexts.

Adichie’s 2013 lecture We Should All Be Feminists discusses the damaging paradigms of femininity and masculinity. She says in this lecture:

‘We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man.”

CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE ON FEMINISM

Chimamanda proposes that feminism be something that EVERYONE subscribes to, and not just something that is championed only by a select few.

She posits that Feminism should not be an ‘elite little cult’ but a ‘party full of different feminisms.’ She says further:

It feels a particularly important message to take to heart – we are imperfect, we are attempting to unlearn what we have unconsciously learned and simultaneously discovering new ways of seeing.

‘Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanise. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.’

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.

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