Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Concubine Factor

Reading Elechi Amadi's classic novel 'The Concubine', has reminded me about why I grew in love with Literature in the first place.

Its been such a long time since I was drawn into a novel; into the lives of the characters within, rooting for them and carrying their experiences with me into my own reality.

At some point, I actually began to believe there might be something terribly wrong with me, because I just wasn't enjoying any books!!

Every book which has been raved about recently, I went and bought, but was unable to go beyond the first 5 pages, as the Writer's failed to engage me in those all important moments.

I'm a very impatient Consumer of Literature. I'm that person who would walk out of the Cinema in 10mins, if my attention has not been gripped by then.

I even assume that consumers of my work are as impatient as I am, so I bust my ass in every piece to hold your attention from the very first line and keep it till the end.

But reading 'The Concubine' re-awakened my love for great material. The characters were so alive; their experience so rich, yet simple and relatable.

I could see myself in their thoughts, their struggles; and could mirror my own desires, in their motivations.

Ihuoma: a woman of great moral courage.

I finished the book like two weeks ago, but I still think about her. A timeless and universal Heroine; a globally relevant character, even though her entire experience remained within the back civilisation of an ancient Eastern Nigerian village.

At different points in the story, I put the book down, and challenged some of Elechi Amadi's theories, his perspectives and even the traditions practised and highly esteemed by his characters and their society.

I googled him, to try and get an understanding of his values, so that I could project how he would end the story.

I asked myself, "Is he a Romantic, a Realist or a core Traditionalist?"

After a while, I decided to stop being obsessive and just like every other sane person, wait to see what will happen at the end.

'The Concubine' re-affirmed my belief that some of the greatest stories ever told, have come from the African Writers Series.

Can you ever forget that proud chauvinistic, Man's man called Okonkwo?!

I still cringe at some of his unapologetic actions, but doff my head in admiration at his unwavering stand against the obliteration of his culture, in the face of the greatest challenges.

Literature is all about the communication of stories.

Great stories contain timeless characters, with journeys that transform even the lives of those who are told the stories.

Our classic African Writers told us stories just as they saw them. They did not try to conform to any foreign standards, or bow to the pressure to be a bit more 'Western'.

They documented our Culture shifts, celebrated our African-ness and connected us in the simplicity of our shared heritage and values.

To the Elechi Amadi's, Chinua Achebe's, Ama Ata Aidoo's, Wole Soyinka's and all those rare set of African Literature Giants, known and unknown, who embraced no compromise in their sacred responsibility as Custodians of our Culture, my STANDING OVATION is for you.

WE ARE AFRICANS....Awuuuuuuuuu!!!!!


  1. God bless you Tari. I love love love African (well maybe I should say Nigerian) literature. I've read a couple of books from the Wole Soyinkas and Chinua Achebes but I DEVOUR books from the new school- Chimamanda, Segun Afolabi, Helon Habila, Sefi Atta... I think about the books for days after reading them. I see u putting out something great soon :)I'll remind you when u do :)

  2. ...reminds me of my thoughts and renewed obsessions with Biafra, everything Nigerian, and our collective history after reading Chimamanda Adichie's 'Half of a Yellow Sun'. Reading is hard work & exciting!