Before the major events of the year kicked off, Bounce Radio premiered an episode of The Black Box Interview on the first day of January 2021. The show was hosted by the compere and Big Brother Naija ex-housemate, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, the Confessor and priest. The guest was the Booker Prize winner,Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The second half of the interview dropped a few days ago. We’ve always known Chimamanda to be bold and daring, but she took these qualities up a notch and broached subjects that left the mouth of our minds hanging. Donning a black shirt with ‘Omekannaya' emblazoned on it, Chimamanda, elegant as usual, talked for three hours. The conversation segued from pre-Purple Hibiscus release to recent happenings, and also broached her changed viewpoint on life. Below are some major revelations and insights from the interview. Half Of A Yellow Sun: The movie, Yale and the Biafran agitation She spoke passionately about Half Of A Yellow Sun in connection to her family’s history, Yale, and Biafra. “Yale had the best archives on pre-colonial Africa…Yale also gave the best offer —a scholarship and stipend,” she said. The author also broached the experience of going to Yale and finding out that one of her books was on the syllabus, and was also studied in one of the courses she took. It must have been an exhilarating experience for her and the entire school. With regards to the movie, she expressed her praise of the movie and reservations against people’s proclivity to talk about the movie more than the book, the latter which took ten years and pieces of her to create. When asked about her thoughts on Biafra, she replied: “There isn’t Biafra. There is a lot of movement for it.” She stated marginalization as the force propelling the movements. She also expressed her disapproval of the idea that secession is the solution to the problems the Igbo people experience in Nigeria, according to her, the Igbos cannot unite, plus “there is a lot of work that needs to be done. We have to strategize politically before we can talk about Biafra.” On writing, the paranoia that comes with success, raising her daughter and the opportunity cost of being a mom She talked about how age has affected her speed of writing and the work she churns out. She hinted on a new book, also talked about the late Binyavanga and his influence on her past works and writing. “This is one of the things I learnt about success, it makes you paranoid that people are no longer telling the truth.” It is a daunting realization, as success usually gives rise to the sort of sycophancy that dims objectivity and growth. Only an observant mind can decipher this amidst the flashing lights and camera shots. She talked about how important it was for her to still have people who can read a poor work she has written and express dissatisfaction. She talked about raising her daughter and making sure she learns to speak the languages that reflects her identity in the world, her desire to have more kids, and probable inability to have a male child because “I’m 43, the egg quality is much reduced.” She also talked about the opportunity costs of being a mother, and how mothers should feel free and be allowed to talk about the tradeoffs of having kids, regardless of their adoration for said kids. On feminism and her beef with the Nigerian journalism She spoke about being misunderstood, misquoted by journalists, and the misrepresentation of facts and overt mediocrity peculiar to Nigeria. She also talked about how it contributed to her not granting any interview to any Nigerian Journalist until recently. “In general, with the Nigerian media and journalists’ deliberate misunderstanding, my policy has been to ignore, that has changed, it changed in June (2020)… next year (this one, 2021), I’m getting five lawyers to sue anyone who tells any damn lie,”she said. When asked how she marries feminism to her affinity with the Igbo culture, she replied,“ I marry it by choosing what I’m happy about and quarreling with what I’m not… for me the question is, how do we change it to make it better? Because we have changed things about that culture that didn’t work for everybody… men are always saying things like but it is our culture, and that is because culture, as we have it, are rules that men made that benefit men,” she added. On the reality of mortality When asked how she was dealing with death and how it has changed her she said, “It is not like I haven’t lost people I loved, I lost Binyavanga who is a very close friend. But this is the first time that it scattered me. And so it’s really changed me… making me realize how close mortality is.” The entirety of the interview involved lots of laughter and warmth, but momentarily, at this part of the discourse, one could almost feel the emotions in Chimamanda’s voice. On the effect of losing two of her aunts and her dad within five months, she said, “I feel a lot of rage, I didn’t realize how much anger you feel when you are grieving… I’m looking at my bags of fucks to give and it’s so empty now. And I’m determined to do what I want to do… I’m actually preparing a call-out speech where I’m going to name names of people who told lies (about me).” Listening to her talk, I thought about Kambili reacting to her dad’s death—it stupefied her, she couldn’t believe her dad could die, especially at the time and manner he did. Chimamanda exuded an amplification of that feeling. Although I think she is more of an Amaka than a Kambili, for reasons best left for a future discourse. Her loss changed her. I think we are going to be seeing a new Chimamanda, one who is first, fired up by loss and grief, and one in the future, who will be more involved in our everyday life as she writes less and less (or more and more), and deals with the consequences of age and experiences. She also soliloquized on the paradox of life, “it is a strange thing, because it is both appreciating (life) and not. It makes life feel very precious and utterly pointless… what is even the point of life? What is the point of living? What is the point of loving if only we would then lose and be in pain? It is a strange thing indeed, because it is not just about appreciating life, there is that, but also, it is appreciating and there is an underlayer of anarchy, where you are like, let everything scatter.” Her voice and words carried so much anger, so much hurt. On being Nigerian, miscellaneouses and et ceteras On being a proud Nigerian, she said, “If I said yes it would be a lie, if I said no it would still be a lie. I’m Nigerian, that’s the hand I got dealt. Nigeria deeply frustrates me. A few years ago I realized I don’t have to love Nigeria, and it was a very freeing realization for me because for so long I had this feeling I have to be a dutiful daughter (to Nigeria). I don’t have to be, and I am Nigerian. I made the choice years ago not to become a US citizen, a choice I’m now regretting.” She spoke on the incompetence of Buhari's administration, their overt practice of ethnicity and its effect on her. She also touched on other topics like: politics, her Wear Nigeria movement, her family’s reaction to her fame, her admiration for the Nigerian youths and their role in the End SARS protest, and other topics like the FeministCo, honorary degrees and why you don’t need “a dangling organ to rule a state.”
Written for Arts Lounge by Christopher Nwankwo.