Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alkali: A Synopsis

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alkali

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alkali is a love story about the easy and principled life of a young beautiful woman named Nana Ai, as she discovers love at first sight and the strangeness that often accompanies such a feeling.

The village of Zuma has just been blessed with the news that two of their daughters, Laila and Hajjo have made it into the prestigious Her Majesty’s College at Birni Dala. Even though the two girls are not the first to enjoy this privilege (already a student there is Nana Ai, but now on a holiday), the entire village often takes the pride that one of their own are in the popular school. This is because Her Majesty’s College is the kind of school mostly attended by children born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  

But the girls have got different reasons they are excited about attending the new school. For Hajjo, a sixteen year old girl, who lives with her grandmother, the admission is an escape from a life she believes she does not deserve. She is not only maltreated by the rest of the members of the family but she is also poorly fed and clothed. In her extended family home, she feels like an outcast. For this reason, she so longs for the journey. Laila on the other hand, is a spoilt brat and a forward girl. She is loquacious and uncouth. She is Hajjo’s cousin. She longs for the journey to the new school so she could be free to do as she pleases.

But the two younger girls have already been placed under the care of a more mature and principled Nana. Time for the journey and the girls are accompanied to the bus park by Nana’s father, Baba Sani, who never stops reminding Nana never to relent in exhibiting all the good virtues he has taught him.

But as soon as the old man goes back home, Laila gets into her element. She goes into the nearby bush only to resurface with a painted face and lips, looking like a slut. She believes that is the only way they can get a free ride and gets to their destination on time. A car stops by but Nana will not allow them to take it because the man in the car does not look responsible.  

When they get to the Secretariat the Secretary is not around. They meet the clerk-receptionist instead who is hostile to them. But of course, Laila enjoys the company of two boys, Abubakar and Bello. Bello is a rich boy while Abubakar is from a poor home. They are both students at King’s College. When the girls go back to check the secretary the next day they find out he is the man whose free ride they had rudely turned down the other day. The man is to give them the transport fare and an escort. As a way of punishing the girls, especially Nana for her rudeness, the secretary gives them Mallam Jauro, a seventy years old man as escort.

The journey is a long one and everybody on the bus has started to know one another. The driver is a very careful one, unlike those of other two buses speeding in front of them, Allah Kiyaye and Allah Seriki. When the rain begins, the two buses with the reckless drivers are now stuck in a little ditch, making it impossible for other vehicles including the one the girls are travelling in to pass. So together all the passengers in the three buses are stuck.

Now bound together by fate, all the passengers have to come to terms with how to survive their predicament. As they are in the middle of a forest with no dwelling in sight, they have to make themselves happy. To start with, they need to have something to eat. At first, nobody wants to volunteer to go to the nearby village to get food. However, Bello and Abubakar volunteer, and each passenger contributes the money with him or her and the boys go with the teacher’s bicycle to get them food. When they return everybody eats and has enough and Musa Doggo treats everyone to a nice music and entertains them with his jest. The man becomes a jester and a lively person to disguise his unfortunate situation about which Nana is told by the mother of the twins.

When the road is dry, the lorries are finally moved back on track and the journey resumes. As though what happened earlier was a warning, the two carelessly speeding Lorries are later to be found wrecked in a ghastly motor accident. Almost all the passengers in the two buses are dead, except for the drivers. Some other people sustain a very serious injury. Abubakar is dead but Bello is alive with an injury. The injured ones, including Bello, are taken to the hospital.


The girls are on the train to Birni Dala. While on the train, Nana and the two girls, Hajjo and Laila, sit in front of a sleeping boy who appeared to have sustained some injuries. Because he uses a newspaper to cover his face, none of the girls can recognise him. An army officer aboard the train relates well with the girls and invites them for lunch. The two girls consent except for Nana, who is bent on not collecting anything from a stranger. While the girls are gone with the officer, Nana recognises the sleeping man as Bello. Both get along well and have a hearty conversation, with each unable to conceal his or her affection towards the other, even though none of them mentions it directly. It is very clear now that Nana is in love with Bello but is very shy to express it. Both understand this and decide to communicate only telepathically. When the train arrives Birni Dala, Nana reads the letter sent them by the old man, Mallam Jauro, their escort. It also comes with some money. They are happy to know that at last the man is still alive, despite all he had been through during the long journey.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Themes of Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine

Elechi Amadi's The Concubine

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi is an interesting novel replete with several issues bothering on communal life, love, superstition, death, widowhood and fate. All of these have been well-crafted into the main thrust of the story, which makes the novel one of Africa’s masterpieces ever, both in terms of content and form.

