chinua achebe, the brilliant historian, professor & writer of nigerian descent, made transition march 21 at age 82 in boston. achebe was internationally revered for affirming the culture, life & people from the motherland in the spirit of unconditional love. he wrote about the effects of colonialism & its aftermath, as well as political corruption & attempts to introduce democratic reforms.
born in 1930, achebe has often been referred to as the founding father of african literature in english. achebe said that any good story or any good novel should have a message or purpose. his first novel, things fall apart, published in 1958, dealt with the clash between western & traditional african values & how traditional norms had been undermined. translated into over 50 languages, its focus was on the igbo society in south-eastern nigeria, where achebe grew up.
one of the book's characters said, "the white man is very clever. he came quietly & peaceably with his religion. we were amused at his foolishness & allowed him to stay. now he has won our brothers, & our clan can no longer act like one. he has put a knife on the things that held us together & we have fallen apart."
achebe wrote his novels in english & defended the use of english, a "language of colonisers," in african literature. after winning the man booker international prize in 2007, he told the bbc, "what african literature set about to do was to broaden the conception of literature in the world - to include africa - which wasn't there. in the stories we tell, it is intended to help us solve the problem of this failure that has overtaken the early sense of joy & happiness when africans became independent, received their self-determination."
reared in colonial nigeria, achebe excelled in school. according to the afp news agency, he described his parents as early converts to christianity. his father became an anglican religious teacher & traveled the region with his mother to preach & teach. achebe later won a scholarship for undergraduate studies at what is now the university of ibadan & became fascinated with world religions & traditional african cultures.
after graduation, achebe worked for the nigerian broadcasting service & soon moved to the metropolis of lagos, where he met his future wife, christie okoli. they married in 1961 & have four children. he was also an academic. in 1975, his lecture - an image of africa: racism in conrad's heart of darkness - became the focus of controversy for its criticism of joseph conrad as a "bloody racist," & was later published.
nobel peace prize winner & former south african president nelson mandela, who served 27 years in jail, once said in the company of achebe's novels, "prison walls fell down." mandela also said he was the writer who "brought africa to the rest of the world." achebe was a critical thinker; he strongly believed nigeria failed to realize its own potential as a country. this was often a recurring theme in his work.
in 1990, achebe suffered a car accident which left him partially paralyzed & in a wheelchair. he subsequently moved to the u.s. although he chose to only visit his country infrequently, he continued to write his essays, novels & poems, while vociferously challenging the nigerian government in his later years.
he has twice turned down the offer of a title, commander of the order of the federal republic, once in 2004 from nigeria's then president olusegun obasanjo, & again in 2011, from president goodluck johnathan. of his decision in 2004, achebe told the bbc, "what's the good of being a democracy if people are hungry & despondent & the infrastructure is not there. there is no security of life. parts of the country are alienated. religious conflicts spring up now & again. the country is not working."
in September 2009, achebe joined the faculty of brown university as the david & marianna fisher university professor & professor of africana studies. brown university president christina h. paxson said, "the colloquia he organized at brown attracted a grand array of guests & effectively demonstrated how the humanities can build understanding by drawing from & encouraging a variety of perspectives. we were honored to have him among us."
last year, achebe published a long-awaited memoir about the brutal three-year biafran war, when the igbo region tried to split from nigeria in 1967. he served as roving cultural ambassador for biafra at the time, but remained silent about his war experiences for more than 40 years. over a million people died during the conflict - in the book, he accused the un of standing by, like nigerian's government, as biafra was crushed. achebe wrote, "you see, we, the little people of the world, are ever expendable."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.