By Uduma Kalu
Lagos—United States President, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle have described the late Nigerian novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe as a “Revolutionary author, educator, and cultural ambassador.”
In a letter made available to Vanguard but addressed to the Achebe family and read by a White House representative, at the Celebration of Life event for Chinua Achebe, last Sunday night, at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium, Washington, DC 20240, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama said Achebe was a “Revolutionary author, educator, and cultural ambassador.
“Achebe shattered the conventions of literature and shaped the collective identity of Nigerians throughout the world. With a dream of taking on misperceptions of his homeland, he gave voice to perspectives that cultivated understanding and drew our world closer together. His legacy will endure in the hearts of all whose lives he touched with the everlasting power of his art.”
The event which also featured an arts exhibition and reception kicked off at 6 pm. Other highlights of the event included tributes from public and private friends and dignitaries, cultural dance troupes, music, masquerades and tributes.
The Francesca Harper project provided a thrilling ballet and the former Nigerian based US citizen, Chuck Mike theatre group enthralled the crowd with a theatrical production of a scene from Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
Professor Mike reportedly had the audience laughing with his rendition of his experiences in Nigeria and the idiosyncratic tendency of Nigerians to respond with the phrase “we thank God” when asked a variety of questions in various scenarios.
The Afrobeat band Eme and Heteru thrilled the crowd with electrifying music. Speakers included the host, Johnnetta Cole, President emeritus of Spelman and Bennet Colleges and now director of the Smithonian museum of African Art; Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University, Poet Sonia Sanchez, Micere Mugo and Simon Gikandi, Scott Moyers, president of Penguin, and Jules Chametzky, professor emeriti of Umass Amherst, where Achebe spent time in the 1970s and 80s.