In the novel, The Concubine, Elechi Amadi demonstrates an exceptional bond borne out of communal co-existence. Life in Amokachi and the surrounding villages is filled with deep love and respect for one another. Though the inhabitants of these villages are not related by blood, they care about one another and are there for one another in times of anguish and sorrow. When Emenike dies, Ihuoma is not left alone when the raining season starts. Ekwueme and others feel the sense of responsibility to help her thatch her leaking roof. Houses are built so close to one another that one person can overlook the other in case of trouble or any external invasion. This makes it easy for people to be their brothers’ keeper. In short, one villager’s worry or glory is another’s. It is such near-perfect, beautiful world that characterised the African life before the intrusion of the heartless and mischievous white colonialists. It is what the highly celebrated African literary icon, Chinua Achebe demonstrates in his award-winning and widely translated novel, Things Fall Apart.

Of course, love, being a universal theme, often forms a major concern of most African novels. Little wonder, even Elechi Amadi takes a different view of the subject in the novel, The Concubine. The question that often pops up is, is Elechi Amadi trying to show that love is blind to convention? Truly, parties in love, especially for the first time, are usually blinded by their own inclination so much that they tend to ignore everything else. This is the case with Ekwueme in the story. Despite his awareness of the position of custom and tradition of the land that a betrothal marriage must be sealed, he goes ahead to propose to Ihuoma, the beautiful widow. The question is, what does true love imply? Must two people in love with each other necessarily get married? Does love between two marriageable opposite sexes always end up in sexual intercourse, in the form of boyfriend and girlfriend or in the form of married couple? No doubt, EKwueme’s relationship with Ahurole heads for the rock, not because the young man does not enjoy sexual pleasure with her, but because his heart longs for someone else, which is Ihuoma.

Superstition is another theme in the novel. In the traditional African life, superstition surrounds individuals like plague, especially with regard to their health. For example, small pox is considered extremely ominous. The disease is so dreaded that people dared not call it small pox. Instead, they call it “the good thing” when referring to it. Also, when a person dies of small pox, people are forbidden to mourn him. Even during the person’s illness, people must avoid him like plague. That is not all, even some animals are attached to some superstitious belief. For instance, it is believed that a vulture does not perch on anyone’s roof except that it brings a divine message to the household. And after this, people go to consult the oracle on the import of the message and the befitting sacrifices must follow. With all these scenes of superstition in the novel Amadi seems to be concerned with how much harm people must have brought upon themselves due to ignorance. Due to ignorance in the form of beliefs, lives have been lost, property and resources wasted and bright hope and future dashed.

Also prominent in the novel is the issue of death. Death, the destroyer of desires, is portrayed in different lights in the story. When Emenike dies, because of what many believe to be lock-chest (even though Okachi, Ihuoma's mother believes Madume caused it), everybody saw the need to bury him the proper way. In short, Ihuoma with almost all the people of Omakachi believe that Emenike was highly honoured, due to the expensive and glamorous burial ceremony for which many people came from far and near. In contrast, Madume's death is an eye-sore. Therefore, the tradition dictates that he must neither be mourned nor be given a grand second burial. This is because suicide is considered a taboo. In order to prevent his evil corpse from affecting others, his body will have to be disposed of in the deep forest, like an animal. Also noteworthy in relation to death in the story is the idea that, there is no natural death; that one way or another a man's death must have been caused by either man or a supernatural force. For instance, both Eminike and Madume's death is linked to the Sea-King who so love, and is jealous of, his mysterious wife Ihuoma, he punishes anyone that threatens or loves her with death. Even the fine, admirable character in the story, Ekwueme, is not spared the wrath of the fiery Sea-King.

Closely related to the theme of death is widowhood. Interestingly, this theme is recurrent in many African pieces by prominent authors such as Isidore Okpewho in The Last Duty, Mariama Ba in So Long a Letter, Bayo Adebowale in Lonely Days among others. In all of them, the maltreatment and psychological trauma the widow goes through in the name of custom and tradition is never left out. This practice is so ingrained on many traditional African cultures that one wonders if being a woman in some parts of Africa is a curse. If not, why should there always be widow's rites and not widower's rites? Why on earth must a woman go through pain and suffering because her husband died? Most writers who have so much dwelled on this issue of marriage ask these questions often. To many, marriage is regarded as the eternal union between a man and a woman sealed by an unconditional love. While many people might agree to this definition, others might ask that the last part "...sealed by an unconditional love" be removed. In any case, these questions usually come to mind any time this issue surfaces: What makes a successful marriage? Is it sex or true love? Must the partner be a virgin? What is the problem with marrying a widow? Children or not, do not widows also have the right to love or to sex? Why must couple quarrel in their first few weeks of wedlock? All of these seem to be Elechi Amadi's concern in the novel. Ekwueme’s love affair with Ahurole then Ihuoma is reflect these questions. In short, when we consider Ihuoma's reluctance to accept Ekwueme's advances and the latter's defilement of the tradition of betrothal, we would realise that neither love nor sexual desire precedes a successful marriage. What happens when two people are "forcefully" made to enter into marital union is reflected in Ekwueme's disappointment in himself a few days after marrying his betrothed Ahurole. About this, the narrator observes:
"Ekwueme was annoyed with himself. Before marriage he thought he know all the answers to domestic problems and vowed that when he got married he would never have to call in a third party, not even his parents, to decide anything between him and his wife. He used to despise men who had to beat their wives call in arbitrators to settle disputes every other day. Now that he was one of them, he felt confused." (page 143)
The indisputable fact that all human beings are bound to their fate is also an important issue in The Concubine. The freer we think we are from our fate the closer we get to it. Whether we like it or not, what will be will be. This moral essence seems to be the major thrust of the story. Just as Odewale in Ola Rotimi's classic play, The Gods Are Not to Blame cannot escape from the grip of his fate, despite all efforts made to achieve that, Ekwueme's determination to marry Ihuoma by all means is also to no avail. With this, Elechi Amadi appears to aver that nothing in life is done or undone except that there is a supernatural touch to it.

