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Chinua Achebe: 1930 – 2013

THE death of Africa’s foremost writer, critic and cultural pathologist, Chinualumogu Albert Achebe is a great loss to a world where the wisdom of sacred spoken and written words is observed with high reverence.

A way to measure the loss could be the quantum of tributes that have continued to pour in from writers, Presidents across the world, the Senate of State of New York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the National Assembly.

They eulogised Achebe as a penetrating writer with acute imagination, as a global citizen with outstanding concerns for the world’s problems. Achebe, like Okonkwo, the hero of his famous novel,

achebe1Things Fall Apart, at a young age, established his fame with his landscaping, Things Fall Apart, an imaginative narrative, which he wrote at 28. He was admitted to the University of Ibadan to read medicine, but after a year, he opted for English and found his passion in elevating Africa through the African story.

 The iconic novel told the African story with African perspectives.

 By telling the African tale in an English manner, Achebe employed the English language in a way that made it carry the beauty, colour and tradition of African spoken art and weight of experience. His significance as writer  further lent credence with the import which he brought through his peculiar way of writing to the ethnographic and ethno poetical aesthetics of African literature, history and tradition.

Besides creative writing which established Achebe’s fame in the world of letters, he was also an important critic and essayist. One of his most important works was “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” published in Massachusetts Review. 18. 1977. It was a response to the stereotypical images bandied about Africa by colonial writers and administrators about the continent as a place of perpetual darkness and underdevelopment.

His political views were built into his artistic visions, which were credibly and beautifully conveyed by his arresting fictional characters. Achebe rejected national honours twice to demonstrate his disapproval of how Nigeria was being managed. He loved Nigeria with great concern.

The publication, last year, of the controversial, There Was A Country, an autobiographical narrative that engaged Nigeria’s history from the colonial times through the different civilian and military regimes down to the civil war was his parting shot.

Achebe was a great mentor. He was the founder of Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, the popular Okike Journal of Creative Writing at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was first Editor of African Writers Series of Heinemann Publishers, he helped nurture and published many renowned African writers including Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya, Ayi Kwei Armah of Ghana, Okot p’Bitek of Uganda and Mongo Beti of Cameroon.

Achebe died abroad, an unhappy man at 82. In the Igbo tradition, he should have lived among his people to uphold the ofo, staff of authority of his family. He did not recover from the scars of the civil war. He bore till death, the scars from a car accident that made him wheel-chair bound. He would be interred in his native town Ogidi today.

He would be remembered for his candour, humanism, insight, intellect, traditionalism and as a great family man whose humility translated to respect for humanity.

 


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