The literary world suffered a great loss when Buchi Emecheta, a renowned novelist, died at 72 few days ago. As a memorial, 9 young African writers paid their tributes to celebrate her and her work. These tributes dig up memories.
The world will miss Buchi Emecheta.
My memory is very far from an eidetic one. But I remember spending four – or five – afternoons in a library in Accra many years ago, reading The Joys of Motherhood and Second Class Citizen, in succession. I recall that I was so deeply touched, so forcefully moved in different emotional directions, by these stories. They opened my eyes to (and shifted my thinking on) certain things. I have reasons to believe now, that monumental things do that; they make even people with shitty memories remember encounters, many years after. Buchi Emecheta showed up for African women; for black women, at large. Her work has been very instrumental in their lives. Ama Ata Aidoo has said it; so has the young Nigerian woman who became a writer and a womens’ rights activist after reading Buchi Emecheta and becoming aware of societies’ crass treatment of women. Alice Walker keeps saying it; and so do many, many other women. A friend of mine once wrote about wanting to “do what is guided in [her] and be all used up when [she] dies.” I imagine it’s the kind of life Buchi Emecheta lived. And after such a fully lived life, what more could we ask of her! Also, here’s a thing I believe about fully lived lives: they leave something behind for everybody: so for those who believe in an afterlife, what a fine, worthy ancestress Buchi Emecheta will make. And for those who don’t, her work will be here breathing, impacting, enriching. Me, I have no words of sorrow; only profound words of appreciation for Buchi Emecheta: Daalu, Nne
The sudden departure of Buchi Emecheta has left a void in our hearts. It has created a vaccum that will take years to be filled. Buchi Emecheta, one of the leading Nigerian female writers, had written books that will continue to uplift humanity and shape our society. In her books, she addresses our collective struggles and explore the plights of an African woman. In “The Joys of Motherhood”, she portrays the life of a typical African woman by telling us what it means to be a mother, what it means to live in a patriarchal society, what it means for a woman to strive in spite of enormous challenges and travails that await her as a wife and mother. This book and other Buchi Emecheta’s books continue to remind us of how literature mirrors life, how in books we voyage through the thicket of events and memories. Buchi Emecheta’s books tell our stories and leave us meditating on what she had written. She left us with words heavier than the world. May her soul rest in peace.
—–Rasaq Malik Gbolahan
Tell the gods…
I saw Google’s doodle on Flora Nwapa some days ago, a day before Buchi Emecheta departed this world. I think Google will have to do something similar for Emecheta. Blame the gods. The gods are still in the business of killing men for their sport and according to their timetable, it is Buchi’s time. They should not have done that, if only they knew how much of Buchi we still have with us. Tell the gods that we still have her. Her books. Therein lies the real Buchi Emecheta.
Days friends resembled Nnaife
The pressure of being in the certificate class made me read her. WAEC Literature. Or was it NECO? Joys of Motherhood is the only book of hers I’ve read. Three times? I’m not sure. You keep going back to a book you love until you lose count. I didn’t just love the book, I needed to pass my final final exam as I had flunked Literature in my very first attempt. With the aid of my teachers, Joys of Motherhood introduced me to critical reading and trust me, it was a good start. Yes, for writing book reviews. I remember the days of group presentations and fierce arguments in our makeshift tutorial centre. It was all about Nnaife and Nnu Ego. And we would argue till those who didn’t buy our views (sometimes, it was the teacher) looked uglier than Nnaife in our eyes.
My Joelle and Buchi
I teach English and Literature in a private secondary school. I remember talking books in a junior class last term when Joelle, the twelve year old who won my subject award for the term complained, on behalf of her classmates, that they considered the texts for their literature classes ‘intellectually unengaging’ and uninteresting. She and a couple of her mates had read some contemporary writers, Adichie especially, and they wanted those writers on their reading list. There and then, I made up my mind to introduce them to some really good books, albeit outside of the school’s curriculum.