In conclusion, Elechi Amadi's The Concubine is a unique novel written in such a way that we as readers see ourselves in it. The struggles, pain, love, hate, death and other issues treated therein are indeed a reflection of our humanity. 
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Monday, May 1, 2017

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi: A Plot

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi

A 216-page story of the fantastically intriguing life of Ihuoma as she goes through life in ways too difficult for her to fathom, The Concubine by Elechi Amadi is a deep, detailed and traditionally enriching account of love and uncertainty of life.

The village of Omokachi is the centre of events; it is bordered by Chiolu, Aliji and Emigwe.

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi centres round the 22-year old Ihuoma, a beautiful, gentle and charming woman whose personality is second to none in the entire village of Omokachi and its environ.

Emenike, Ihuoma's husband has just had a scuffle with Madume over a land dispute. Even though Emenike beat the stubborn, egoistic Madume in the fight, he is later to suffer from what is regarded as 'lock-chest'. But after series of divinations and medicines by the highly regarded Anyika, the medicine man, Emenike passes on, leaving his wife, Ihuoma and their four children behind.

Quite naturally, the rumour has spread that Emenike could not have died naturally; that Madume must definitely have killed his enemy with the use of juju. Even, Okachi, Ihuoma's mother is not surprised by this rumour. Consoling her daughter in her compound, she has this conversation with her:

'Kaka, do you think that that fight caused his death?' Ihuoma asked in an undertone.
'What else caused it?'
'I thought it was "lock-chest.'
'But what brought about the lock-chest?'
'He worked too hard in the rain.'
'Was that the first time he had worked under the rain? No, my child, we know what happened to him. Amadioha will kill them one by one.' (page 21)

Now a widow, Ihuoma has metamorphosed into a full woman, in spite of her young age. Even though she has her doubts and fear of the unknown in the guise of nightmares and hallucinations, her doggedness and homely character through the lonely, dreadful period of widowhood has won many people to her side. Everywhere she goes, she is often regarded highly and is envied. But what seems to be so charming about her is her resourcefulness throughout the burial rites. It is such a huge ceremony that many believe will wear her out.

At the end of her mourning period, Ihuoma looks radiant, as before; her beauty is so enchanting, she has become the cynosure of all eyes in the entire village. The raining season approaches and Ihuoma's roofs need some thatching. His well-meaning brother-in-law, Nnadi alongside his friends: Wakiri and Ekwueme come to her aid. But unknown to Nnadi, Ekwe as he is fondly called by many, is interested in the widow. His first attempt at winning Ihuoma over fails; his guts to bear out his mind to her fail him and he goes home dejected. The next day he tells his mother about the nightmare he has had in the night: 'Emenike and others tried to drag me across a stream in a dream.' (page 50)

Even Madume, a man believed to have killed Emenike, is lusting after the beautiful woman. After a failed attempt to make his wife, Wolu, convey his message of love to Ihuoma, he goes arrogantly to tell the woman himself. But his mission is soon aborted and he comes home limping, with a badly injured toe. Anyika, the famous dibia, has barely helped him overcome the injury when again he decides to harass the young Ihuoma at her husband's farm. Threatening to cut down a branch of a banana in reaction to Nnadi's daring him to do so, he is spat into in the eyes by a spitting cobra. Then he transfers his aggression to everyone around him including his household and the elders. Frustrated and miserable, he commits suicide. As a tradition, his body is to be taken far away from the village and thrown into the deep forest. Worse, there will be no mourning, no second burial in his honour.

Madume's death notwithstanding, music, which has been a very potent medicine that heals every wound of worry and tribulations anyone might be dealing with in the village of Omokachi, cannot be stopped. It is a successful Dance Festival as Ekwueme, Mmam, Wakiri, the clown, treat everyone to sonorous and interesting songs to which people, man, and woman, young and old gyrate their body. After all, life is too serious an experience not to have some moment for pleasure. Amidst this fanfare, Ekwueme finally proposes to Ihuoma. But as a wise woman who is deeply rooted in the ways of the people, she declines because he is already betrothed to Ahurole, another girl from her own village, Omigwe.

