Author Topic: Encounter With ?Characters? In Things Fall Apart  (Read 2424 times)

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Encounter With ?Characters? In Things Fall Apart
« on: June 05, 2013, 06:20:27 AM »
Encounter with ?characters? in Things Fall Apart

How it would feel meeting relations of the people who inspired the creation of characters in an epic novel? Evelyn Osagie met those linked with the globally acclaimed Things Fall Apart at Ogidi, Anambra State.

As guests made their way into Ogidi Town Hall that afternoon to pay their last respects to the man who was known as the Ikenga and the Ugonabo of Ogidi, the statue of the legendary warrior Ezechuamagha welcomed them with his staff in hand.

Little did they know that it was no ordinary statue. He is the town?s progenitor from whom sprang the four quarters of Ogidi-Uru, Akanano, Ikenga and Ezinkwo and nine villages: Uru, Ogidiani, Ezi-Ogidi, Adazi-Ogidi, Nkwelle-Ogidi, Ikenga, Abo-Ogidi, Ire-Ogidi and Umuru in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State.

The town, which has since become a reference point for the literary-minded, continues to inspire those willing to draw inspiration from the ancestral home of the iconic novelist, the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, the Ugonabo Ogidi, whose works gave birth to influential African writings, including the famous novelThings Fall Apart.

As the success of Things Fall Apart resonates worldwide, its success has become not only that of just the author and his family, but also that of his native home, Ogidi.

Besides being a town of warriors, the author?s ancestral home shares lots of similarities with Umuofia, the fictional setting of the novel Things Fall Apart.  In fact, it is the ?real background? upon which Umuofia, is set, it was learnt.

Like Ogidi, Umuofia also has nine villages. And, according to Mrs Irene Obiora, an in-law to the Achebes, Things Fall Apart, in particular, is a modification of real life occurences in Ogidi, particularly in Ikenga, in ancient times. And the novel?s characters are creations inspired by the immediate surroundings.

Hear her: ?Things Fall Apart is our story. It is a mixture of what happened in those days between us and other neighbouring towns. He wrote about our customs, culture, festivals, games, etc. Do you know that Chinua?s father was a great wrestler known popularly as Okaa Okulu because he always slip off the opponent grip. This was before he became a catechist.  It is not something that is hidden; everybody knows it, including the children.?

According Mrs Obiora, 80+, one does not have to go too far to find persons whose forebears names were featured in the author?s book. On investigation, it was learnt that the fact is a common knowledge in the place. Even young boys and girls can point at the homes and descendants of such persons. Interestingly, the persons are all located within the late Chinua Achebe kindred ? Ikenga. Perhaps it is a clear case of blood is thicker than water.

On the way from the primary school attended by the author, about 100 metres away from his home, came Chimezie Okeke, 20, who said the author has greatly influenced him. To prove that he is an ardent fan of the writer, he went ahead to show the reporter around the homes of these person, not knowing that others like Obiora had done same earlier. ?Sister, Prof Achebe named many of his characters in Things Fall Apart with the names of our people. And just while they were getting close to one of their homes, Chief Alex Uzowulu, 76, came along.

?Good afternoon sir, this sister is looking for the people, whose names were used as characters, especially in Things Fall Apart, and I was taking her to your place and that of Okonkwo,? the young man said.

?Is it true that some characters in the novel were adapted from real life people here,? he was asked.

?Yes,? he said, ?My father, Chief Uzowulu Udo, the Ezeajani, was one of them. He is that man who was beat up by his in-laws after beating his wife severally; but my father was not like that. He was principled, disciplined, but was not hostile. It is common knowledge here that my mother, Ekwefi, who is the mother of Ezinma, the girl with the Ogbanje spirit.?

Chief Uzowulu was seven years old when the book was first published and so he could not read it. But when he did read it, he came to cherish it. ?When it came out, my father had a copy. As I grew up, I read the book many times over and have always been proud that Chinua Achebe named one of the characters of that great novel after my father. And for generations to come, wherever Things Fall Apart is read, my family?s name would always be mentioned and remembered,? he said.

And to the reason his parents names were immortalised in the novel, Uzowulu noted that perhaps both had made an impression on the author.

He said: ?One thing was common with Chinua, he was always moving with the old people. In those days, university students like Chinua used to meet with old people to learn about the culture, tradition and myths of the land which they would now document as part of their research. It is no secret that Ogidi was a strong inspiration on Chinua?s novel Things Fall Apart. Perhaps, he chose to use my father and mother?s name because my father was one of those with whom he shared memorable moments and that intimated him with some ancient stories whenever he was around. Other characters in the novel are also still around. Let me take you to them.?

