Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

“The Sewing of a Corpse”–Adichie

SHARE THIS

Chimamanda Adichie’s essay in the Financial Times has been making its rounds on the internet since last week when it appeared. I quite loved the second part of the essay where she reflects on loss and mourning, using some of the most thought-provoking imageries. Not to make too grand a point about an essay that is clearly a reflection on a private loss, I want simply to say that Adichie’s point about confronting the meanings of loss is a good place to begin talking about the necessity of seeking out ways to collectively mourn the lives lost in all the recent bombings in Nigeria. Check this out:

Uncle Mai’s death brought to me the exquisite terror of confronting other losses and so, during the weeks that led to the funeral, I fearfully watched my father. My almost-80-year-old father. He played his role well, the stoic one in charge of things. When asked how he was doing, he would say cryptically, “Nobody is made of wood.” His entire focus was on arranging the ikwa ozu. The word “ozu” means corpse while “ikwa” is, depending on the context, to mourn or to sew, and as a child the expression “ikwa ozu” terrified me, brought amorphous ghoulish images to mind: the sewing of a corpse. It took a while before I understood that it meant a collective mourning, a funeral. The Igbo believe that if a funeral is not done properly, the dead soul roams around forever, unhappy and possibly vengeful. A funeral’s success depends largely on how well attended it is, and to plan a funeral is to navigate the anxiety of attendance. In those weeks before the ikwa ozu, my father often said, “Mai was well liked. People will come.” Read More 

Most people will agree with me that Nigerians seem to move on a bit too quickly after these tragedies happen. If we opt to take Adichie’s literal definition of ikwa ozu seriously, how might we sew together the corpses of these people who die every other month from bomb blasts? If nothing else, Adichie seems to be saying that the dead don’t just disappear. They make demands on us, ethical demands, that we can’t just ignore. And as she seems to suggest, meeting these demands is key to our preservation as a people.

It would be nice to see more Nigerian writers reflect on the loss of these innocent lives that is fast becoming an everyday reality. Adichie, through the private space of the family, has begun that discussion. I hope others join in.

By the way, the movie adaptation–starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor– of Adichie’s novel, Half of A Yellow Sun, is being filmed at the moment. Get the scoop here.

Feature photo: Water lily. Flower in water. 1922 expedition by Bror E. Dahlgren and John R. Millar. via

Post photo: via

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

The 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize is Now Open for Entry

Apply for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is open for entry as of today. The $35,000 prize annually rewards an “influential work […]

July 10 | Sarah Ladipo Manyika Hosts Strive Masiyiwa on Conversations Across the Diaspora

July 10 _ Sarah Ladipo Manyika Hosts Strive Masiyiwas on Conversations Across the Diaspora

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, author of In Dependence (2008) and Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun (2016), has teamed up […]

Bernardine Evaristo Becomes First Black Writer to Win Author of the Year

Bernardine Evaristo Becomes First Black Writer to Win Author of the Year in the British Book Awards

  Bernardine Evaristo’s winning streak continues as she dominates two categories of the 2020 British Book Awards: Best Fiction Book […]

Apply for the 2020 Morland Writing Scholarship | £27,000 for Nonfiction, £18,000 Fiction

Apply for the 2020 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship

The Miles Morland Foundation is currently accepting applications for the 2020 Morland African Writing Scholarships. The awards offer a fiction […]

The Million Naira Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity | Here is How to Nominate Someone

The Million Naira Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity _ Here is How to Nominate Someone

Nominations for The Nigeria Prize for Difference & Diversity is officially open. The new prize, co-presented by digital media platform […]

This is Why I am Endowing a N1 Million Prize for Difference and Diversity in Nigeria | Chude Jideonwo

This is Why I am Endowing a N1 Million Prize for Difference and Diversity in Nigeria _ Chude Jideonwo (2)

Last year, I wrote a piece on CNN during Pride Month​—​a month set aside to celebrate sexual and gender diversity […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.