Upon hearing the love affair between his son and the widow, Wigwe, Ekwe's father, cunningly asks Ihuoma on his son's behalf whether she will marry him. Expectedly, the answer is no. Wigwe along with his wife, Adaku, will not stop there. They must eliminate every obstacle in the way. So, the marriage ceremony that is supposed to take a year is speedily arranged in six months. Finally, the young man is successfully married to Ahurole. However, the marriage is soon short-lived, as Ekwueme cannot put up with his wife's consistent nagging and sulking. This makes him remember Ihuoma a lot. But the last straw that broke the camel's back is when Ahurole catches his husband inside Ihuoma's compound, pretending to be searching for the lost she-goat. This so anger Ahurole that she goes to her mother's and explains what has happened. She advises her to get a love potion from Anyika, if she must tie down her husband’s love to herself alone. But the expert medicine man warns her thus:
'I am sure you have seen active and intelligent men suddenly become passive, stupid and dependent. That is what love potion can do. So go and settle your differences with your husband peacefully. If you insist you must go somewhere else.' (page 159)

The mother is indeed persistent and she goes to Chiolu where she gets the love potion. But the resultant effect is devastating: rather than love Ahurole Ekwe goes berserk, to the extent that the entire village goes in search of him. He is later to be found on top of a tree armed with a cub daring anyone to disturb him. All efforts to make him come down from the tree proved futile until he starts to mumble Ihuoma's name. She is fetched and on seeing him, the troubled young man descends the tree.

Thereafter, Ekwueme will not take any medicine unless Ihuoma is present. In fact, she is the only one he talks to. After his recovery, he convinces his troubled parents of his intention to marry Ihuoma. Fearing that he might resort to his old self, and thinking the move worthwhile a reward for Ihuoma's assistance during their son's troubled moments, they give in.

Meanwhile, Ahurole has fled and has joined her parents. Wagbara, her father has to return the bride price paid on her.

But that is not the end of the trouble with the poor Ekwueme. Though Nnadi, Ihuoma's brother-in-law has consented to the marriage, Ekwueme has one more hurdle to cross: Anyika proposes divination before the bride price is paid.

Most shocking is the dibia's divination. Ekwueme is taken to Anyinka, the best medicine man in Omokachi who divines that the lover boy will be destroyed if he goes ahead to marry the widow. The reason is that Ihuoma is a sea-goddess from birth whom has been married to the proud and jealous Seak-King who kills anyone who marries her. However, if the Sea-King is appeased through powerful sacrifices he could still allow Ekwueme to be Ihuoma's concubine.

But Ekwueme and his parents will not believe this story entirely unless they try another medicine man. So off they go to Aliji, another village far away from Omokachi. There they meet Agwoturumbe, an equally powerful but boastful dibia, who tells them the same story as Anyika has done. However, unlike Anyika, he believes he possesses the powers to disarm the deadly Sea-King from harming Ekwueme. But this will be in the form of sacrifices that will involve himself, Ekwe and Wigwe.

All is set for the sacrifice except one thing -- the multi-coloured lizard. Even this Ekwe has sent for the little boys around to handle. As Agwoturumbe, the hired dibia, is getting set for the sacrifice, Nwonna's barbed arrow which has missed a lizard it was targeted at, hits Ekwueme in the belly as he stands from where he and his wife-to-be, Ihuoma, have been fondling each other, to see how well the preparation is going.

And then: ‘The Spirit of Death was known to take away people's souls shortly after midnight. That was when Ekwueme died.’ (page 216)

This closing of The Concubine by Elechi Amadi is particularly striking. It leaves the reader with thoughts on the irreversible power of destiny.

Did you enjoy this essay? What particularly interests you the most about The Concubine by Elechi Amadi?


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Monday, April 17, 2017

13 Unique Ways to an Exceptionally Successful Life

successful life

Of course we all want to be exceptionally successful, right? Sure. From being financially independent to getting married to the best woman in the world, our success is tied to the things that make us feel fulfilled in life. But the question is, what do you do that will lead you to discovering those things from which you can derive true happiness.   

Below is a list of 13 unique ways to live an exceptionally successful life.

1. Find Yourself
What brings you to life? What makes you glow with pride? What’s your passion? Look inward; know your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and don't let your weaknesses weigh you down. When you do this, you have already set the ball in motion towards living an exceptionally successful life.

2. Set your goals
What’s your ambition in life? Put them into writing. Make a list of daily activities and follow it religiously. Note the things you enjoy doing consistently. Give yourself a plan: within five months, for instance, work hard on your plans and stick to them. When you do so, you’re on your way to living a successful life.

3. Personal growth
You can't be exceptionally successful if you don't develop yourself. Attend seminars and workshops where you will get ideas on how to do things differently.  And by doing so you get to meet successful people who will inspire you.

4. Align yourself with positive and like-minded people
Be with those that understand your dreams and your goals, those that will encourage you to go on. People that will put you back on track when you fail and those you can look up to.

5. Be productive
Try your best to work hard and be productive both at work and at home. Don't use the whole day to watch TV when you have things to do. Be innovative too, try new things and see what works best for you. Being productive entails doing what one knows how to do consistently without fear of failure.

