Achebe Stressed The Role Of Women in African Society

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[Personal Tribute To Achebe]

I recall, some years back, when I had the opportunity to meet and interview Prof. Chinua Achebe at his son's house in Boston.

To digress, I would also meet and fall in love with his baby grandson, Chinua Jr. that day. He was only a few months old and so adorable he was, I thought about kidnapping him but decided against. In some weird twist of events, I ended up being “Coco the Clown” for his 1st and 2nd birthday parties. And when “Coco the Clown” was getting married, little CJ was the little groom in the wedding.

CJ was a pleasant distraction in a room filled with a handful of Nigerian journalists. I was the only woman and by far the youngest amongst primarily older Nigerian alpha-male types--I am sure you have met one before.

Getting a word in with these men was an exercise in futility, and given the cultural nuance with regards to speaking amongst elders and men, I was uncertain of the best way to interject without offending.

The session quickly became a man's conversation and no sooner, I felt that maybe I should not have been part of the gathering. Nonetheless, I was elated to be in the presence of a man that I had long admired and whose books I had read over and over again. As he spoke, he possessed undeniable charm, wisdom and character.

After an hour or so, it appeared that Prof. Achebe noticed that I had been alienated from the discussion. He stopped talking for a moment and quietly turned to me. Out of the blue, he began to discuss the importance of women in the African society. I felt that this topic, seemingly directed at me, was more crafted for the other males whose actions made me appear invisible. His simple action changed the atmosphere in the room and the other men followed his lead and quickly warmed up to me.

He began an extensive dialogue with me about the importance of each individual not only having a story, but the essence of telling that story in written form. He felt that many young people, especially Africans, were losing this art. As he spoke, there was no doubt that he was passionate about what would be; the future that would come after him.

I have always remembered and will continue to remember this day fondly.

Igbo land, Nigeria, Africa and the World will miss a true Legend, who penned such classics as "Things Fall Apart," "No Longer at Ease," "Man of the People," "Hopes And Impediments" --in which he critiqued "The Heart of Darkness" and called the author Joseph Conrad a "thoroughgoing racist"-- and so many more.

To his entire family--My sincere condolences.

 

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