SENTINEL POETRY
ONLINE MAGAZINE MONTHLY <  ISSUE #12  <  NOVEMBER 2003  <  ISSN 1479-425X

"I don't believe in being prescriptive about literature.
I don't think writers SHOULD write this or write that.
They should just write."
- Adichie


IA:
What inspired or inspires you to write?

CNA: I didn't ever consciously decide to pursue writing. I've been writing since I was old enough to spell, and just sitting down and writing made me feel incredibly fulfilled. I may have considered other careers to make a living since I wasn't sure I could do it from writing, but I have never thought actively about my choice to write. I just write. I have to write. I like to say that I didn't choose writing, writing chose me. This may sound slightly mythical, but I sometimes feel as if my writing is something bigger than I am. There are days when I sit at my laptop and will myself to write and nothing happens. There are other days when I have things to do but feel compelled to write. And the writing just flows out. I am never sure what triggers these 'inspirations,' if that is what they are. More mundanely, the rituals and geography of specific places inspire me - the chaotic energy of Lagos, the sereneness of Nsukka, the insular calm of Mansfield, Connecticut. And I love observing people and tiny details about them. I often get the urge to write from imagining or inventing lives for people I don't know.

IA:  Biafra, (even though you were born seven years after the war ended), multiethnicity, culture and religion all feature heavily in your work.  Can you explain why?

CNA: ON BIAFRA -- It frustrates me that we choose, in Nigeria, to ignore our recent history. I am often asked why I write about Biafra, as though it is something I have to justify. Imagine asking somebody to justify writing about the Holocaust. We do not just risk repeating history if we sweep it under the carpet, we also risk being myopic about our present. I was never taught about the war when I was in primary or secondary school - so if children today are not being taught that, how can they put what is happening today in perspective? How will they make connections that will enable them begin to understand what Nigeria is and why it is the way it is?

I am aware of the resurgence of the Biafran philosophy - although I am wary of that _expression, because to me there is no particular Biafran philosophy. Biafra was about a universal philosophy. Despite the politics and egos and ambitions that were involved - and I say this because I do not idealize the war itself - it would be iniquitous to deny that at it's most basic, Biafra was about the inalienable right of human beings to be alive.  But I am less interested in that resurgence as I am in paying tribute to the thousands who died, and in questioning our history, through my fiction.

About the place of the Igbo in Nigeria. Again, I am more interested in the Igbo nation itself, and in how cultural priorities and responsibility and unity can be achieved within it. I find it curious, though, that Biafra is nearly always a tribally divided issue. I wonder, too, why Biafra still seems to be taboo and to carry a stigma. I think it says something about the place of the Igbo in Nigeria today that BIAFRA has become an 'Igbo issue.' If one claims to believe in Nigeria, and in the unity in diversity idea, then one must embrace the study and investigation of Biafra because Nigeria would not be today as it is if Biafra had not been.

ON MULTIETHNICITY - Not sure what you mean. Ndi ocha (White/Western society)? Well, I guess I do write about that because in many ways living in the Diaspora means negotiating life in a 'multi-ethnic place.'

Continues>>>

GUEST POET:
TOYIN ADEWALE-GABRIEL
About the poet
Poems

ERNEST DEMPSEY
Two Poems

CHIKA UNIGWE
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INTERVIEWS:

IKE ANYA
In The Footsteps of Chinua Achebe: Enter CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE read>>>

NNOROM AZUONYE
My E-Conversation with
TOYIN ADEWALE-GABRIEL
read>>>

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