Literary giant Chinua Achebereturns "home"
from U.S., to love and adulation ofcommunity
Prof. Achebe has been a significant and binding source for an engaging understanding of African pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history and realities. I believe that such insight has made him a favorite of African-Americans, and other scholars and regular folks in search of a better, realistic understanding of Africa, at least, from Achebe's utilization of his rich and dynamic Igbo ancestry, in south eastern Nigeria. I share the same ancestry.
The most translated writer of African heritage, Prof. Chinua Achebe, has returned to his historic home in Ogidi, Anambra State, to the joy and adulation of well-wishers.He had been residing in New York as a visiting scholar to some universities in Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and Europe.
The man who is famous for his universally acclaimed ease of writing and story-telling through some of his works like Things Fall Apart (1958); No Longer at Ease (1960), and Arrow of God (1964--rev. 1974), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987), was quick to express his outrage and concern regarding the destruction of the moral fabric and ethics in Nigeria's campuses by cults.
He said that the "alarming rate of cultism in our institutions is only a symptom of the great disease that befell this country following its collapse, and it may continue until the disease is cured." Achebe is advocating for "severe" punishment for what calls "abhorrent" conduct by those who have brought such decay to the colleges."
He returned in August 1999, after nine years' of residing outside Nigeria. He wondered "how the nation's campuses were allowed to be engulfed by such an obsession. He has committed to assisting in the effort to increase school enrollment in Nigeria.
He related the fall in school registrations to "a failure of government not to provide employment for the country's teeming graduates, who roam the streets or subsist on third or fourth grade jobs, whereas those that never went to school but acquired wealth by questionable means are made heroes." Early this year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced his appointment as its Goodwill Ambassador.
Achebe represented UNFPA at the UN General Assembly special session 30, June - 2 July, 1999 to review progress made in the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in 1994. He will, also, take part in "The Day of Six Billion" on October 12, this year, when the world population is expected to be more than six billion.
Achebe graduated from University College, Ibadan, in 1953, worked at the Nigerian Broadcasting Company and left due to the 1967-70 Nigeria-Biafra war to serve in the Biafran Ministry of Information and represented Biafra as a diplomat. In 1990, he was injured in an auto accident which left the award-winning author paralyzed from the waist down. I saw him before the accident in the late 1980s at my alma mater where he was like a scholar-in-residence, the University of Nigeria (Nsukka campus).
After a decade, I had the privilege of speaking with Prof. Achebe, while he resided in the U.S., fairly regularly since 1996 (virtually every 90 days), He always complimented and encouraged our modest efforts at USAfrica, here in Houston.
He was, always, concerned about the direction of his country (Nigeria) and the progress of its people, the entire people who share the African heritage and the community of persons who are interested in reading and writing. He has also been involved with the United Nations in contributing practical solutions to matters of global importance. Certainly, Prof. Achebe has been a significant and binding source for an engaging understanding of African pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history and realities. Such insight has made him a favorite of African-Americans, too, who continue to seek a better, realistic understanding of Africa, at least, from Achebe's utilization of his proud Igbo ancestry, in south eastern Nigeria.
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Achebe turns 70; celebrates with Mandela, Morrison, world's leading arts scholars in New York
Among the intellectual heavyweights, colleagues and friends who attended the November 3-4, 2000 insightful events at Bard College, New York , were Nobel laureates in literature Toni Morrison, and Wole Soyinka. Others are Ali Mazrui, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, K. A. Appiah, Ekwueme Michael Michael Thelwell, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Molefi Kete Asante, Leon Botstein, Joseph Duffey, Emmanuel Obiechina, John Ashbery, Micere Mugo, Niyi Osundare, Nurrudin Farah, Niara Surdakasa, Chinweizu, Don Burness, Douglas Killam, Gill Noble, John Edgar Wideman, and a host of others. Also, several officials and represenatives of governments from Nigeria (Ojo Maduekwe), Ghana, Tanzania and Senegal attended.
Achebe's latest book is titled Home and Exile (2000). A review appeared in USAfrica The Newspaper in August, 2000. He has been a presidential fellow lecturer, World Bank (1998) and holds honorary doctorates from more than 35 colleges and universities including Harvard (1996), University of Nigeria (1981), and Dartmouth (1972).
Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
Chinua Achebe: A Literary Diaspora Toasts One of Its Own. By Somini Sengupta