Tag Archives: Nigeria

Bringing The Ancient Past To Life. A Review of ONAEDO: the Blacksmith’s Daughter: a Novel by Ngozi Achebe


The most interesting aspect of this historical novel for me is the way in which the freshness and simplicity of its style enhances the credibility of what is in some ways an incredible tale. It is narrated with such veracity and ease that the reader will be easily persuaded that the impact of slavery on the pristine African communities of the past was exactly as portrayed here. Ngozi Achebe has crafted a story that fills several gaps not merely in world literature but also in the perception of African history as both a discipline and an emotional concern for all those whose ancestry is eternally touched by that tragic industry. Her depiction of the beginnings of slavery and the inter-phase between Portuguese slave dealers and African society is a remarkable example of the restoration of a lost era to contemporary relevance through literature. She has achieved in her first novel the remarkable feat of creating what might very well come to be regarded as a unique masterpiece.

ngozi achebe (oneado the blacksmith's daughter) II

The tale has the epic sweep of a narrative recollection of events based on irrefutable evidence. The characters devised by the author leap off the page with dramatic intensity, and none more so than the central protagonist Onaedo. This central character could be considered a beacon of modernity even by the standards of our own times and yet the setting and the social milieu described by the author is impeccably traditional and befitting to the era of antiquity in which it is located. The alliance of brilliant writing and impressive research has made the story a classic both in its content and in its moral tone. The descriptive power of her writing strengthens the accuracy of her recreation of 16th century life in olu Ndigbo, the nation of the Igbo peoples, before the intervention of Western culture. At the same time it also serves to suspend belief in the common assumption that the first and most important intercourse between these territories and the outside world were as a result of British colonial intervention.


Ngozi Achebe has actually moved our perception of ancient African history, especially of the intercourse between traditional societies like that of Ndigbo and the Western world, onto a new plane. Coming from the pen of the niece of Chinua Achebe, the great chronicler of the confrontation between Ndigbo society and the British colonisers, this book is one of the seminal literary events of new African writing for the 21st century. It is unique in its adventurous conceit of seeking to open up a chapter of the past that has been shrouded for centuries in both mystery and myth. Portuguese explorers who were the first recorded visitors from Europe to the West African coast have largely taken a back seat in scholarly chronicles of the intercourse between Europe and Africa. This novel moves the era and the extraordinary events recorded in it to the forefront of contemporary concern.

These events include the commencement of the slave trade, the first stirrings of Christian conversion of the communities of the West African coast, and trade in spices, palm oil, gold, hides and ivory. However she also examines the nature of the culture and occupations of the traditional society in depth and posits that the invasion from the West served to destroy a deep-seated philosophical commitment to a fundamentally pastoral way of life. In outlining and then building the tale around romantic disenchantment and rustic violence she establishes the core of the narrative in the disastrous demise of a family. The head of this family is Eneda the blacksmith whose provenance may very well be allied to the discovery of the fabled Igbo-Ukwu bronzes. Indeed the way in which she has integrated reflections on historical events and iconic memories into exciting parameters of storytelling serves as proof of her extraordinary talent.

Ms. Achebe has said in interviews that her inspiration came from many sources one of which is the story of those fabled artefacts. In addition to this although she was not one of the “Biafran children” evacuated to Sao Tome for safety during the Nigerian civil war her curiousity about the history of that island community also became a major inspiration. This provides the background for the latter half of the novel and elevates it beyond a simple tale of romance and adventure into a profound commentary on the relevance and character of an African society that ended up contributing to its own violation. Although this is a serious novel it remains a most exciting and entertaining narrative to read because its intellectual depth does not detract from the elements of drama, intrigue and romance that serve to carry the story forward.

One of the most remarkable abilities displayed by the author in this work is that of establishing the personality traits and defining peculiarities of both major and minor characters with extraordinary depth in a few short sentences. She deploys incidents and characters with uncanny realism even while displaying a penchant for poetic phrasing in her descriptions of places and reflections on the importance of traditional laws and morals. Her depiction of such seminal characters as Onaedo’s aunt Aku whose extraordinary gifts of telepathy and psychic foresight allied to knowledge of traditional medicine make her a formidable ally as well as foe, and Oguebie the jealous prince and traitor to the community who becomes one of the pioneers of local collaboration with foreign slave traders, reveals that she has particular strengths of observation as well as of imagination. Her characterisations gain veracity through her effective use of modern psychological evaluation even while consolidating the relevance of their place in the narrative of the past. She is also noticeably even-handed in depicting both African and European characters in terms of their universal humanity.

Onaedo is a complex but highly readable work. The prologue and the epilogue provide signposts to the contemporary relevance of the body of the work. Maxine the discoverer/editor of the manuscript in these technically slight but profoundly exploratory chapters is herself a victim of loss brought about by historical upheaval. Having seen her beloved father disappear to Nigeria during the civil war, she is confronted by a crisis as he has written to her that he is coming to visit her three decades later. Faced with this dilemma she tries to find balance in reading through a box of old diaries apparently written by an extraordinary African slave from Brazil. It would be tantamount to giving away the author’s most precious secrets for me to relate how this formula is resolved in the end but the most unexpected revelations follow with seamless regularity. The main narrative is based on Maxine’s lightly edited version of the diary. The effective power with which Ms. Achebe deploys this complex literary device is that of an accomplished author. Although she is a practicing medical doctor her work does not appear to be that of a one-volume writer. Her first book, which has now been shortlisted for the LNG Literary Prize for 2011, is no amateur’s essay. It is the powerful outpouring of an accomplished storyteller. Her famous uncle must be as proud of her as all Nigerians who read this remarkable story should be.

