Last week the newly-established Institute of African Studies and the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Washington, DC hosted the Remembering Biafra conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Biafra. Fortunately, video recording of all the panels are available on Youtube. Check them out, if you wish. The highlight of the event was the keynote lecture by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who spoke about her family, and the ways memories and imaginaries of Biafra shaped her life and work as a writer. Her lecture was about Biafra and Nigeria, but it was a most moving tribute to her father, mother who listed to her talk from the front seat and who she asked to stand to be recognized by the audience. She spoke about the scars they bear, the losses--profound and profane, and that determination, shared by most survivors of that war, to rebuild their lives and worlds, in spite the heartbreak called Nigeria. Chimamanda showed once again why she is one of today's most important voices; a calm voice that commands wildfires. And, oh, the lecture was an occasion to celebrate Chimamanda's election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Come to think of it, last year, none other than El Anatsui became an Academician. Which makes you wonder: what is the Nsukka connection? Congratulations, my dear sister!
And thank you, Chimamanda, for calling out the Nigerian authorities for the extrajudicial murders of scores of people--unarmed supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra movement--in Onitsha on May 30, 2016. Let me say it: the thirst for Igbo blood is what will doom that country we call home, Nigeria. And as deliberations from the GWU conference make clear, the pogroms against the Igbo in the summer of 1966, when ordinary citizens mass-murdered their Igbo compatriots, with no one held accountable till today, will continue to haunt Nigeria. NEVER FORGET THE POGROMS!
|National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
All photos copyright: Chika Okeke-Agulu
|Professors Anthonia Kalu, Gloria Chuku and Femi Vaughan at NMAAHC
|Reception hosted by George Washington University, NMAAHC, ahead of the Keynote Lecture
|Ambassador Reuben Brigety II, Dean Elliott School of International Affairs, GWU
|Right Center, Cecelia Lynch, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula
|Left: Professor Gloria Chuku; Center: Professor Chima Korieh
|Professor Melani McAlister, conference host