Tributes pour in for late novelist, Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta, passed on at 72

Eulogies have continued to pour in for the late literary icon, Buchi Emecheta, who died on Wednesday in London.

Regarded as one of Nigeria’s most revered female writers, the late Buchi Emecheta died at the age of 72.

In separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, writers, critics, academics and literature enthusiasts bared their minds on the legacies of the late novelist.

Others spoke glowingly about the influence of her works on their arts, world views and the place of women in African literature.

Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi, novelist and broadcaster, said the late literary icon blazed the trail among African women writers.

Miss Adeniyi, whose debut novel On the Bank of the River was shortlisted for the 2016 NLNG prize for literature, noted that the late novelist did not just write stories, but dealt extensively with the subject of patriarchy by elevating the female subject in African literature.

“Buchi Emecheta did not just write interesting stories, she had a commitment: To write about African women and their plight in the hands of subsuming patriarchal structures,” she said.

“The stories she shared, of women trying to fight against tradition, dictates and doctrines were her stories and ours too. She elevated the female subject in African literature to a point where the desire to extend the contemporary realities of the female subject gave birth to many published works from African women writers today in a fashion that has been unprecedented.”

For Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, whose novel Season of Crimson Blossom won
the 2016 NLNG prize for literature, “Buchi Emecheta was a writer who inspired a generation of writers and rattled the cages of conventions.”

 Buchi Emecheta
Buchi Emecheta [Photo credit: Instagram – @allbksandmo]

The University of Jos Mass Communication graduate told PREMIUM TIMES that the late novelist, through her arts, courageously defined the place of women in literature and society.

“She defined her place, and by extension the place of women, in society and in literature, without borrowed terms and vehemently refused to be garbed in terms that were not her own. That is the hallmark of a great writer, one who knew what she stood for and fought hard for it in a world that placed her at a disadvantage on account of her gender and her race.

“Her works have blazed a trail and many years from now, they will continue to hold the light for those in search of their own voices to find their way,” Mr. Abubakar said.

On her part, Ayodele Olofintuade, author and editor, noted that the late novelist inspired a new generation of women writers through her works. The writer, who also champions the cause of women with her writings, stressed that the late Emechata lived a life that, in many ways, challenged patriarchy.

“Buchi Emechata lived to show us the way, the possibilities of being African, woman, limitless, magic. She would leave an abusive marriage, she did. She would raise her five children singlehandedly, she did. She would write, she did.”

“Without apologies, she lived, leaving a body of work that has inspired new generations of women writers.”

Renowned poet, polemist and winner of the 2013 edition of the NLNG prize for literature, Tade Ipadeola, told PREMIUM TIMES that the late novelist was a true warrior of the written word.

“In Buchi Emecheta the world gained a spirited writer, a true warrior of the written word. I think I first read her books when I turned 12 and my father brought home a whole bundle of Buchi Emecheta novels,” he said.

Mr. Ipadeola, author of award-winning book, The Sahara Testament, narrated how he met the late author in Ibadan during one of her reading tours, noting that Ms. Emecheta wrote and inspired others to write when writing was not glamorous.

“I met her here in Ibadan many years later when she came on a reading tour part sponsored by the British Council. She had been living in Britain for many years before then and she had said that prominent Nigerian writers in Britain had tried to dissuade her from the trip.

“She was the kind of writer who actually did well in the face of the odds before her. Her works will stay with us for a long time. She inspired a great number of people to write when writing wasn’t a glamour thing. She put soul and body in her projects. She was an exemplum.”

For James Ibe-Anyanwu, essayist and author, the late Emechata was courageous enough to write about feminism when the conversation was difficult to sire. Mr. Anyanwu, author of the award-winning novel Under bridge, noted that the late literary icon birthed conversations about feminism without fanfare.

“She (Buchi Emecheta) discussed feminism without fanfare, without belligerence—only with an empathy more powerful than force. She wrote when the conversation was most difficult to be had. Her art is living in most of us. And that is the consolation.”

Rasaq Gbolahan, poet and Ewi chanter, said, “I read Buchi Emecheta’s “Joys of Motherhood” when I was in Senior Secondary School. I had started developing a keen interest in Art, and I found myself reading some of the recommended texts. Buchi Emecheta’s “Joys of Motherhood” would lead me to ponder on some of the events in the book.

“I mean the way Nnu Ego toils, the way Buchi Emecheta paints the predicaments of a typical African woman. The African literary scene has lost a literary goddess. May her soul rest in peace.”

Writer and critic, Nureni Fadare, argued that the late Emecheta ranks easily as the most important African female writer, apart from Flora Nwapa.

“Let me say that apart from Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta is the most important Nigerian, and by extension, African female writer. Her literary outputs project the collective unconscious of women in Africa. For instance, in The Joys of Motherhood, Emecheta lampoons the patriarchal dominance and the agonies of womanhood.”

Mr. Fadare, who teaches African Literature at the Department of English Language and Linguistics, Sokoto State University, Sokoto, stated further that the late author’s arts encouraged women to strive and attain greater heights in patriachal societies, against all odds.

“Her novels, Second Class Citizen and In the Ditch, are motivational in the sense that they encourage women to always struggle to attain greater height in life irrespective of the encumbrances they might be confronting in their life, especially, their marital life.

“Buchi Emecheta works focus more on the the challenges bestriding women in African society. She condemns polygamy marriage, irresponsible fatherhood, male chauvinism and gender imbalance. Africa has actually lost an icon, a feminist with small ‘f’, a mother and one of the leading voices in African writings.”

The late Buchi Emecheta was respected for her imaginative and documentary writing about African women’s experiences in Africa and in Great Britain.

She had a B.Sc degree in Sociology at the University of London, and bagged a PhD in social education in 1991.

The late author wrote plays and an autobiography, published more than 20 books, including Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979).

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