Publisher AfricAgenda Publications, Abuja: Reviewer: Lindsay Barrett

Nollywood Takes Over London! Mercy Johnson, Ramsey Nouah and Mary Njoku Hit the Red Carpet for Thy Will Be Done Premiere, London

Some of Nollywood’s biggest stars made cinema history at the BFI IMAX, London, last night as they attended the star-studded world premiere of Thy Will Be Done, a ROK Studios film directed by the award-winning Obi Emelonye. This is the first time an independent movie has premiered at the 500 seat BFI IMAX and Nollywood fans turned out in their hundreds to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars and to watch the very first screening, which was sold out.
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The crowds went wild for a glimpse of Mercy Johnson, Ramsey Nouah and Mary Njoku and were thrilled that a Nollywood movie was given such a fitting platform. They were also joined on the night by His Excellency Chief Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin City.

Nollywood (Nigerian Hollywood) is the world’s second largest film industry in the world, in terms of output and is the African Diaspora’s most popular form of entertainment. On the popular Internet platform iROKOtv, more people log in from London than the whole of Nigeria, hence the decision to screen the movie at the BFI IMAX.

Jason Njoku of Rok Studios says: ‘Rok Studios has huge ambitions in terms of re-energising Nollywood and producing international-standard cinema from Nigeria. Thy Will Be Done, for us, is the blueprint, the gold standard, if you will, in terms of quality and awesome storytelling that we hope will now define Nollywood’
Mercy Johnson and Obi Emelonye
Director Obi Emelonye says: ‘Thy Will Be Done is an eloquent example of what I call aspirational Nollywood or indeed aspirational African cinema- excellent African story with bold pretensions of grandeur, which has squeezed every ounce of commercial value from a budget that cannot shoot a short in other territories.’

Thy Will Be Done is the story of Pius (Ramsey Nouah), a happily married pastor in charge of a large church in Lagos, Nigeria. But when his first wife (Mary Njoku) that he buried 7 years ago suddenly shows up, his world is thrown into turmoil. His present wife (Mercy Johnson-Okojie) tries to fight her corner but Pius has a choice to make…between his calling and his wives; between old sins and new loyalties; between taking firm action and surrendering to God’s will. Weakened by guilt and overwhelmed by sensational revelations, nothing would have prepared Pius for how rapidly things would descend into violent chaos…for hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Thy Will Be Done will be screened in cinemas across Nigeria from March 2015.

VLISCO Lures With New Campaign Collection ‘SPLENDEUR’

This is a beautiful one from VLISCO – for the afro-centric diva who is sophisticated, feminine and loves to show the multi-faceted sides of her personality through her fashion choices.

With a splash of the grandiose and a pinch of drama, VLISCO lures us in again with their gorgeous wax print design and a divaliciously splendid fashion collabo* with Nigerian fashion designer Lanre da Silva. Lanre’s eponymous style oozes great artistry and a creative craftsmanship with her use and execution of embellishments.

Why we write this…We read the words WIN & FREE below. Read on and share  X.


Take to the stage and shine


Welcome to Vlisco’s new collection ‘Splendeur’ – layer after layer of opulence, grandeur and feminine drama. With Vlisco’s new season’s fabric collection, women can become a vision of sophistication and pure splendour.

 The Splendeur Campaign. This season Vlisco speaks to every woman who wants to dress like a glamorous movie star. Whether she’s going to a ball, a party or just a romantic dinner, she will dazzle in the limelight. ‘Splendeur’ gives women the freedom to create an outfit that says so much about their glamorous spirit – encouraging them to make a dramatic entrance.

Embellished fashion inspiration. Extravagant embellishment is the spark for so many of Vlisco’s sartorial fashion inspirations this season. There are little sequins, pearlescent beads and hand-sculpted jewellery, created by cutting out the ornamental forms in their fabrics – all of which enhance, empower and compliment the fabrics.

Colour couture. The rich colours and bohemian nature of the Art Deco era was a key inspiration for Vlisco’s colour house this season, together with the fascinating properties of velvet and opulent jewels. The richness, confidence and beauty of each have been skilfully distilled into every design.

Collaboration with Lanre da Silva. As a famous fashion designer in Nigeria and beyond, Lanre’s style is rich in femininity and she uses a multitude of embellishments –the perfect match for this season’s ’Splendeur’ concept. It’s why Vlisco invited her to craft a glamorous garment for the campaign from their shimmering gold Limited Edition fabric. She also designed an unforgettable festive dress that people can win.

Designer Lanre da Silva at MTN Lagos Fashion and Design WQeek

Vlisco embellishments for free. With two fabrics of six yards, one of Limited Edition, clients will receive two Vlisco embellishments for free. Each one is beautifully hand-crafted by Vlisco and is an interpretation of the ornaments found in their fabrics – these embellishments can be used on a garment for added ‘Splendeur’ and grace. But that’s not all, the lucky woman with the winning scratch card (exclusively in Vlisco Boutiques, on www.vlisco.com/shop and participating points of sale from 18th November) will win the dress designed by Lanre da Silva and have it tailor-made for a perfect fit.


2 and 4 yard fabrics. These shorter lengths make it really easy for women to mix and match fabrics to create truly individual fashion statements. They’re available in 2 yards, 4 yards and pre-packs and can only be purchased from Vlisco Boutiques and at www.vlisco.com/shop.


A history worthy of remembrance. Since 1846, Vlisco has created striking textiles influencing the fashion landscape in West and Central Africa. These fabrics reflect true Dutch craftsmanship and are still known as ‘Hollandais’, from the French word for ‘Dutch’. In fact, Vlisco is the only brand creating authentic Dutch Wax fabrics recognised by their eye-catching design, vibrant colours and unique wax craquelé.

Vlisco, the true original, since 1846.