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Four Things We Learnt from Chimamanda’s Blackbox Interview

In a highly-anticipated 2 part conversation, prolific writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sat down with popular talk show host, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu for a three-hour long episode of the Blackbox Interview, that was released 1st and 3rd January respectively on the Bounce Radio YouTube page.

Her personality recipe – brilliance, insight, ambition, diligence, charm – has made Adichie, 43, one of the most successful writers in the world. Career wise, 2020 was a great year for the novelist, even by her standards. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction ‘Winner of Winners’ for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun.

The Women’s Prize For Fiction is the most prestigious literary prize awarded to female writers writing in English from anywhere in the world. Adichie also recently won the “Africa Freedom Prize 2020” presented by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. In October 2020, she released a another masterpiece, a short story titled, Zikora, which is her first literary work in seven years.

During the freewheeling interview with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Adichie opened up about her work, feminism, her relationship with her amazing daughter, fame, her love for the Igbo culture and many other wide-ranging topics.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu during after the Blackbox Interview
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu during after the Blackbox Interview

Here are four major things we learnt from Adichie’s interview

Chimamanda did not expect her first novel Purple Hibiscus to be as successful.

“Initially, I was published by a very small press. They didn’t have money for a book tour or anything like that. It was very hard to get published in the US.“ she said. “Things have changed so much now. When I was sending out the manuscript, I can’t tell you all the responses – ‘nobody cares about Africa’ Why don’t you write about America’…and then somebody finally said yes I will publish you but it was a very small publishing house, very good, very literary, very respected publisher and I didn’t expect to make money from Purple Hibiscus”

On why Half of A Yellow Sun ended the way it did.

She does not feel to follow up on Half of A Yellow Sun. She does not feel the need to tell people what happened to Kainene because there are many people today who got lost during the Civil War “and we still don’t know their whereabouts. and I think it’s important to honour that”. There are people today, women today who are still thinking ‘maybe that son who disappeared in 1969 will appear’”- she said and shook her head sadly. She really doesn’t know

“It’s hard to answer that honestly. You cannot write a book about Biafra and have an happy ending. It’s impossible. But when I started I didn’t know it will be Kainene but then the character just happened”

What she thought of Half of A Yellow Sun, the movie.

In 2013, a film adaptation of half of a yellow sun was released. It featured Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anika Noni Rose, Thandie Newton, Genevieve Nnaji. Adichie felt it was a herculean task to make a movie adaptation of such a voluminous text.

“The book is a lot. To try and make it into a movie; it would have been much better as mini-series but at the time they weren’t a thing. “Ten years of my life. I read everything about that period. I spent hours in library archives, I make this thing and all everybody wants to talk to me about is the film.” She joked. Although she wouldn’t push for a remake of the film, she wouldn’t stop it if a great team came along.

On the recent push for Biafra

Adichie touched on the recent agitations for Biafra. She expresses her doubts about its viability.

“For me, it’s a question of being practical. Where will the border be? Nobody has told me. In my hometown, I’ve asked a lot of people, ‘Ebe ka Biafra border ga-adi?’ This is a serious question because what I think is that what is propelling all those movements is a sense of marginalization which I think is completely valid. But this idea that the answer is independence is something that I just …”

“Igbo people cannot unite. If for example we said we want an Igbo president, Igbo people will not unite, and then we are talking about Biafra.” “There is a lot of work we need to do in the South-East, a lot of political work, a lot of rethinking how we strategize politically before we can talk about Biafra” the writer said.

You can watch Chimamanda’s complete conversation with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu on YouTube.

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