Before Achebe?s burial many had wondered how the man who preached the ?Africanness? of the African would be buried, Uzowulu said the town?s people were not part of the lot. ?I wonder why people will think that way. You see, unlike in Things Fall Apart, we have now learnt to co-exist with one another, no matter one?s religious background. Our law in the town is that if you are a Christian, when you die, you will be buried in the Christian way and after which if you are a chief like Chinua, the Ndi-Iche (chiefs) would come and pay you their last respects after the burial. It was what we did in the case of Achebe. After the burial on Thursday, we went on Friday to pay him our last respects. I would have become a priest of my family?s shrine but I refused. I refused the shrine of my father because by taking kolanuts to the elders of our family that I was not fit for it. and they directed me to the Umuada (Our women). I told them I do not know how it is being

served and they agreed. Let me take you to others.?

The home of Mazi Dominick Okonkwo, 75, retired civil servant, was the next port of call. Although his father was not a wrestler, he said he had many things in common with the character in the novel. His father, Okonkwo Agu?s name was adapted as the lead character in Things Fall Apart because of his fearlessness. He said: ?Chinua was very friendly with my father. I?m sure that is one of the reasons he chose my father. He knows my father was a very powerful man that was feared by all that was why he was known as ?Okonkwo the tiger?. He was a warrior and a native doctor during his time. Chinua was very loyal to the elderly people and his loyal earned him all the stories.

?My father had a temper like the ?Okonkwo? in Things Fall Apart when he was a younger. As a bachelor, he gets angry easily, but calmed down after marrying my mother. No matter how hot a man is, women know how to calm him down. He was very happy when Chinua came to tell him that he has published it. He compensated them for the information; and they were many then. I read Things Fall Apart as a young man and left it for my children but they have lost it.?

Okonkwo?s friend, Obierika, was also not far-fetched. The Nation met with relations of the real ?Obierika? who asked if this reporter has met with others like Uzowulu. Mrs Alice Nwabuodu Agulefo (nee Obierika) who said of her father, Benedict Ilonvwo Obierika being a catechist was a close friend of Achebe?s father, adding that, however, her cousin, Obierika, in particular, got the honour of being named after a character in the book.

On her part, the advocacy over immortalising the late literary giant is needless, saying: ?As far as I?m concerned, I think he has already being immortalised because that book, which has been translated into 50 different world languages, will live forever.?

She added: ?Even in this town, Ogidi, and in the state for hundreds of years to come, his name will always be there and it?s like he is immortalised already. My family is close to his. Knowing that a character in the book is named after my father makes me very proud and my father, siblings and I are very fond of him. I read the novel in 1959, the year it was first published. He wrote his autograph then; and I have read countless times.

?At that time, it was like reading a historical novel on my hometown of an author I happened to know very well. Even though some of the things happened before I was born, it?s my culture being expressed. But still, for us, the novel is the combination of history and anthropology of a sort. I am proud and happy that my father?s name was there. That name is not a very common name like Okonkwo, Okorie or Okafor. As far as I know there is no other person answering Obierika in Ogidi. So, you see why I feel proud and happy.?

And on why the author chose the name, ?Obierika?, as the best friend of his lead character, she said: ?I have a cousin with whom he went to school with, also bears Obierika. His parents were heathen and not Christians. So, I believed that cousin of mine gave him a lot of information that he used in writing the book. My father happened to be an uncle to that one, so probably that is why he chose that name. Even though Chinua?s parents were so much into church, he still finds time to dig deep into the traditions and history of the land and in those days, Ogidi was a small community where everybody knows everybody else. He secretly mixes with the old people which some would refer to as heathen, some of whom he chose to use their names in the book, perhaps as a mark of honour. And Chinua, himself, once wrote that when his father was not looking, he would sneak out to go and meet with and gather information from those old people.?

The next stop was Obiora Uyanwa, 51, whose father, Okagbue Uyanwa?s name featured as the character ?Okagbue?, the medicine man who always gnash his teeth as he listens to those who come to consult him and the one who cures Ezinma of the Ogbanje?s spirit. He said such feat had been his pride since childhood.

?My father was a farmer and not a native doctor but he was a brave and truthful man,? Uyanwa said.?The people whose name he adapted in his novel were those he was fond of. They didn?t know he was going to use their names until the book was published. But there was something very important which he did: he gave the names to characters with different traits so as not to be too direct. It is almost like a puzzle. If you were from here, you could pick out your father traits from the characters aside the names. My father does not gnash his teeth in real life. My father was happy as far as it was his brother that used it and that his name has travelled far and wide.

?I have always been delighted and felt proud that my father?s name is being immortalised through the book. Anybody who reads the book will always come across my father?s name. In those days while I was in secondary school, whenever we were reading Things Fall Apart, I used to tell everyone with pride that the name ?Okagbue? is adapted from my father. And they would ask me if my father was a native doctor and I would say, ?no?. But I always enjoyed the attention it brought.?

Okonkwo?s friend, Obierika, was also not farfetched. This reporter met the real Obierika, who asked if she had met others like Uzowulu, said of his father: ?I don?t not know why he chose to use my father?s name in his book but I?m proud that it is there.?

Other characters found across the place include Unoka and Igwelo.


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Encounter With ?Characters? In Things Fall Apart
« on: June 05, 2013, 06:20:27 AM »


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