There is a contemporary common phrase in Tanzania, “Shikamoo something/somebody” which connotes a respect for something or somebody. Although Shikamoo is a common greeting tied to respecting older people than you, it is now popular used to acknowledge respect or admiration to somebody’s work. So to cut this short…I start by saying “Shikamoo Chimamanda”.
When I reflected on Americanah in January, I used the word ‘tapestry’ to describe my understanding of the story. For this reason, I’ve been reluctant in using the same description for Half of A Yellow Sun. However, I am finding it very difficult to use any other term to elaborate my humble afterthoughts upon reading this artistic masterpiece that makes me enormously proud of the African literature. The ability to narrate 3 years of inhumane Biafra War and expose its ugliness through a story of family and love is a testimony to the talent and power of creativity endowed to Chimamanda. Half of a Yellow Sun is another tapestry of life, which is tarnished by a very thick red thread of war reducing peoples’ lives to nothing. A thread that kills confidence, starves people, kills children. A thread that exposes the thirsty for power, genocide, tribalism and ethnicity, hypocrisy, the double standard nature of international politics, politics of aid and humanitarian relief among many other ugly faces of war. Chimamanda has illustrated a tapestry that has threads of love life, community, family, extended families, classes (upper class, middle class, and the poor), education, and politics. In doing so, she uses characters that you get so attached to that their fate affects you as if it’s real. The death of Arize, for example, became very painful to me. Olanna’s independent and sacrificial life choices amidst relationship struggles were close to my heart and some experiences. Character Mohammed – a gentleman and…what I can say defines manhood – reminds me of somebody very dear- (John Garama). Ugwu, his background, diligence, and determination to learn, is an example to follow. Harrison’s excitement and enthusiasm to his job is a lesson. Keinene’s strong personality and ability to be herself is something missing in many girls. Aunt Ifeka’s advice to Olanna that ‘you must never behave as if your life belongs to a man’ is what every girl needs to hear. Pastor Ambrose’s radical loud prayers are very familiar. Every character mentioned, either by name or not, brings in to mind the intricacy and realities of life.
On another note, some of the characters, although fictitious, reminded me so much of people in Achebe’s book ‘There Was A Country’. For example, Professor Okeoma , the poet who joined the army for the cause, sounded familiar to Achebe’s friend Okigbo.
The conversations in the novel between characters bring about issues, complexities, and politics of war, politics in life, etc. For example, the conversation between Richard and the two American journalists exposed the stupidity and irrationality of war as well as the difficulty in ending it, and international politics. This particular critical conversation gave Richard a title of his book “The World Was Silent When We Died”. There were many other conversations, small and big, that made so much sense of the greater world. For example, when Mama Oji, Olanna’s neighbor, commented that child Adanna, had no malaria but Harold Wilson’s syndrome- meaning Kwashiorkor- is an illustration of the negative role of Britain in the war.
Again, through the conversations, Chimamanda show the critical side of Biafra people to Ojukwu, his excellence. Although many people in Biafra adored him as a “god” there were some critical voices within that could be heard through the conversations.
One last thing to mention- such a novel could not miss the weight and morality of Nyerere in deciding to recognize Biafra. Tanzania was the first country to do so. It was a very significant move for people of Biafra. It signifies the rays of hope that Tanzania was sending to its brothers and sisters in Africa regardless of international politics and interests that chocked other African countries. I am so proud of Tanzania…as ever! #Always!
Oooh…and randomly!!! With regards to my very own research interests and PhD research – the agencies that were providing relief food were faith based!!! Remember…the WCC and Caritas! #Faith&Development
Well, before further exposure of my inability to properly comprehend one of Adichie’s masterpieces, I would say one thing- the novel has managed to show how war destroys everything from big to the very little details in life that matters the most. I couldn’t stop my tears while reading Olanna’s reluctance to remove her white wedding dress after the air-attack that abruptly ended their wedding celebration. She even asked her dear husband, Odenigbo if he would like a piece of a cake.
Remember! Adichie’s novel is based on what really happened… which leads us to a note on her writing style, where she inserts extracts of the imaginary books- “The World Was Silent When We Died”, which speaks of the facts, at the end of the chapters. This is done in Americanah too – where she kept inserting blog posts of the Raceteenth!!! … Achebe did so too, sometimes…as he inserted poems of Okigbo at the end of chapters.
To this…I urge the Nigerian government to lift the ban against the showing of the movie in Nigeria- war memory is important and crucial for avoiding future wars… War is Ugly…