I know I first espoused my absolute adoration of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in "Chimamanda Adichie, Natural Hair and Me", and she was number one in my list of "6 Nigerians that Make Me Proud", but then I spoke about my disappointment in some of her words and actions in "How Adichie Fell of Her Pedestal".
I declared that to me she was no longer this wonderful being; she had fallen off her pedestal and I now saw that my hero-worship of her was flawed and ultimately doomed to failure because she was human and imperfect.
I'm in love with Chimamanda again
But I've changed my mind. Adichie is brilliant and I cannot lie. She really is. I never totally denied her genius, but I was (temporarily) turned off by the harshness I noticed and her lack of warmth towards fans, as well as her sense of superiority. But I've since been able to reacquaint myself with her poise and wisdom through consuming some of her interviews and speeches, and I have changed my mind.
But was it she that changed? Was she always this fountain of witty, thrilling anecdotes that illustrate her points so succinctly? Was she always this playfully intelligent, erudite and clear-minded sage that never over-did her power to enchant listeners, was often endearingly shy, with her voice sometimes quivering (nerves?); was she always such a delight to listen to?
Or did she sense that she was tipping over the edge in terms of believing the hype and becoming egotistical, and decided to backtrack, repent and transform into this luminous, graceful woman that has audiences rapt in attention?
Was it that I knew she was this impressive and true but that that reality was usurped by the furore surrounding her 'mailbox interview' and calling a fellow Nigerian writer one of her 'boys'?
Well, although I wouldn't go as far to say I regret ever seeing her in a bad light - because when I wrote about her falling off the pedestal of my mind I meant it, and was very sad about it - but I have now been re-awakened to the beauty of her intelligence. I let small slights overshadow the beautiful thoughts this woman continues to pour out, and it is a privilege to be alive when she is 'in vogue.'
Her Interviews in Nigeria vs Her Interviews in England or America
It strikes me as interesting that the interviews she does that many including myself find displeasing are those she does with Nigerian interviewers. The interview where she angrily chided the interviewer for calling her 'Mrs' and declaring that she does not want that title (despite being married) happened in Nigeria. I think she has less patience with Nigerian interviewers- as if they rub her up the wrong way, and she often comes off as a snooty, humourless 'feminist' in all the terrible connotations of the word that scare Nigerian men and traditional women.
However, she is very accommodating, genuine, warm, bright, candid, full of humour and laughter and ever so generous with her informed opinion with British and American interviewers. And they are completely enchanted by her. Her articles are widely published in The Guardian newspaper, and Channel 4 News love her.
Adichie discussing her latest book Americanah on Channel 4 News with Jon Snow
Channel 4's lead anchor, Jon Snow (who I love by the way. And he's married to a fully African woman, a brilliant intellectual type named Precious Lunga from Zimbabwe. Jon Snow is also very progressive, I just love the man) particular seems to be taken by her, and I don't mean in a silly, British-paternalistic-fawning-kindness-to-Africans-out-of-some-misplaced-guilt-over-colonialism way, but in a respectful "I like that you are intelligent and African and a Nigerian and a woman, so please shed some light on Boko Haram. Your type of voice is so rare and so needed right now" way.
My favourite Channel 4 News lead anchor Jon Snow and his wife Precious Lunga
He truly engages with her in these interviews and I love that she repays his trust in her capabilities with searingly acute dissections of Nigerian politics that retains her patriotism but pulls no punches.
I think I'm starting to see Chimamanda not only in a different light, but in broader aspect. Sometimes she has bad days and sometimes she has great days. She is of course always poised, but in some interviews she is more 'switched on' and happy than in others.
Take this interview with Lola Ogunnaike for Arise Entertainment 360 for instance. Her body language is closed (crossed legs, crossed arms and she taps her fingers often, a sign of impatience or nerves), she seems uncomfortable and lacks a certain joie de vivre she often has, although she is gracious in her answers.
Ogunnaike (whose regal tone and confident cadences makes me swoon with admiration; she reminds me of the elegant Ivanka Trump) does overdo the fawning and lashes on the acclaim, and I could see Adichie cringing under the layers of superlatives bestowed upon her; at one point Ogunnaike asks: "What does it feel like to be a literary rock star?"
Compare it to this interview below with Damian Woetzel, where she is much more lively, fierce in wit and delivery and brimming with humour, masterfully engaging and real in relaying her profound feelings of identity, Africa and other subjects; I could listen to her forever. (It's also funny how she sits where the interviewer is supposed to sit by mistake, and I like that the man is gracious enough to allow her, without insisting that they swap.)
Adichie's interview with Damian Woetzel is tremendously entertaining
The interview is particularly wonderful, and! Somehow, she manages to mention Fulani and Fulfude! The last question from an audience member was from a Fulani woman from Guinea, and when Adichie asks her "Do you speak Fulfude?" I was like wow.
Biafra, Feminism and Homosexuality
Adichie is also very brave. She has not only wrote and spoken extensively about the Biafran War, an incident Nigeria wants to forget (the film based on her book Half of a Yellow Sun which tackles the war has been banned from screens in Nigeria), she also focused one of her TED Talks on Feminism (below) and wrote a lengthy piece describing the injustice of Nigeria's anti-gay laws.
Biafra, Feminism and Homosexuality: You couldn't find three more controversial, incendiary, polarizing and hot-button issues in Nigeria today, and she skewered them all effortlessly. You may or may not agree with her, but you cannot deny that she addressed all the points and presented her case well. She is fearless, and exemplifies this famous quote by Marianne Williamson:
The clarity of her thoughts, fierceness of her convictions and power of her delivery gives me the freedom to be bold.We are all meant to shine, as children do
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
My initial reaction to her feminist talk was to disagree, because contrary to the norm (educated, first-generation British-African woman born in the 80s tend to be quite the feminist) I'm a traditionalist and my post titled "I'm a Submissive Woman, What's Wrong With That?" explains my stance.
But I listened to it again and found myself nodding to and agreeing with everything she said. There was no need to insult or demean men to gain our rights, she was saying, but a Nigerian woman (she concentrated her observations on Nigerian culture, much to the delight of the Nigerians in the audience who clapped and laughed generously at her often very funny observations) shouldn't have to shrink from success to enable a man to feel good.
Adichie's is the best modern, globally-sound Nigerian voice we have right now.
I used to imagine the things the great boxer Mohammed Ali would say today if he could talk. The man that was so vocal about race, politics, religion and his own greatness in the past I imagined would have a lot to say about Obama and various aspects of African-American culture today. What a shame that he is unable to inspire our generation with his words, and how cruelly ironic too, that he has had to live his final years voiceless, when he was once celebrated for his exuberant oratory.
Well, Chimamanda Adichie is someone who is using her strong voice to stoke the flames of intellectual debate about the most important issues of our time, and I have fallen in love with her all over again.