6. Read always
Use at least an hour a day to read books that will develop you personally. But reading alone isn’t enough; learning from it is more important. When you read and imbibe the lessons from what you’ve read, you’re opening up a new world of opportunities for yourself. Read biographies of great men, especially in your own field. It will motivate you and make you live an exceptionally successful life.

7. Partner with people
You don't have to have the money to start that business. You also need the drive. You should be able to convince that person that has the money, write the business proposal, look for the best in the field, partner with them and rise through them. It's one of the unique ways to be exceptionally successful.

8. Take risks
You want to venture into that business but you’re scared to take the plunge? Come on, just do it. How would you know what you’re capable of when you haven’t tried. Make your findings and take the big leap. It's always worth it, and if it doesn't work that way, it doesn't mean you will relent. If you make mistakes, you try to learn from them.

9. Live within your means
Living within your means is the best thing to work towards the success ladder. You can't be earning less and be living large. How do you want to balance it up? Even if one has the money to spend, that doesn't mean you should spend it frivolously. Save for the rainy days, you will be glad you did.

10. Be generous and kind
Generosity takes you a long way. Don't be selfish in your act. Those you are generous to will look up to you. Find time to help people. At some points in our lives, we often realize that it's not all about money. Try help with the household chores if you are a man, help your kids, help people in your neighbourhood; bekind to people. Set up a water stand where you know people will pass to drink, plant a tree, lift people up, pay for someone's school fees, see life in other people's perspectives. The fulfillment in doing it is much better than the ‘thank you’ you'll receive. According to Albert Einstein, ‘only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’

11. Have a good mentor
Have someone you will look up to, someone that can advise you, someone that will put you through life. I realized people that have mentors climb up the ladder of success very fast and are always exceptional.

12. Be honest
Be honest in your dealings. Honesty and success are inseparable. If both you and your partners agreed on something, don't go behind their back to do something else. If you really want to become exceptionally successful, you should try to protect your integrity. Nothing good comes after losing one’s dignity.

13. Take care of you
Taking good care of everything of yours is an indispensable ingredient for becoming successful. Charity begins at home, right? Chasing after success at the expense of your loved ones isn’t a great move. Keep friends and foes close. Without any of these, you won’t know how far nor how well you’ve fared. Your body is key: nourish and exercise it. Feed your mind with positive thoughts always. When you do this, you’re on your way to being successful.


We all want to become successful in life. But often times we think we must engage in tedious activities and surround ourselves with demigods to achieve this. But this is not the case. If we can only follow the unique ways to becoming exceptionally successful above, we would realize how close we are to our goals. 
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Biography of Mariama Bâ

Senegalese author and feminist, Mariama Bâ, was born on the 29th of April 1929. Mariama's early life encompasses the struggle to get educated in an atmosphere where females were denied access to equal opportunities as their male counterparts. It is however ironic that young Mariama was born into a home of highly educated parents in Dakar, where she lived with her family. Her father was a civil servant who later became one of the first ministers of the State – Health Minister, in 1956. Her grandfather at that period interpreted for the French Occupation Regime.
                            
However, Mariama’s privileged upbringing was cut short when her mother died. So she had to be groomed by her maternal grandparents who were steeped in the cultural and traditional way of living. All of these experiences restricted her exposure, little wonder she only spent her early years in French school, combining Quranic studies with the French studies. But through these times, 's father never left her. He became her second teacher. He made sure she was able to read French fluently, and took her on tour while he worked for sometimes in Dahomey, now Benin Republic.

Despite the countering forces of 's maternal grandparents, her father ensured he gave his best to see her presentable and fulfilled through education, the best legacy. Berthe Maubert, Mariama's French teacher, proved helpful too. She taught her the basics, the reading and writing, and was supportive throughout that period.

Throughout her Arabic school, was focused and determined to succeed despite apparent challenges. She excelled as the best student with the highest score in a West African competition, automatically gaining admission into one of the best French training schools – the Ecole Normale de Rufisque.

After her secondary studies, Mariama trained as a teacher. She taught for 12 years (1947 - 1959) before she was transferred to the Regional Inspectorate of teaching as an educational inspector. There her writing muse was born. In her early works, she acknowledged the efforts of her teachers and grandmother; all were great influence to her writing prowess.
  
Une si Longue Lettre, translated, as So Long a Letter, was 's first novel published in 1979. The novella expresses Mariama’s empathy for African women as they go through the unnecessary, overwhelming exercise of traditional superstitions. She depicts the sorrow a widow (Ramatoulaye), faces at the death of her husband (Moudou Fall) which forces her to resign and resume mourning with his younger wife. So Long a Letter, like twilight, became popular and widely accepted especially Africa women. Written in French, the novella was translated into English, Dutch, German, Japanese, Russian, and Swedish within a short time. Abiola Irele described the piece as "the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction." In addition, the work also won the first prize in Noma for African Publishing in 1980.

