Lost archive from Chinua Achebe’s secondary school recovered

Chinua Achebe's last visit to Nigeria
late Nigerian literary icon, Chinua Achebe

An academic has reportedly recovered rare historical sources from the school the late Nigerian literary icon, Chinua Achebe attended in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Terri Ochiagha, a teaching fellow in the History of Modern Africa at King’s College, London, made the recovery.

Ms. Ochiagha told PREMIUM TIMES that she saved a valuable amount of material while researching for her book, titled, Achebe and Friends at Umuahia, The Making of a Literary Elite.

The sources recovered by Ochiagha include, a notebook of lessons from the English teacher who taught Achebe , links between a piece in the school journal The Eastern Star – which Achebe edited- and his masterpiece, Things Fall Apart.

She also recovered archives of other famous Nigerian writers who were also Achebe’s school friends. They include Elechi Amadi, Chike Momah, Christopher Okigbo, Chukwuemeka Ike, Ken Saro-Wiwa and I.C. Aniebohe.

Her publicist, Catherine Watts, said Ms. Ochiagha recovered the materials after she contacted Government College Umuahia alumni, the teachers and their family members who had personal archives.

Ms. Ochiagha is based in the UK and is of bi-racial parentage with a Spanish mother and Nigerian father.

“Most of the archives of the British colonial boarding school Government College, Umuahia, were lost during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1971).

“I also uncovered experiences of Achebe’s school friends Elechi Amadi, Chike Momah, Christopher Okigbo, Chukwuemeka Ike, Ken Saro-Wiwa and I.C. Aniebohe,”she noted.

Government College, Umuahia is known among literary critics around the world for being the alma mater of eight important Nigerian writers: Achebe, Amadi, Gabriel Okara, Momah, I. N. C. Aniebo, Ike, Saro-Wiwa and Okigbo.

Ms. Ochiagha, who holds a PhD in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures (specialising in African Literature) from Complutense University, Madrid, also recovered two significant written pieces of juvenilia ( works produced by an author or artist while still young) in their original form from Amadi and Ike.

According to Ochiagha, the publication of the paperback edition of Achebe & Friends in April would coincide with the 60th anniversary of the publication of Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart in 2018.

In her book, the author meticulously contextualises the experiences of Achebe and his peers as students at Government College Umuahia.

She also argues for a re-assessment of this influential group of Nigerian writers in relation to the literary culture fostered by the school and its tutors.

Ms. Ochiagha also describes her book as the ‘first in-depth scholarly study of the literary awakening of the young intellectuals who became known as Nigeria’s “first-generation” writers in the post-colonial period.

Her research focuses on Achebe, Amadi, Chike Momah, Okigbo and Ike.

It also discusses the experiences of Gabriel Okara, Saro-Wiwa and Aniebo, in the context of their education in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s at Government College, Umuahia.


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