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Buchi Emecheta: Encomiums for a literary Amazon

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By Prisca Sam-Duru

Ever since the news about the passing of literary  Amazon, Florence Onyebuchi (Buchi) Emecheta late January broke,  it’s been accolades from literary communities both within and outside the shores of the country.

In addition to activities organised in her honour, the Committee For Relevant Arts, CORA, penultimate weekend, held An Afternoon of Tributes for the late pioneer of African literature.

The afternoon of tributes which featured readings and discussions around the works of Buchi Emecheta  took place at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Featuring three panel of speakers; Sefi Atta, Chika Unigwe and Molara Wood, the event attracted a good number of writers and Emecheta’s fans both those resident in the country as well as those based abroad. They unanimously praised her writing prowess and tenacity which have helped in changing the perception of writing as a career.

She was accorded more than enough encomium but the general regret was that she was supposed to have been celebrated while alive.

Delta State-born Buchi Emecheta was a pioneering female Nigerian novelist who had lived in the UK since 1960. She died late January 2017 at 72. “With Second Class Citizen, published in 1976, this trailblazing writer broached a subject that would later be generally described as “Diaspora literature.”

Aside tributes which dominated the entire event, the afternoon also saw issues regarding poor distribution of, or rather, unavailability of books by African writers for people to read, taking centre stage at some point. The avoidable scarcity, a major fault of publishing houses, was generally described as the bane of development of literature in Africa.

Speakers also harped on the importance of celebrating Nigerian writers and cultural icons before they pass on. “These writers need to be documented, while African stories are to be treasured. Emecheta was a pioneer of African literature and she changed the game. She is therefore a treasure.”

As part of efforts to immortalise the iconic writer, guests at the event agreed to establish a foundation in her honour.Sylvester Onwordi, son of the late Novelist, disclosed that copies of Emecheta’s books are being printed ahead of their relaunch later in the year.

Prof was incredibly resourceful and had enormous strength– Sefi Atta

Author of  Everything Good Will Come, Sefi Atta, read one of Emecheta’s best selling works titled Head Above Waters. She described the iconic female writer as a “Mother and child’s rights activist who was incredibly resourceful. She had enormous strength, quite stubborn when it was necessary. Reading Buchi is like listening to an aunt, a busy aunt actually. Her work is done and will continue to resonate in African literature.”

Prof changed my attitude towards making money through Literature– Chika Unigwe

Belgium-based Nigerian novelist and 2012 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Chika Unigwe, described Emecheta as a guiding light in her writing career. “Prof changed my attitude towards my career as a writer especially as regards making money through writing.”

Unigwe read from another of Emecheta’s book titled 2nd Class Citizen. She hinted that the book illustrates the author’s tenacity and doggedness.

Emecheta was unfairly derided –Molara Wood

Writer and Critic, Molara Wood, who read excerpts from Emecheta’s Joys of Motherhood, said Emecheta was not accorded the right place in African canon. “She represents what pioneer female writers went through before this generation of writers. Hers were not stories of victimisation but testimony of the African literature canon. She was unfairly derided. Its time we accorded these women their rightful place. The contribution of female writers to African literature should be publicised.”

Wood noted that Joys of Motherhood was a response to the ending of Efuru by Flora Nwapa.


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