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

"I got to internalize that 'nwanyi' (being a woman)
didn't mean there were things you could not do."
-Adichie


CNA:
ON CULTURAL VALUES -- 'Cultural values.'  That term worries me, especially when it is used next to Africa because I have found that we sometimes use it to shield our hypocrisies and to perpetuate the lies we tell ourselves.  I love the culture of my people, but at the same time, I do not believe in idealizing, or in transporting it to its 'pure' past. I think Chinua Achebe is one of the greatest writers the world has ever seen, because he did not only tell us, the writers who would come after him, that our stories were worthy, he also swiped at the disgusting stereotypes of Africa. That said, I don't believe in being prescriptive about literature. I don't think writers SHOULD write this or write that. They should just write. I speak for myself alone and I am interested in presenting things as they are and in challenging our collective hypocrisy. I remember being blasted by an Igbo web group, about two years ago, because of a story about a teenager who had a boyfriend. A boyfriend! We prefer sometimes to cover our heads with our hands and pretend that things do not happen. Until we acknowledge things to be the way they are, we cannot own them, and we cannot control them.

RELIGION - I am fascinated by the power of religion. I grew up Catholic, still am although I am what may be called a Liberal Catholic, which is that I believe in Lourdes but also think that contraception is a good thing. Religion is such a huge force, so easily corruptible and yet so capable of doing incredible good. The streak of intolerance I see masquerading itself as faith and the way we create an image of God that suits us, are things I am interested in questioning. I am also interested in colonized religion, how people like me can profess and preach a respect of their indigenous culture and yet cling so tenaciously to a religion that considers most of that indigenous culture evil.. I think religion will probably feature in some way in everything I write - it, and the idea of faith itself, is something that I question, grapple with, almost daily.

IA: What are your pet peeves-the little things that bug you?

CNA: I can't stand it when people choose to portray things the way they wish they were, rather than the way they actually are. I can't stand empty Big Manism, something my people do too well.

IA: How deeply do you draw from your own personal experiences in your writing?

CNA: My THEMES are from my life, I guess, from what I am interested in. But I try not to write 'autobiographical' fiction , although I confess a recent story, still unpublished is based on a recent relationship. Mostly though, I try not to write about ME

IA: Do you see a mission or reason for  your writing?

CNA: I don't think I have a MISSION for writing. I write because it is a need, a compulsion almost. But then I do have issues I love to explore - Nigeria, of course, as well as Nigerians in Diaspora. The subtleties of race, especially in America. The place and role and choices of Nigerian Women. 'Modern' Igbo culture, or what Igbo culture has evolved into (although Chinweizu, whom I greatly admire, told me once that there is no such thing, that things do not evolve into weaker forms!)

Continues>>>

GUEST POET:
TOYIN ADEWALE-GABRIEL
About the poet
Poems

ERNEST DEMPSEY
Two Poems

CHIKA UNIGWE
Two Poems

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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