There are many famous names in African literature: names that instantly convey recogniton, that force me to catch my breath. Of these names, the most breath-catching is Achebe, after the seminal writer from Nigeria, Chinua Achebe, author of the most-read novel from Africa written in English, “Things Fall Apart.”
Achebe’s masterpiece came 50 years ago, and while he still writes delightful essays, Achebe hasn’t published a novel in decades. And yet the literary world has received a new piece of Achebe fiction, only in this case coming from the pen of a relative, Ngozi Achebe. A physician living in Washington state, Ngozi Achebe is steeped in Nigeria’s past and the traditions of her Igbo ethnic group. Her novel, “Onaedo: the Blacksmith’s Daughter,” tells the story of two women connected through race and ethnicity across 400 years of history. The origins of Achebe’s tale are intriguing, especially for anyone who appreciates (as I do) traditional African art.
As Achebe explains: “There was an interesting discovery in 1976, of exquisite bronze artifacts in Igbo-Ukwe, an ancient Igbo town located in eastern Nigeria. The works were dated around the 4th century and were executed long before the timeline of this story. My challenge was to find the ficitonal blacksmith who would be worthy of that kind of talent ….”
Without giving anything away from Nogozi Achebe’s story, I can say that she does find him.