Culture

Dear Chinua: Celebrating An African Storyteller Extraordinaire

Dear Chinua: Celebrating An African Storyteller Extraordinaire

Chinua Achebe, a storyteller extraordinaire who is widely acclaimed as one of the major voices of contemporary African literature. Chike and the River, the first Chinua Achebe book I read, a poignant story about a young boy who moves from the village to live with his uncle and go to school in Onitsha on the banks of the Niger. When he heard exciting tales about life on the other side of town, the dream of crossing the river consumed him. Though he had no money for the ferry fare, this challenge further fuelled his determination which leads to striking a foolish bargain; a risk that nearly costs him is life.

As a child, I loved stories, it was the perfect way to take a break from reality and cuddle myself in the arms of fascinating characters, characters that cracked me up, inspired me and challenged me to dare harder.

Chinua taught me how to read and appreciate the beauty embedded within words while my imagination took a life of its own, rewriting the plot and switching the roles each character played. He invented a new way of telling African stories, though simple yet profound enough to break down societal stereotypes that have plagued us for decades while building up narratives that have ushered new a generation of African voices on the literary landscape.

Chinua helped us to understand the depth of our African cultural heritage and know it is not inferior, reminding us that our language also stood on the same pedestal as the white man’s English. Most importantly, he revived a waning enthusiasm, reawakening a fiery desire to pen down our own stories.

A writer faced with the ills in his society is left with two options, either confront the ills with his pen or look the other way and do nothing…the one who looks the other way will no later begin to write elegantly tired fiction.”

Some themes tirelessly addressed by Achebe in his books are colonialism, westernisation, and politics and every book he has written is like the sequel to the former. Chinua’s debut novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’ is no doubt a masterpiece which has been translated into 50 languages and has sold 10 million copies worldwide. Chinua never shied away from political issues; rather he confronts it head on. This is evident in the way he adeptly examined the effect of Western beliefs on traditional African values and how the later has been expressively eroded and taken over the former.

“Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches!”

Chinua’s stories do not end; it is just where he decides to drop his pen.

While you may be wondering how his art has solved any problem in the society, it is imperative to note that his craft is rather meant to make you aware of the prevalent systemic flaws in some of our sociocultural beliefs and question practices that we have conscientiously upheld till a renaissance is fully birthed in our hearts.

 

Written By: Torinmo Salau

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Torinmo Salau

November 16th, 2017

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