Elechi Amadi

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Elechi Amadi
Born (1934-05-12)12 May 1934
Aluu, Rivers State, Nigeria
Died 29 June 2016(2016-06-29) (aged 82)
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Nigerian
Notable works The Concubine (1966)

Elechi Amadi (12 May 1934 – 29 June 2016) was a former member of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He was an author of plays and novels that are generally about African village life, customs, beliefs, and religious practices prior to contact with the Western world. Amadi is best regarded for his 1966 debut novel, The Concubine, which has been called "an outstanding work of pure fiction".[1] Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka paid tribute to Amadi as "a soldier and poet, captive of conscience, human solidarity and justice."[2]

Early life and education

Born in 1934, in Aluu in the Ikwerre local government area of Rivers State, Nigeria, Elechi Amadi attended Government College, Umuahia (1948–52), Survey School, Oyo (1953–54), and the University of Ibadan (1955–59), where he obtained a degree in Physics and Mathematics.[3]

Career

He worked for a time as a land surveyor and later was a teacher at several schools, including the Nigerian Military School, Zaria (1963–66).[4]

Military service and politics

Amadi served in the Nigerian army, remained there during the Nigerian Civil War, and retired at the rank of Captain.[5] He then held various positions with the Rivers State government: Permanent Secretary (1973–83), Commissioner for Education (1987–88) and Commissioner for Lands and Housing (1989–90).

Writing

He has been writer-in-residence and lecturer at Rivers State College of Education, where he has also been Dean of Arts, head of the literature department and Director of General Studies.

Amadi has said that his first publication was in 1957, a poem entitled "Penitence" in a University of Ibadan campus magazine called The Horn, edited by John Pepper Clark.[6]

Amadi's first novel, The Concubine, was published in London in 1966 and was hailed as a "most accomplished first performance".[7] Alastair Niven in his critical study of the novel wrote: "Rooted firmly among the hunting and fishing villages of the Niger delta, The Concubine nevertheless possesses the timelessness and universality of a major novel."[8] The Concubine was made into a film, written by Elechi Amadi and directed by accomplished Nollywood film director Andy Amenechi, which premiered in Abuja in March 2007.[9]

The setting of Amadi's second novel, The Great Ponds, published in 1969, is pre-colonial Eastern Nigeria, and is about the battle between two village communities over possession of a pond.

In 1973 Amadi autobiographical non-fiction, Sunset in Biafra, was published. It records his personal experiences in the Nigeria-Biafra war, and according to Niven "is written in a compelling narrative form as though it were a novel".[10]

On 13 May 1989 a symposium was held at the University of Port Harcourt to celebrate Amadi's 55th birthday.

In May 2004, a conference was organized by the Association of Nigerian Authors, Rivers State Branch, to mark Elechi Amadi's 70th birthday.[11]

For his last book, When God Came, Elechi turned for the first time to the genre of science fiction.[12] Reviewing it, Lindsay Barrett wrote: "When an author has attained the status of an icon in his profession, based on the publication of works that have been declared iconic masterpieces from the earliest period of his career, it is unusual to find him engaging in experimentation in the latter stages of that career. This is the surprising trajectory that this short but profoundly memorable booklet by the late Elechi Amadi represents. Although the two narrative treatises contained in this work were described by the author as an excursion into the medium of science fiction it would really be more accurate to define them as philosophical allegories. Their contents contemplate the human condition and the limits of the potential for human achievement based on the concept of the supernatural rather than simply being exercises in the conceptualisation of events of an otherworldly nature, which popular science fiction often is. ... In the final analysis these works read like fables from the future that the author must have had immense enjoyment creating. Amadi’s love for literature and his prolific output in his early years overshadowed his scientific background especially after the Civil War when he settled down to work as an educationist and public administrator in Rivers State. It was in this period that he embarked on the experiments in new forms of writing of which this work is a slight but unforgettable example."[13]

Later years

2009 kidnapping

On 5 January 2009 Amadi was kidnapped at his home in Aluu town, Ikwerre, by unknown gunmen. He was released on the evening of 6 January, 23 hours later.[14][15]

Africa39

In 2014 he was a judge of Africa39, together with Tess Onwueme and Margaret Busby.[16]

Death

On 29 June 2016, Amadi died at the Good Heart Hospital in Port Harcourt at the age of 82.[17][18]

