“If one is so fuzzy about putting a prefix before her name, “Ms.” will simply do.”
It comes as a startling revelation that as a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sent some of the poems she had written to Dr. Newton Jibunoh, the irrepressible crosser of the Sahara Desert. The young Chimamanda had only seen Mr. Jibunoh as a presence in the newspapers and felt the man could do something about her poems.
The twist in the tale is that on August 29, in this year of our Lord, Chimamanda was invited by Mr. Jibunoh to his Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos to serve as a special guest of honour at the auction of 15 photographs taken by the ace photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi during Mr. Jibunoh’s third expedition across the Sahara.
Chimamanda appeared on the dot of the 5p.m. auction time in the company of her husband. I met the couple just by the roadside in front of the museum and she casually told her husband that I was a fellow writer. Chimamanda was later joined by another lady whom she introduced as her friend Chioma.
“Kedu oge iga edesi akwukwo ozo?” I asked in Igbo, which translates to: “When are you completing the writing of your next book?”
“Okwerokwam edesi,” she said, laughing at her utterance which means that the book refuses to be completely written!
As I made to take her to Mr. Jibunoh, one of the young men around popped up to tell her that her novel Half of a Yellow Sun changed his life. Chimamanda waited patiently to hear out the young man on his life-changing experience.
Then we walked past the green carpet to where Mr. Jibunoh stood, with his wife Elizabeth, in the courtyard. Chimamanda exchanged pleasantries, giving attention to the gathered motley crowd until her husband eventually left.
The poet, Odia Ofeimun, had earlier asked me to do an article on the filming of Chimamanda’s novel. Odia had actually suggested that Chimamanda’s earlier novel, Purple Hibiscus, was equally being filmed alongside Half of a Yellow Sun. I needed Chimamanda to straighten out the facts.
She said it was only Half of a Yellow Sun that had been subjected to the filmic arts. She then insisted that I write down, for her, my email address inside the back of my play, Doctor of Football.
The rendering life is more of a second nature to Chimamanda. Little wonder she so dutifully oversees the yearly Nigeria Breweries-sponsored Farafina literary workshop with such aplomb. She has thus mentored hundreds of literary wannabes across the African nation. Writers are infamous the world over for never ever surrendering their writing time; Chimamanda appears to be the very opposite.
She sat through the auction to about 10p.m., admiring the photographs with such poetic titles as “The Majestic Nothingness”, “The Spirit Dance”, “Dunes of Damnation”, “Terrible and Endless”, “Minutes of the Last Meeting”, “Left Behind the Back of Behind” etc. One of the photographs, “The Spirit Dance”, was bought for N700 thousand.
The Master of Ceremonies, Soni Irabor, extolled the virtues of Chimamanda, describing her as the darling of all. Mr. Jibunoh was in wonder that the little girl who had sent him poems as a 14-year-old could now turn into a world famous writer. But for Chimamanda, she just remains “Simply Chimamanda”. She would not even want to be burdened with the title of “Mrs.” even as she remains a truly married woman. If one is so fuzzy about putting a prefix before her name, “Ms.” will simply do.
Yes, she is just as ever, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a beautiful doyenne – inside and outside.