Saturday, March 23, 2013

Eight Decades and Two Years.

"If you take a long enough view, you will see that society is in fact adjusting-because life must go on, no matter what we say, no matter how many people suffer or how many people are killed, life does go on."
-Chinua Achebe, 1972, in an interview by Robert Serumaga.

Chinua Achebe once said about Queen Victoria "we have one thing in common with her- we both lost our Albert's."

If you are reading this, then you know that Chinua passed on- you can read all about it here, but I don't want to talk about his life and works. I don't want to sit here and type something that is structured because I am not structured at the moment. I haven't been ever since a friend tweeted me yesterday at 1:37 pm @totokwar : @herhar he's dead hunny :-(

I rushed into the nearest Cyber Cafe to confirm this and since then my head has been spinning so fast I can barely think straight- but like he said, "life goes on."  It has to. So, what do I know about Achebe:
He has written and successfully published 5 novels, 8 short stories, over 6 poem collections, and numerous essays and criticisms. He has won prestigious awards all except for the Nobel Prize in Literature (and this I have major beef with!)
The Nobel Laureates in Africa so far are:
  1. Wole Soyinka- from Nigeria who won the award in 1986 (the same year my elder Sister was born )
  2. Naguib Mahfouz - from Egypt who won the award in 1988 (the same year I was born)
  3. Nadine Gordimer-from South Africa who won the ward in 1991
  4. J.M. Coetzee from South Africa who won the award in 2003.

It is my hope and uttermost prayer that despite his most wonderful works that have not only given an insight into African Culture, Politics, Socialization he would not be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Crazy right? Well, this is my take and I am being very personal- consider yourself warned for what's to come in the next paragraph.

Achebe has seen eight decades and two years go by- in that time he has written Masterpieces and been accorded prestigious awards and given interviews and lectures that show how much he is himself an observer and a valuer (forgive the term) of the truth- this even saw him refuse an offer from 50 Cent to use the title of his first book -Things Fall Apart for his movie- so all this time if the Swedish Academy did not feel his works merited an award- then they should not award him now that he's dead. They had over fifty years to do so- but they didn't so, I do hope that they would not- because  though it might keep his memory alive- and see to the many sales of his books and worldwide distribution- it would not be an honor as it would have been if they handed it to him in person- and he got to thank them or better yet criticize their method of selection.

But, I am not Achebe.

I am just a girl who is inspired not only by his writing but by his conviction that Africa has not only been plundered by Colonialism but worse off by her Children. It's been over forty years of Independence for this country-Kenya- yet we still have politicians elected into power who believe they need to earn more than half a million shillings before they are sworn into office. We still have hospitals that lack cheap pain killers like Panadol because the Ministry of Health does not have supplies available.

It is also sad that we still have people who believe that "huyo ni mtu wetu" yet the person they are so proud of only shares an understanding of the same language and customs as them- but does not sleep, eat, bathe, or clothe in their homes- and hands them a five hundred shilling note and they praise him- yet he knows he would get a hundred times more-if he fools them just during a campaign period.

It is sad that we still say "we have bad leaders" instead of admitting that "we have bad followers." Why would you believe in someone whose greed supersedes his thought? Why would you want someone who cannot communicate to be a Speaker, an Orator? Does he/she have an Aaron somewhere assigned as his/her mouthpiece? Why have charges of crimes against humanity overlooked?  Achebe used his writing to show us what kind of society we live in- Ngugi has been doing the same-and I was looking into his History and found it very ironical that Mau Mau and other fighters fought for freedom-for Kenya's Independence-they were imprisoned. Then when Jomo Kenyatta came into power he imprisoned Kariuki-the last of the respectable Mau Mau fighters for his presumed dissenting views-the same happened to Ngugi. No why would you imprison your comrades for staying true to the cause of your fight?

Is this just politics and power or bad leadership?

And Achebe kept saying that Africans have a majority of powerful people who think only of themselves and not the Continent-and thus Africa would still be poor and less developed.

I had the privilege of attending a Literature class by not only his fan, but a student of  Achebe, Ngugi and Soyinka- and Professor Mikhail Gromov made me understand how to read and understand not only what is written, but what is said in silence. Through this class I got to subscribe to and attend all of Achebe's lecture podcasts- and he did not teach only what he knew- but delved into what he did not know- every lecture felt like a philosophical moment- where you have everything but nothing- where you know yet you do not know-where everything is around you but only if you choose to be aware of it.

So, whatever the world says of him- all the praises, the critisms, one thing is clear- he lived his life. He did live his life.

And I am glad to have had the chance to know about him in his eight decades and two years of existence.

How can one change the world if one identifies oneself with everybody?