Awards

  • 1992 - Rivers State Silver Jubilee Merit Award
  • 2003 - honorary doctorate, Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in Education, honoris causa, awarded by Rivers State University of Science and Technology
  • 2003 - Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Education
  • 2003 - Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR)

Bibliography

  • The Concubine (novel), London: Heinemann African Writers Series, 1969; Ibadan: Heinemann Books, 1993, ISBN 0-435-90025-0
  • The Great Ponds (novel), Heinemann, 1969; Macmillan Education, 1976, ISBN 978-0435270261
  • Sunset in Biafra (war diary), Heinemann African Writers Series, 1969, ISBN 978-0435901400
  • Isiburu (play), Heinemann, 1973, ISBN 978-0435925086
  • Peppersoup and The Road (plays, combined volume), Ibadan: Onibonoje Publishers, 1977
  • Dancer of Johannesburg (play), Ibadan: Onibonoje Publishers, 1978
  • The Slave (novel), Heinemann African Writers Series, 1978, ISBN 978-0435902100
  • Ethics in Nigerian Culture (philosophy), London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1982, ISBN 978-9781295966
  • Estrangement (novel), Heinemann African Writers Series, 1986, ISBN 978-0435905644
  • The Woman of Calabar (play), Port Harcourt: Gitelle Press, 2002
  • Speaking and Singing (essays and poems), University of Port Harcourt Press, 2003
  • Collected Plays (ed. Seiyifa Koroye), Port Harcourt: Pearl Publishers, 2004
  • When God Came, 2011

Further reading

  • Ebele Eko, Elechi Amadi: The Man and his Work, Yaba, Lagos: Kraft Books Ltd, 1991.
  • Willfried Feuser and Ebele Eko (eds), Elechi Amadi at 55, Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books, 1994.
  • Seiyifa Koroye, Critical Perspectives on Elechi Amadi, Port Harcourt: Pearl Publishers/Association of Nigerian Authors, 2008.

References

  1. ^ Eldred Jones, "African Literature 1966-1967", African Forum, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 5.
  2. ^ Ben Ezeamalu, "‘Adieu Soldier and Poet,’ Soyinka pays tribute to Elechi Amadi", Premium Times, 4 July 2016.
  3. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Elechi Amadi". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 25 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Hans M. Zell, Carol Bundy, Virginia Coulon, A New Reader's Guide to African Literature, Heinemann Educational Books, 1983; pp. 350-351.
  5. ^ Elechi Amadi website, CV.
  6. ^ A Celebration of J. P. Clarke's 50 Years of Artistry, A Presentation by Elechi Amadi - 13 August 2010.
  7. ^ Eustace Palmer, "Elechi Amadi and Flora Nwapa", African Literarture Today, no. 1, 1969, p. 56.
  8. ^ Alastair Niven, A Critical View on Elechi Amadi's "The Concubine" (London, 1981), p. 7.
  9. ^ Elechi Amadi website, videos.
  10. ^ Niven, A Critical View on Elechi Amadi's "The Concubine", (1981), p. 5.
  11. ^ Preface to Seiyifa Koroye, Critical Perspectives on Elechi Amadi, Port Harcourt: Pearl Publishers/Association of Nigerian Authors.
  12. ^ Aderonke Adeleke, "Late Elechi Amadi’s Final Work Of Art, ‘When God Came’", The Cerebral Lemon Co., 1 July 2016.
  13. ^ Lindsay Barrett, "Fables From The Future: Elechi Amadi’s Philosophical Allegories", The Independent (Nigeria), 21 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Gunmen kidnap Nigerian novelist", BBC News, 6 January 2009.
  15. ^ Jimitota Onoyume and Samuel Oyadongha, "Nigeria: Novelist, Elechi Amadi Kidnapped, Freed After 23 Hours", AllAfrica, 7 January 2009.
  16. ^ "Imagine the World", Africa39.
  17. ^ Jimitota Onoyume (29 June 2016). "Elechi Amadi dies at 82". Vanguard. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  18. ^ "Nigeria's Elechi Amadi, author of The Concubine, dies", BBC News, 30 June 2016.

External links

  • Elechi Amadi official website
  • "Conversation with Elechi Amadi: When I wrote The Concubine, I thought it was a joke", The Sun (Nigeria), 16 July 2016.
  • Wole Soyinka, "Elechi Amadi, a tribute", The News, 4 July 2016.
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