Mariama Bâ was said to have strongly opposed feminism and supported women's empowerment instead. She wrote and spoke in local and international newspapers about this. Her immense contributions were felt in the nooks and crannies of African continent as issues treated in the novella resonated with an unimaginable number of people, mostly married women.    

Apart from So Long a Letter, Mariama also came up with Political Function of African Literature in 1981. She states firmly in it the strength of a woman in the development of Africa. She believes every woman contributes to the growth and welfare of the nation. Mariama would not have stopped at that, however, a prolonged health condition terminated her progress shortly before her second novel, The Scarlet Song, was published in 1986. At the time, she was mother of nine, married to Obeye Diop, a member of the parliament in Senegal whom she later divorced. So up till her death she was a dogged and focused single parent.

To recognise Mariama Bâ’s immense contributions to Senegalese literature, a school founded in 1977 by Leopold Sedar Senghor, first president of Senegal, was named after her. The school stood as a learning centre for selected Senegalese students who did excellently well in their entry examinations. Students from a11 regions of Senegal had the opportunity to attend the school all their remaining years.

Mariama Bâ, who died on August 17, 1981, was an epitome of courage and steadfastness, not only in her personal life, but also in her strategic contributions to Africa and particularly women's world.
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Biography of Ayi Kwei Armah

Biography of Ayi kwei Armah

Ayi Kwei Armah, one of Africa’s literary icons, a Ghanaian, was born on 28 October, 1939. He was born in the sea port of West Ghana, Sekondi Takoradi, to Fante-speaking royal parents from the Ga nation.You know what, Ayi is much more than a writer. Though he majored as a novelist, he also has written essays, poems, and short stories.

Armah attended Achimota School (1953 - 1958), a reputable learning institution in his time. Ayi Kwei was funded for school abroad through a scholarship he won. His stay in United States lasted four years (1958 - 1964). Within this period, he completed his secondary education in Groton Schools, in Groton, Massachusetts, enjoyed quality education at the world-class Harvard University where he received a degree in Sociology. Ayi later moved to Algeria, where he worked as a translator for a magazine, Revolution Africaine.

He returned to Ghana, where he was engaged in writing and teaching. He wrote scripts for Ghana Television, and taught English at Navarongo Schools. Ayi edited Paris's magazine of the Jeune Antique, after which he studied and obtained M. F. C in Creative Writing. When Armah was in his thirties, he taught through the College of National Education, Chamg'omge and the National University of Lesotho in East Africa. He once lived in Dakar, Senegal and taught at Amherst, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison respectively. This was in the 1980's, when Armah was in his forties.  

Arma's first novel, which threw him into limelight, was published in 1968. Not after many series of publishing short stories and poems in the Ghanaian and Harper's magazine, Atlantic monthly and New African magazine since 1960, did he emerge with The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born – a depiction and structural representation of the Ghanaian life with a nameless character struggling to realize the deeds of post-independence. This work was so much recognised nationally and internationally that it was controversially criticised by literary critics. The great Nigerian renowned novelist, Chinua Achebe commended his skill and literary efficacy, yet observed that there should be no specific home for the nameless character in the novel. In his words, "no name, no home." Armah got angry, and replied with abusive letters in angry tones to Achebe.

His second novel, Fragments, published in 1970 reflects his hatred for bribery and corruption. Ayi Kwei was able to contrast the world of corruption, imbalance and injustice to a life of genuine uprightness, integrity, and equity in the piece. In a style which wraps up the Ghanaian society of that day, the novel's character is a protagonist named Baako, who has lived in the United States and studied there. Upon returning home, he finds the highest level of moral decadence and a life governed by materialism, irreligious lifestyle, and apprehensive attitude towards wealth and fame.

Also in 1972, Armah published Why Are We So Blest? It is an interesting novel with its setting in an American University; its main character is a student of Harvard School, who later drops out. The novel ends in an unhappy note as Modin, the character, struggles to adapt to strange Western values and the reality of independence.

Armah continued with his literary activities and in 1973 came up with another novel titled Two Thousand Seasons, which centres on the cruelty of slave trade in those days. In the novel, Ayi Kwei excellently discusses the matters arising from the perspective of the oppressions from the leaders to the ruled masses, clamouring change.

In 1979, he appeared with yet another work titled The Healers. This book contains a mixture of facts and fictions about the fallen Ashanti Empire. Its title represents the traditionalists and occultists who are bent on procuring solution to fragmentation, because it was seen as a lethal disease in Africa. He published no novel until 1995, when he emerged with Orisis Rising, which narrates the Egyptians' ordeal and a group of reformist working to stabilize the look of things at the ancient Egypt.

Ayi Kwei Armah, a great novelist, essayist, story writer, and poet, was recognised as one whose prowess aligns with the likes of Great African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka.
Most of his works were criticised destructively, for instance, Two Thousand Seasons, was noted for repetition and lack of clarity. However, Wole Soyinka praised its vision, sophistication and humane approach.

