To many of those with an interest in Africa and the tragic consequences of the colonization of that continent by Europeans, the work of Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who would have been 90 years old today, has been a revelation.
In my own case, I was not exposed to, nor did I seek out, the works of African writers for their perspectives of that history until I began a university education in the mid 1980s. Nearly four decades later I was delighted to discover that his classic novel, Things Fall Apart, was assigned reading to many young Americans by junior high school. Having always held an abiding curiosity about the opinions of the conquered regarding their plight, I found Achebe’s novel terribly sad, beautifully composed, and inspirational. Achebe was among the first literary greats from whom I learned that history as most of us know it has largely been written by the conquerors. When the conquerors claim to have benevolently given their new subjects things like salvation via a Christian God, happiness, freedom and prosperity, I learned it was always best to ask their victims for their opinion, since an accurate depiction of history as it really happened was my goal.
It remains difficult to overstate Chinua Achebe’s influence on his native Nigeria and Africa at large for that matter. For more insight on that front, read Oseloka Henry Obaze’s presentation to the Fifth Chinua Achebe Literary Festival occurring November 15 and 16, 2020, If the Dead Could Speak, What Would Achebe Say of Present Day Nigeria?
The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.
– from When Things Fall Apart