A Host Of Tongues Language Communities In The United States Tracing Chinua Achebe’s Background – His Earliest Life and Schooling in Nigeria

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Tracing Chinua Achebe’s Background – His Earliest Life and Schooling in Nigeria

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is famous for his first novel. Things fall apart The most widely read and discussed book in contemporary African literature described his writings as an attempt to set the historical record straight by showing that Africans did not first hear about culture from Europeans, and that their societies were not unintelligent. but they had a philosophy of great depth, value, and beauty, they had poetry, and above all they had dignity.

Achebe’s novels, especially Things Fall Apart, now 50 years old, focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the influence of Christian and Western influences on it, and the clash of values ​​during and after the colonial period. colonial traumas and transition to a troubled nation. While bringing the political and the literary together, he neither romanticizes the culture of the natives nor apologizes for the colonialism.

Unlike his Kenyan counterpart Ngugi Wathiongo, Achebe, who wrote his novels in English, advocated the use of English in African literature despite it being the language of the colonizers. Achebe’s keen ear for the spoken language made him one of the most respected African writers writing in English. His style is largely based on the Igbo oral tradition and combines simple narration with folk stories, proverbs and examples of oratory.

Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo village of Ogidi in southern Nigeria, Achebe excelled in school and won a scholarship for his undergraduate studies. Later, he became fascinated by world religions and traditional African cultures and began writing stories that were published in campus publications.

After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service, which led to his relocation to the metropolis of Lagos.

Achebe’s parents, Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam, converted to the Protestant Church Mission Society (CMS) in Nigeria. The elder Achebe stopped practicing the religion of his ancestors as he became a teacher at a missionary school, but he respected its traditions and sometimes incorporated elements of its rituals into his Christian practice.

Chinua’s unabbreviated name, Chinualumogu “May God fight on my behalf,” was a prayer for divine protection and stability. The Achebe family had five other surviving children named with a similar combination of traditional and English names: Frank Okwuofu, John Chukwuemeka Ifeanyichukwu, Zinobia Uzoma, Augustine Nduka and Grace Nwanneka.

Chinua was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi Igbo village of Nneobi. Although his parents were devout evangelical Protestants, they instilled in him many values ​​of traditional Igbo culture. They later named him Albert after Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Standing at the intersection of traditional culture and Christian influence, his parents exerted a significant influence on the children, especially Chinualumogu. As a result, Achebe’s upbringing spanned both worlds, indigenous and colonial.

After the birth of their youngest daughter, the family moved to their ancestral village, Ogidi, now Anambra. state.

Stories were one of the mainstays of Igbo tradition and an integral part of society. That is why Chinua’s mother and sister Zinobia Uzoma used to tell him so many stories as a child that he repeatedly asked for more. His education was further enhanced by the collages his father hung on the walls of their home, as well as almanacs and numerous books, including a prose adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and an Igbo version of The Pilgrimage’s Progress. Chinua also looked forward to traditional village events, such as the frequent masquerades, which he later recreated in his novels and stories.

In 1936, Achebe entered St. Philips Central School. Despite her protests, she spent a week in a religion class for younger children, but was quickly promoted to a senior class when the school chaplain noticed her intelligence. He was said to have the best handwriting and best reading ability in the class. He also attended weekly Sunday school and monthly special evangelistic services, often carrying his father’s bag with him. At one such meeting, a dispute arose when converts from the new church objected to the fundamentals of Christianity in the catechism. . Achebe was later to include a similar scene Things fall apart.

At the age of twelve, Achebe left his family and moved to Nekede, a village four kilometers from Owerri, where he enrolled as a student at the Central School taught by his elder brother John. In Nekede, Achebe developed a high appreciation for Mbari, a traditional art form that seeks to invoke the protection of the gods through symbolic offerings in the form of sculptures and collages. When it was time to move on to secondary school, in 1944, Achebe sat for entrance exams for both the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School in Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government College in Umuahia. He was admitted to both but ultimately chose Government College, Umuahia. He won a coveted scholarship to Government College, Umuahia, where he studied alongside some of Nigeria’s future political and cultural leaders.

Modeled after the British public school and funded by the colonial administration, the Government College was established in 1929 to train Nigeria’s future elite. He held strict academic standards and was a strong egalitarian, admitting boys purely on merit. The language spoken in the school was entirely English, not only to develop knowledge but also to provide a common language for students from different Nigerian language groups. This Achebe later described being ordered to “put aside their different mother tongues and communicate in the language of their colonizers”. The rule was strictly enforced and Achebe recalls that his first punishment was asking another boy to pass the soap in Igbo.

There, Achebe was promoted twice in his first year, so he spent only four years in high school instead of the standard five, completing his first two years of study in one year. Because Achebe didn’t fit into the school’s sports regime, he locked himself into a group of six hard-working students. study habits were so strong that the principal forbade the reading of textbooks between 5 and 6 in the afternoon (although other activities and other books were allowed).

Achebe began exploring the school’s “beautiful library” and discovered Booker T. Washington’s library Up From Slavery, the biography of an American ex-slave. Although Achebe found it sad, it showed him another dimension of reality.. He also read classic novels such as Gulliver’s Travels, David Copperfield and Treasure Island Along with tales of colonial derring-do like H. Rider Haggard Allan Quatermain and John Buchan’s Prester John . Achebe later recalled that as a reader he “sided with the white characters against the savages” and even disliked the Africans. “The white man was good and smart, smart and brave. The savages arrayed against him were mean and stupid, or at most cunning. I hated their guts.”

In the run-up to independence in 1948, Nigeria’s first university, the University of Ibadan, was opened as an associate college of the University of London. Achebe scored such high marks in his entrance exam that he was accepted into the university’s first intake Scholarship program to study medicine. After a year of grueling work, he decided science wasn’t for him and switched to English, history and theology. Because he changed his field, he lost his scholarship and had to pay the fee. He received a government scholarship, and his family also donated money—his older brother Augustine even paid for Chinua’s commute home from his civil servant job so he could continue his education. Since its inception, the university has had a strong English faculty and has had many famous writers among its alumni. These include Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, writer Elechi Amadi, poet and playwright John Pepper Clarke, poet Christopher Okigbo and playwright and academic Kole Omotoso.

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