All through Armah's writings, he dealt with the plight and struggles of Africa. Mainly concerned with creating a Pan-African organisation, which will embrace diverse cultures and languages of the continent, he once requested the adoption of Kiswahili as a continental language. Obviously, Ayi Kwei Armah is a blessing to the African literary world, which embodies the characteristics of a patriotic citizen of no mean city, touching issues that affect all and sundry.


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Friday, February 3, 2017

Biography of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, a renowned writer from Kenya, whose literary pen speaks eloquently in both English and Gikuyu, was born on 5th of January 1938. Originally named James Thiong’o Ngugi, the prolific writer has penned down a great deal of plays, novels, short stories and essays - not only in the familiar English but also in Gikuyu his mother tongue.

Ngũgĩ was born in Kamiriithu, close to district of Kiambu in Kenya. The war of Mau Mau, which lasted ten years (1952 - 1962), affected him largely. Right from time, Ngugi was a fierce fighter against economic and social injustice, an attribute that he has demonstrated many times both in his country and in most of his writings.

Mnwagi, Thiongo's half-brother was member of the Land And Freedom Army in Kenya fighting the land war - a recurrent issue in most of Ngũgĩ's novels. Also, his mother was tortured during war time at Kamiriithu home guard post. With this, growing was not fun for the Young Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong'o. However, none of these would wear out Ngugi's love for writing. He started to write at an early age. His first play The Black Hermit produced in Kampala in 1962; he wrote it while a student.

As a critic, Ngũgĩ once wrote a controversial piece titled I Will Marry When I Want, which led to his arrest by the Kenyan President, Daniel Arap Moi in December 31, 1977.

Even in prison, Ngũgĩ's intense love for writing prompted him to write on toilet tissues, his first novel Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ in Gikiyu. This work was later published in English as Devil on the Cross. He was released in December 1978 after a strong international campaign against his arrest.

But his voice as a writer cum activist, renowned lecturer in colleges and universities was sored. He was barred to perform for the country under Moi's dictatorship. Thiong'o's life in Kenya during this trying period made him launch his novel Devil On The Cross in Britain. As if that's not enough, when the renowned African literary genius returned to Kenya, Moi's men were reportedly said to be after his head.

As a result, he remained in exile for 7 years (1982 - 1989) first in Britain, later in the U.S. He resided in America for 12 years (1989 - 2002). Still, Moi tracked him, traced him and schemed for his deport from London and other countries he visited.

In 1986, an effort to get him assassinated was foiled by the securities at the conference in Harere. Nonetheless, not all of these were enough to distract the indefatigable Kenyan novelist from continuing to engage I what he loves - writing. In short, he worked harder in exile. His novel Matigiri in Gikuyi was published in 1986 after he was saved from the claws of assassins.

Moi ordered his arrest a second time. He thought the novel's main character was non-fiction, which personalized a political feature. When Moi later realized this was true, he then banned the novel, not to be sold anywhere in Kenya. Moi went to the extent of removing all Ngũgĩ's books from educational institutions in the country.

He worked with the London Based Committee for 14 years (1982 - 1996). There he pursued the release of political prisoners in Kenya. He was determined to work tirelessly to put an end to constrained rulership in the country, for he longed to see a country in which freedom, human right and fairness will be established. Also, Ngugi shuffled between universities and colleges where he worked as professor and writer on visit. He first worked at Bayreuth University (1984), Borough of Islington, London (1985).

In 2006, Ngũgĩ published yet another novel titled Wizard of the Crow, an English translated version of Murogi wa Kagogo which instantly like many of his works became a hit.


Ngũgĩ is a gem as far as great work of literature is concerned, most especially one that documents the African heritage in its truest and most graphic form. 
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Friday, January 20, 2017

BIOGRAPHY – Chinua Achebe

Biography Chinua Achebe

Born Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe on 16th November, 1930 in Ogidi town (now Anambra), east of Nigeria to the family of Isaiah Okafo and Janet Ilogbunam, Chinua Achebe, as he is often called, is a renowned Nigerian novelist. He is also an educationist, author, and poet.

The fifth of six children, Achebe’s childhood was traditional. His parents were Christian converts of the British representatives' Church Mission Society (CMS). Prior to this, they were deeply accustomed to the Igbo custom and tradition. But young Achebe was groomed in the Christian way, though he became interested in his ancestral ways of life.
  
He had his first education at St Philips Central School in 1936. Just six years of age, he was recognized as an intelligent and a skilled reader. Little wonder that in 1944 he sat for entrance exams and was admitted to the reputable Government College in Onitsha.
With the plan to dispose traditional languages, English was enforced in the British Public Schools. In standard school (now secondary), he was promoted for his brilliant performance in his studies. Because he was studious, he became one of the six outstanding students in class. As a result, he completed his standard education in 4 years instead of 5.

