Paying tribute to Chinua Achebe with Jackson M’vunganyi

A young Achebe looks into the future

On Friday March 22 in the year 2013, the world was told that Chinua Achebe, the great Nigerian author and father of African literature, had passed away at the age of 82. The whole of that day saw me reflecting on this great Nigerian literary giant who in 1958 transformed the way all writers in and out of Africa wrote about the continent. Achebe’s 1st novel–‘Things Fall Apart’–slapped me into an awakening when I first encountered it at age 15 in my junior high school years in Ghana.

At that early teen years of my life, I was so drowned in literary works and was reading Shakespeare, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin–and thanks to my mom–the New King James version of the Bible with so much gusto. I was so intrigued by the ability of such writers and books. I quickly knew then that I was going to be a lover of words.

When I started taking my studies in English Literature more seriously as I entered junior high school, I, among many other school children across Africa was handed Achebe’s first novel; ‘Things Fall Apart’. It was my very first introduction to African literature and at the time, I was so soaked by Western and European literature that, I had to force myself to read this book because I knew I was going to take tests and exams on it.

I finally opened the book and thought I was going to spend forever reading it, but NO! From the very first word of the first chapter, I found myself allured through the pages within and devoured chapter after chapter until I had finished the entire book in a breeze. Chinua Achebe had started a revolution in my young mind at the time which was going to galvanize me into someone with extreme positive mental attitude and utmost appreciation for my African identity forever.

Three times, yes that is how many times I have read the book ‘Things Fall Apart’ in the past 17 years. The book spoke to me in a way that makes me feel as though it was written only yesterday. I am thus going to re-read it for a fourth time before the year 2013 ends. I am sure Chinua Achebe–May his soul rest in peace–has a new message for me in there. He always does and I’ve never been disappointed… ever!

Mr. M’vunganyi of the VOA

In my attempt to keep the memory and legacy of Chinua Achebe alive in my own small way, I called my good friend Jackson Muneza M’vunganyi, a journalist from Rwanda who is based in the USA and working for the Voice of America (VOA) Radio. I first met Jackson in 2007 when I arrived in the USA to start my internship with the VOA in Washington DC. The reason I called Jackson was because he has always been a staunch admirer of Chinua Achebe so I knew I was going to feel the energy Achebe infects him with. Click here for the Soundcloud audio of my chat with Jackson.

To all those who believe in #TheAfricanDream and the power of words and writing, I say read Chinua Achebe and do not forget that if you don’t like the way your story is being told, go ahead and write it yourself. We as individuals have the power to be and do whatever we dream of if we can imagine it because no matter what prison you’re put into, nobody can imprison the power of your imagination. Long live Chinua Achebe!

Written by Oral Ofori

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