Some writers rely on serendipity to lead them to a writer they have long admired or an idea they have been trying to explore. I am not such a writer. I am a planner. A strange temperament, especially when you consider the capricious nature of a writing profession (or of any artistic pursuit). And yet, I still make plans.
Anyway, I didn’t plan to attend the ANA Convention in Enugu, nor did I intend to attend a lecture at the Centre of Memories. In fact, I didn’t know about the Centre of Memories until Obinna Udenwe told me that my favorite Nigerian author and cherished professor, Chika Unigwe, would be delivering a lecture there on the 1st of November, 2019. And I thought, wow! I’m lucky my house is a 15-minute drive away from the venue.
And so, I abandoned my plans to do any office work or to handle any of the tasks I had scheduled for the day. I joined Obinna in his car, as he drove to pick up Professor Akachi Ezigbo-Adimora and Dr, Wale Okediran (Director of the Ebedi Hills Writer’s Residency Program). Talk about time and chance. I hadn’t met Prof. Akachi since she taught me at the Nigeria Academy of Letters in 2010. And I must say that it was a pleasure to see her again.
Professor Akachi was very generous with her advice for young, ‘writerly’ mums like me. Here are a few I found super helpful. You can write and published many books and stories if you:
• Attend writing residencies and fellowships.
• Write when your kids are on vacation.
• Write when your kids are asleep (Lola Shoneyin shared this one at the Goethe Institut workshop in Lagos early this year).
• And basically, don’t give up
Now back to Chika Unigwe. I was thrilled to meet her in person (for the second time, I must admit. I’d met her once at Chimamanda’s Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop in Lagos, nine years ago). But after many email correspondences, she felt brand new to behold. I introduced myself and she laughed. We hugged and I resisted the urge to start praise-singing. Because when you meet someone who has helped to make you a better writer, you want to thank them over and over again.
Shortly before the lecture commenced, We (Chika Unigwe, Prof Akachi, Dr, Okediran, Obinna and me) strolled outside to take selfies. Here are a few.
Chika Unigwe’s Lecture At The Center Of Memories, In Enugu.
Every month, an eminent person is invited to speak at the Centre’s monthly distinguished speaker series. Past editions have featured renowned activists and academics such as Prof Akachi Ezigbo-Adimore, Chidi Odinkalu, and Prof. Pat Utomi, to mention but a few. Chika Unigwe was the speaker for the November 2019 edition. The event was convened by Patrick Okigbo III.
Her speech was flawless and insightful. Interspersed with anecdotes from her childhood, her lecture expounded on the reasons Igbos ought to own their narratives and how they could go about doing this. It speaks to every tribe, every race and every nation. We all deserve to control our own narratives. Want to learn more?
Read the full transcript of Chika Unigwe’s speech from the Nzuko Umuibe series.