Last night, book lovers flocked the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne to meet up with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
This being her second time in Cologne, it was great to see a larger number of participants this time. The tickets to the event had been sold out 24hrs after the tour had been announced and the organisers had to change the venue and increase the number of tickets which also sold out soon after. Her fans came from across NRW for the event.
The event that was to start at 7:30pm had people queueing to go in as early as 6:30pm.
The fans stood patiently clutching copies of Americanah, as they waited for the doors to open and subsequently for Chimamanda to appear. Those who had learnt of the event long after the tickets had been sold out, stood hopefully in the foyer begging to buy tickets from the fans for more than 10times the initial price. (Considering my origin, I did contemplate the returns of such a venture, but then again that long drive and the crazy weather.)
To her utter surprise, when she appeared at the door, people cheered and stood up. Then the crazy ones started shouting “There is God oooohh” (The famous Mama Peace chant). She laughed and chanted a reply “Chai chai” and the crowd went crazy. The Germans in the room wondering what inside joke that was, cause soon after all those chanting and Chimamanda laughed.
It was an amazing evening. They read different passages of her book and discussed the different characters. She read one part in English and the rest were done in German. The lady that read the German part was really good. I liked how she inserted the effects, she must be an actress or she’s involved in plays in some way or something. Although some of the words did mess her up like the Igbo phrases or the Nigerian/Kenyan names in the book, she did a fantastic job.
Of course, there wouldn’t miss such an event with the usual question: “You spoke of a corrupt person, does that describe Nigeria today?”. Chimamanda was quite diplomatic with her answers, as she usually is.
Some of the comments from Chimamanda that stood out to me were:
For the longest time, words that have been used to describe us haven’t been our own. In some cases it has been factors that mean nothing to us. We can’t measure Africa’s growth solely by economics.
It’s not about writing positive stories about Africa, but writing true stories.
People think a diasporan will return home and solve everything for their country, that is a lie.
When asked if her book was a call on the African diaspora to return home, she summarised it as a Yes and No answer. Yes, because Africa needs the ideas of its diaspora but no, because that should be a personal decision and the diaspora is also making meaningful contributions to their home countries by being away.
On being asked if she supports “broken homes”, she smuggly said yes before she went ahead to explain. “For the longest time, we have excused men yet they have been the ones that make the decision to leave their families. We lay the blame wholly on the other woman, yet the man had the freedom to decide whether to stay or leave“.
The event got quite heated in the end when the discussion moved towards race. She mentioned what some people in Frankfurt had told her about Germans not speaking openly about race and the room just went cementry quiet, of course other than the African participants who were all too willing to add in their view on the matter. And so the event ended there with the words, “That’s a great place to end”…lol….
Surprisingly, there were so many Kenyans at the event.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer best known for her TED talk, Danger of a Single Story and her book, Half of a Yellow Sun that was recently inspired a movie under the same title. Her book tour this year was focusing on her book, Americanah that talks about being an African in the US, racism, African hair and some bit of love.
You can check out when she will be visiting your city here: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2014, Book Reading Tour. She’ll be visiting Germany and Switzerland.