Adichie on Fame, Gender Politics, and Growing up in Nsukka

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who will be the keynote speaker for the Remembering Biafra Conference, is not only known for her novels and her famous TED talks, but also her intellect, staunchly feminist opinions (see TED talk here) and humility. In an interview published in British Vogue in November of 2015, Adichie discusses her rise to fame, gender equality, and growing up in Nsukka, Nigeria.

In the interview, Adichie discusses her rise to fame via her well-known TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists,” which was given in 2013 at TEDxEuston in London as part of a series of talks focusing on African issues and affairs. Bits of the talk were sampled in the song “Flawless” on a Beyoncé album released in 2013, and the TED talk itself has nearly four million views on YouTube alone. Adichie also touched on what it was like growing up in Nigeria in an objectively progressive household where her father worked at the University of Nigeria and her mother was the university’s first female registrar. Nigeria has a deeply patriarchal culture, and Adichie said that the oppression of women “makes me angry. I can’t not be angry. I don’t know how you can just be calm.”

Adichie, who is also known for her fashion style, designs her own dresses and works with tailors to bring her designs to life. She also has a personal make-up artist she works with. Clearly she “sees no contradiction in being a woman of fashion and a feminist,” the article claims.

The interviewer also discusses race with Adichie, who states, “In Nigeria I’m not black. We don’t do race in Nigeria. We do ethnicity a lot, but not race.” Adichie goes on to note that she has focused most of her activism on gender inequality because that is the primary inequality she faces in Nigeria, although she has experienced racism herself in the United States, especially in her home outside of Baltimore, Maryland.

At the conclusion of the interview, Adichie discusses a project that she has been spearheading for the past eight years in Nigeria: a writing workshop held in Lagos in collaboration with her Nigerian editor. In 2015, nearly 2000 people applied for 20 spots. About writing, Adichie says “I want to make it valid, to dream about books and writing. Because in Nigeria it’s very hard; people will say to you, what do you mean, ‘writing’? Nigerians are a very, very practical people. And while I admire practicality, I feel we need to make a space for dreaminess.”

Abby Pioch is the primary blogger for Remembering Biafra. She is a senior in the Elliott School studying International Affairs concentrating in international development with a second major in French Language, Literature and Culture and a minor in Political Science. She is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Sorority and currently tutors ESL students at the Washington English Center.