Praise and tribute for literary giant

Saturday March 23 2013

Kenya’s former president Daniel Arap Moi: “In his readable and witty literature, Achebe awakened the African peoples to the gradual disintegration of their cultures and moral values under the impact of Western influences.”

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said: “I send my condolences to the people of Nigeria and the family of Chinua Achebe. We have lost a great son and the “Father of African Literature.”

Henry Chakava, chairman of East African Educational Publishers, whose publisher-author relationship with Mr Achebe blossomed into a deep friendship: “Everything he says is so full of meaning, yet so simple, you never need a dictionary to read any of his books. You can read Things Fall Apart at so many levels, and pick up lessons at each — and the novel continues to yield new meaning….”

Jimnah Mbaru, chairman, Dyer & Blair: “Oh, Chinua Achebe is dead. I read most of his books. His book People of the City gave us an insight into problems of urbanisation in Africa.”

Chris Kirubi, Kenyan entrepreneur: “What a sad day for Africa! Chinua Achebe has died.”

Prof Henry Indangasi, University of Nairobi lecturer: “As the chair of the literature department in 1988, the Kenya Publishers Association and we hosted him. It was almost a state event, befitting his status as the Father of African Literature. There were as many people inside Taifa Hall as there were outside it.”

Prof Peter Simatei, research fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt, University of Bayreuth: “Although Achebe was well known for his fiction, no other African writer I know of has played such a central role in the development of criticism of African literature and especially in liberating this critical practice from colonialist categories and stereotypes.”

Prof Wanjku Kabira, chair of the department of literature, University of Nairobi: “He immensely influenced Africa’s political thinking through his works such as A Man of the People. He explored both the West and the East’s idea of controlling Africa.”

Prof Peter Amuka, Moi University Department of Literature: “Achebe set very high standards for the writing of prose and storytelling so much so that Wole Soyinka accused him of ‘unrelieved competence.’ His competence in prose writing could only be compared to the competence of Christopher Okigbo in poetry.”

Simon Sossion, managing director, Target Publications and vice chair, Kenya Publishers Association: “I first came face to face with Achebe in 1987 at University of Nairobi’s Taifa Hall where he prefaced his public lecture with an Igbo poem as a tribute to his compatriot and literary soulmate Christopher Okigbo’s demise in the Biafra war. It was a tearjerking poem titled ‘Have you seen Christopher Okigbo?’ about his anguish at not being able see or hear Okigbo anymore. Now who will recite this poem to Achebe on his demise? Who will recite: ‘Have you seen Chinua Achebe?’”

Novelist Henry Ole Kulet: “I mourn the departure of a great mind whose insightful storytelling shaped my own. Africa and the world will miss his wit and delightful style.”

Prof Chris Wanjala, chairman, National Book Development Council of Kenya: “I first read Chinua Achebe in 1963 while in Form Two. That was my first encounter with African literature. Achebe was the real doyen of African letters, for he not only wrote the first classic, but was also the editorial adviser to Africa Writers Series, which discovered such people as Ngugi wa Thiong’o and many others across the continent.”

Dr Mbugua wa Mungai, chairman of the Department of Literature, Kenyatta University: “It is ironic that the man who wrote that among the Igbo, proverbs are the palm wine with which words are eaten, died in the US, though ‘it was a taboo for an Igbo man to die in a foreign land.’ But then Achebe was not just an Igbo man; he was an African, nay, an internationalist in the league of others who went before him like Shakespeare and Swift.”