Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, talks motherhood, racism in interview with FT

01 Jul 2016

Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, talks motherhood, racism in interview with FT

Multiple award-winning Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has revealed she recently had a baby girl.

In the interview over lunch at a Lagos restaurant, with the Financial Times’ African Editor, David Pilling, the Orange Prize winner told her interviewer that the reason she ordered for chapman – a crimson -coloured fruit-flavour sugary Nigerian drink, – instead of wine was because she was breastfeeding.

“This is just very sugary, very sweet. I would probably have a glass of wine, but I’m breastfeeding, I’m happy to announce,” the “Half of a Yellow Sun” writer told the surprised journalist.

“This is the first time I’m saying it publicly. I have a lovely little girl so I feel like I haven’t slept . . . but it’s also just really lovely and strange,” she added.

She explained that she wanted her pregnancy and her child to be as “personal as possible” so she kept it from some of her friends.

“I have some friends who probably don’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby. I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy. We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood. I went into hiding. I wanted it to be as personal as possible.

“In this country of mine that I love,” she goes on, sliding to a halt on the word “love”, “people think that you’re incomplete unless you’re married.”

In the enthralling interview, where she spoke about her relation with some of the characters in her books, racism, Biafra and American politics, she exuded a rare-to-come-by optimism about the present and future prospects of Nigeria.

“Nigeria is way too young to expect the kind of thing that I would ideally want for Nigeria, but the idea of holding people accountable is slowly happening,” she said.

She said corruption and impunity were on the decline, and technology was now helping an empowered middle class to hold public officials accountable.

“I don’t know if it’s a delusional kind of hope, I don’t know if it’s a hope that is hoping because there’s nothing left to do but hope. But I’m still hopeful that I will see a better Nigeria.”

On racism in America, she explained that one’s skin hue can determine the kind of discrimination one has to put up with, arguing that there is no “united league of the oppressed.”

“Even within the African-American communities, there are differences, so that the lighter-skin African-Americans have a certain kind of privilege. It’s a tainted privilege because it’s a privilege within a racist system, but still. And obviously it has its history in slavery. The so-called house slave was lighter-skinned and the field slave was darker,” she said.

Just like in her latest novel, “Americanah”, where some characters were ridiculed for viewing Africa as war-ridden and poor, she tongue-lashed the practise as patronising and condescending.

“I think I’d rather you not engage than engage in a way that is patronising. It comes from a sense of superiority; it comes from an ignorance that refuses to acknowledge itself. So Africa becomes this vague mass of wars.”

Similarly, she reprimanded Nigerians as the Americans of Africa for our sense of entitlement.

“We in Nigeria have an unearned and funny sense of superiority. Nigerians are the Americans of Africa,” she said.

She revealed that she was going to vote for Democratic Party flag-bearer, Hillary Clinton, in the United States elections in November. She described Bernie Sanders as “your dishevelled, likeable uncle,” but added that most of his policies were unrealistic.

Ms Adichie revealed that the character she like most in “Americanah” was Ifemelu whom she described as “an act of defiance.”

“I’ve had to spend a lot of time convincing people that she’s not me, but in some ways she is.”

“She’s almost an act of defiance, because I really find myself questioning the idea of the likeable character, especially the likeable female character.”

“I liked her. I didn’t always like her. She can be soft or prickly. I wanted her to be all of those things, because I just think that we need more women to be all of those things — and for it to be OK.”


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