Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Achebe: The African Perspective in the Global Conversation




Achebe: The African Perspective in the Global Conversation

(Short Statement by The Committee For Relevant Art, CORA, on the event of the passing of Professor Chinua Achebe)

The Committee For Relevant Art (CORA) commiserates with the family of Professor Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian arts community as well as the entire nation on the occasion of the death of the man deservedly referred to as ‘the father of the African Novel’ and founder of the Association Of Nigerian Authors (ANA).


Everything about Achebe’s career was geared towards contributing the African perspective to the global conversation on humanity’s ways of being. First, his Things Fall Apart (TFA), published in 1958, when he was 28, was the first novel to engage with European colonialism from an African perspective. The story spoke to an international audience.

As he worked on his second novel, Achebe took some time to bringing, into the literary pantheon, a vast number of other young, talented African writers through the African Writers Series, which he edited for Heinemann of London. He was always about us doing things in our own way.

Achebe led the way in the campaign for robust, world class, indigenous publishing. With the phenomenal success of TFA which gave him enormous influence over the British owned Heinemann’s Africa Writers Series, and three other successful novels, Achebe could, by 1971, demand that his books would henceforth be published, first by a Nigerian publisher, from whom a reprint could be requested by any British or American publisher. Granted, a tradition of request for rights to books from Nigerian publishers, by overseas publishing houses, had been established much earlier – the throbbing literary scene in Ibadan in the 1960s provided the impetus for foreign publishers to have a look in and buy rights to works of the emerging writers of that period, from the Mbari Club (which doubled as a society and a publisher) – but Achebe returned from the Civil war certain that homegrown Nigerian publishing ‘will make its way in the world’.

It is that same lifelong pursuit of ‘our own thing for us’, that propelled his invitation of Nigerian writers to Nsukka, in 1983, to reconvene the body of writers now known as ANA.

The almost unanimous expression of grief by the entire nation at Achebe’s death, coming so soon after the frenetic debates over certain facts and opinions contained in his last book, the memoir There Was A Country, shows that, while opinions might be divided on the literary icon’s recollection of Nigerian history, his place in the pantheon of our men of ideas and ideals remain undiminished in the estimation of an appreciative people.

The Committee understands the grief that the family, the community of artists and the entire nation are going through. We share the feeling of loss and mourn the passing away of this true icon of the contemporary arts of Nigeria. We know that he is resting in peace.


For: Committee for Relevant Art


Toyin Akinosho
Secretary General

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