Remembering Chinua Achebe

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“I believe in the complexity of the human story and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, This is it. Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing; the same person telling the story will tell it differently. I think of that masquerade in Igbo festivals that dances in the public arena. The Igbo people say, If you want to see it well, you must not stand in one place. The masquerade is moving through this big arena. Dancing. If you’re rooted to a spot, you miss a lot of the grace. So you keep moving, and this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told—from many different perspectives.”
― Chinua Achebe

So I woke up this morning, yawning through my insomniac eyes and thanked God for a beautiful day. Little did I know that my Africa was in turmoil. A literary giant baobab had fallen. Chinua Achebe, it was reported and as I have come to know, had gone up to join the ancestors in the grand durbar in Heaven.

In honor of his memory I decided to share some quotes from his books and eulogize the man who pioneered African writing, who stood a lone pale figure and told the white man ‘to go and eat shit’ literally.

I am sharing my facebook statuses as I have them on my page.. Mind you, I am not trying to do an anthology of quotes but it is just that I feel sentimental about Africa losing a literary giant that Achebe is.

1.  As a man comes into this world ..so will he go out of it. When a titled man dies his anklets of title are cut so he will return as he came. The Christians are right when they say that as it was in the beginning so it will be in the end.
– Chinua Achebe, No Longer At Ease

You brought out traditional perspectives as against the imported Christianity like no other showing their similarities and differences
Rest IN Peace
#RememberingAchebe

2. “Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.” 

― Chinua Achebe

You set out to making us discover ourselves as Africans  within the global context. We did not need the white man to tell us who we were.

Rest IN Peace

#RememberingAchebe

3. “When a man says yes his chi says yes also.”
– Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Your Chi blessed us all with a new literary genre and started The Empire Writes Back Movement.
Rest IN Peace
#RememberingAchebe

4. What kind of power was it if everybody knew that it would never be used? Better to say that it was not there, that it was no more than the power in the anus of the proud dog who tried to put out a furnace with his puny fart….”
– Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God

Rest IN Peace
#RememberingAchebe

5. “If I hold her hand she says, ‘Don’t touch!’
If I hold her foot she says ‘Don’t touch!’
But when I hold her waist-beads she pretends not to know.”

― Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

5.  “Only a foolish man can go after a leopard with his bare hands.”
– Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God

But like a fool you went after the white man with only your pen and traditions to prove him wrong about Africa. That Africa was not a Dark Continent but just misunderstood. Thus like the great wrestler of Umuofia you paved the way for other writers to follow in your stead.
Sometimes the fool is wise.
Rest IN Peace
#RememberingAchebe

6. “Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.”
– Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Death has shot you with its icy arrows Prof
Rest IN Peace!
#RememberingAchebe

7.  You cannot plant greatness as you plant yams or maize. Who ever planted an iroko tree—the greatest tree in the forest? You may collect all the iroko seeds in the world, open the soil and put them there. It will be in vain. The great tree chooses where to grow and we find it there, so it is with the greatness in men.
— CHINUA ACHEBE, No Longer at Ease

Achebe was writing Things Fall Apart in reaction to Joyce Cary’s Mr Johnson and Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness which portrayed Africa and put the stamp on Africa as The Dark Continent full of primitive peoples and barbaric acts, a people who did not want to be ‘civilized’.
Achebe’s contention was that if the white man did not understand the African culture there was no need to condemn it and he took a stand against the British colonizers as rather being barbaric in their quest to conquer the world by forcing civilization on Africa through the use of Christianity.
In his works therefore, he takes pains to explain the customs of his Igbo people and through proverbs and rhetoric pointed out the African social systems in all aspects be it political, social norms, religion, taboos, education, you name it.
By this Achebe pioneered a movement where African writers now started to write back using extensively transliteration as can be seen especially in Ama Ata Aidoo’s plays, Ayi Kwei Armah & Kofi Awoonor’s satiric novels and also Attuquaye Okine’s poems. This movement has been known as The Empire Writes Back because it was time to go against what perceptions existed in the world about Africa.
To borrow another proverb from Soyinka, a contemporary (still alive) ‘until the lion learns to talk, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter’. Africa, through Achebe’s pioneering works, had gained a voice and has been talking back since.

8.  “If you don;t like somebody’s story, write your own”

– Chinua Achebe
Achebe did not like both Joyce Cary’s and Joseph Conrad’s stories so he wrote his own. He saved our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. His stories are our escort; without it, we are blind.

9.  “Go back and tel Ezidemili to eat shit. Do you hear me? Tell Ezidemili that Ezeulu says he should go and fill his mouth with shit. As for you, young man, you may go in peace because the world is no longer what it was. if the world had been what it was i would have given you something to remind you always of the day you put your head into the mouth of a leopard.”
– Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God

You put it defiantly to the west that they could shove their perceptions about Africa where the sun don’t shine. This positive defiance was a characteristic trait that our leaders needed in the struggle for independence.
Rest IN Peace
#RememberingAchebe

10.  “They seemed to release his spirit. He no longer felt guilt. He too, had died. Beyond death there are no ideals and no humbug, only reality. The patient idealist says, ‘give me a place to stand and i shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace. the most horrible sight in the world can not put out the eye. The death of a mother is not like a palm tree bearing fruit at the end of its leaf, no matter how much we want to make it so. And that is the only illusion we have.”
– Chinua Achebe, No Longer At Ease

Rest in the bosom of our Lord as we thank Him for blessing you with your talent which you shared with the rest of the world.
Rest IN Peace
#RememberingAchebe

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