I hope to sow one or two of Buchi’s into their lives. That way, she will not live in my heart alone. Tell the gods that too.
Buchi Emecheta was one of the few writers whose works I digested while trying to have a good grasp of my prose writing skill and there was something about her works, how they express profoundly the experiences of the society we live in, how she portrayed African culture within the frame of gender disparities and how she presented the truth we know but may all the time ignore. That was why I always recommended her books to those who requested for a good prose book, even though I considered (and still consider) her works not good but better than good.
Yesterday, when you left for the journey, you left us some things for tomorrow which I now write about today. What you left was your voice, what you left was your expression, your ideas and your creativity which can be found amidst the alphabets and characters that gave life to your works. You also left us a part of you that will forever expose the beauty and fervour that is possessed by the female figure. There is no doubt that you’re alive here even if in another you now will live, for writers don’t die, they don’t fade, but live within their works.
Have peace! You live! Goodnight!
—–Mide Benedict Adewumi
Buchi challenged a lot of things. In her story about Nnu Ego, she questioned the joys of motherhood. It has always been a problem if an African woman asks questions in our society but Buchi used Nnu Ego’s life to challenge what we have concluded are the joys of motherhood. Buchi stirred waters and allowed it to splash on our psych, waking us up with Akunna in ‘brideprice’. Why can’t we expect a woman to be more than the price she could fetch in a marriage ceremony? In a time when we were satisfied with societal norms and cultural excesses, Buchi raised dust with the stomping of her pen on paper. She wrote ordinary stories about us and we wept because of her tragedies that stared back at us from the pages of her books. Buchi won’t be remembered as just a novelist but as one of the most subtle revolutionist that Nigeria and Africa will ever know.
When I was a little boy books were my only friends, in that world I discovered Buchi Emecheta’s books in an almost abandoned library in Benin City, as I read her books I begin to understand more what my single mother was going through, her words taught me about empathy, they shaped the way I interacted and viewed women, having grown up in an area where patriarchy was and is still breathing Buchi Emecheta books helped me break away from that cycle, they helped me see women as humans who belong to themselves and have a right to their bodies and their freedom. As she journey on I’m grateful for her, for her gift, for shaping a young lonely boy with nothing but stories, may her journey home be full of music.
Buchi Emecheta was actually the first woman I would say I met in African literature who made me also understand women were also fully involved in this art of expressing with no apology. I am not a woman, but I was so much attracted to her belief in the liberation of women and I want to raise children, male and female that will continue to join this fight.
One of the most beautiful things about being a writer is the ability to wrap your hands around the minds of your readers, with your words. You reach into the deepest recesses of their minds and show them that there’s so much that happens in the world beyond where they live. Buchi Emecheta did that to me. I was a young girl, barely a teenager, when she walked into my life with Joys of Motherhood. It felt so easy and natural to read about the life of this young girl. I remember thinking Nnu-Ego could be anyone, she could be me or the girl next door. I will never forget how it felt to be sucked into the life of Nnu-Ego. It was one of the few stories that made me begin to understand what it meant to be a woman in Nigeria. I envy how Buchi Emecheta wrote a book in the seventies and it managed to remain relevant to us in this age. If there’s one thing this tells me, it is that one way to keep my name in the hearts and on the lips of humanity is to tell timeless stories. It is a certainty, that Buchi will never be forgotten.
I did not like Nnaife Owulum, the central male character in Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood. For the eleven year old me who read that book, Nnaife was the expression of everything I did not want to become. He lacked ambition, was potbellied and, much later in the book, became an alcoholic.
It was this character, Nnaife, more than even Nnu Ego herself, who stayed with me. I was ambitious, was put off by potbellies, and the smell of alcohol sickened me, and if these traits had begun to drift, Emecheta reinforced them. I was sad to read of her death.
Go well, Emecheta. In us who knew you, there will always be a space wherein we carry you. We will carry your stories, your characters, your smile, your activism and, for these and more, we will keep saying thank you. Goodnight, Buchi.
—–Ogbu Godwin Ikechukwu