This was when he started to develop interest in ‘African’ and American literature. From Booker T Washington's book, Up From Slavery (1901) – an autobiography of the former African slave, a book which proffered solution to how the blacks can be freed from slavery, Achebe realised some realities about life. He also read notable novels such as Gulliver's Travel, David Copperfield, Treasured Island coupled with colonial tales from these books – H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain (1887) and John Buchan's Prester John (1910). From these studies, he detected high level of reasoning and heroic qualities among the whites. As a result, he detested the degree of misunderstanding and attitude of the blacks, most especially, their crafty nature. Due to his excellent performance in his examonations, Achebe bagged a scholarship to study medicine in the first Nigeria University College, now University of Ibadan in 1994.

However, he changed his mind after he read a literature from the European, Joyce Cary, Mr Johnson, which presents Nigeria's culture with contempt and disrespect.

Moved by this unacceptable portrayal of his motherland, he crossed from medicine to studying English, theology and history, forfeited his scholarship to pay tuition for his new course and settled to commence what he really found delight in.

He started writing while in the University. His first work, which gained publicity was an article titled ‘Polar Undergraduate’ published in the University Herald in 1950. In this article Achebe portrayed with humor and irony the praise of his classmates' inventiveness and mental power. Since then, Achebe has not stopped writing.

Subsequently, he wrote letters and essays as regards academic issues like freedom and educational systems. He also served as editor of the University Herald publications from 1951 - 1952. Also, he wrote his first short story, ‘In a Village Church’, it narrated how the rural Nigeria contended with the new development of Christianity and new faith. He wrote some more, among which were ‘The Old Order in Conflict with the New’, and ‘Dead Men's Path’. These two detailed the struggles of modern traditions and how they affect cultural values.

After his studies at the University in 1953, he graduated with second class degree.
Confused of what to engage in, he returned to Ogidi his home town. There, he was convinced by a friend of his who came on a visit to enroll in teaching profession at Merchants of Lights School, Oba. He agreed, taught for four months before an opportunity to work at the NBS (Nigeria Broadcasting Service) arose in 1954. He wrote scripts for oral broadcast and this aided him to master the skill to write dialogues and conversational tones excellently.

He began work on his first novel during this time. He matched his experiences and vowed to present realistic cultural views, which has long been misinterpreted. He went as far as London to ensure the book was properly revised and edited.

In 1956, he was selected at the Staff school run by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He left Nigeria for England to develop his technical expertise on productions, and he was privileged to check progress on his work too. Finally, his Things Fall Apart was published.

In the award-winning novel, instruments of colonial rule and the struggle of a strict title-holder by the character, Okonkwo, to succumb to the new system brought to the clan in his absence clearly shows Chinua's competence in storytelling and traditional knowledge.

Things Fall Apart skyrocketed Chinua Achebe's writing career as the novel was well received in 
several countries of the world. It was also translated to various languages, which enhanced its publicity. Other novels which followed were No Longer at Ease (1960), The arrow of God (1964), The Man Of The People (1966).

In 1962, Chinua was promoted at the NBS, and he helped to boost the Voice of Nigeria network. The station had its first broadcast on New Year's Eve of 1962. In 1967, Achebe founded a Press company at Enugu, together with the renowned poet, Christopher Okigbo, who died in the Biafra war, which Chinua also supports. A few years later, Chinua published various children's book and short stories, which includes Chike and the River and How the Leopard Got his Claws (1973). He also collected poetry such as Beware, Soul Brother (1971) and Christmas in Biafra (1973). In addition, in 1975, he wrote an essay collection titled Morning Yet On Creation Day, and then he returned to the University of Nigeria in 1976 to continue his service. Later in 1982, the prolific writer retired.

In the 1980's, Chinua was busy attending conferences and meetings, giving speeches.
In 1987, Chinua Achebe released another thrilling novel, Anthills of the Savannah, a fictitious novel which tells the tale of a military coup in Africa. Following this was Hopes and Impediments, published in 1988.

1990 opens with a tragic incident of car accident, which nearly affected Chinua's progress as he was confined to a wheel chair all his remaining years of his life. Yet, he didn't relent, he moved to the United States, waxed stronger and became the Professor of languages and literature at Bard College, New York. He didn't stop to write. Despite his physical challenges this period, Achebe wrote another essay collection titled Home and Exile in 2000.

In 2009, he worked as a professor in Africanna Studies at Brown University as well as David and Marina Fisher University. Same year, he published a short piece with the title – “The Education of a British Protected Child.”  

Chinua Achebe's writing career won him several awards such as the Commonwealth Poetry Price (1982), Foreign Honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2002), Nigerian National Order of Merit, Peace Price of the German Book Trade (2002), Man Booker International Prize (2007), Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2010), to mention only the most prominent. He also received over thirty Honorary Awards from universities around the world.

China Achebe died on March 21, 2013 after a brief undisclosed illness. But before this time, the great Achebe – an iconic writer the literary world will forever miss – published one of his most controversial book, a memoir titled There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra. Months after months, rolling into a year the book was published, it generated fierce arguments among Nigerians home and abroad.

Indeed Chinua Achebe was more than a novelist; perhaps he was the conscience of our beloved country Nigeria – a great example of steadfastness in what one thought to be the truth.




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