Perhaps you have heard of or even seen the Wikipedia ad campaign, Things Come Together, built around Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It is a short film created by Anakle, a digital agency in Lagos. I remember watching it over and over again on Instagram, relishing its richness. It isn’t every day that you find such ingenuity displayed on your screen in form of an advert.
Editi Effiong, director of the film and founder of Anakle, explains in a piece on Bella Naija that Things Come Together is a product of parody stories inspired by Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and that it had been rejected by two Nigerian brands for a content marketing campaign. In a society where books are generally considered nerdy and uninteresting, what Anakle has done is to break the myth on books—something we very mch need in African literature.
I was particularly fascinated that Okonkwo, the character played by the veteran actor Pete Edochie, was present in the story where a book about him was being discussed. The video brings history back to the present, a juxtaposition of what was and what is. The Okonkwo of the past would rather die than embrace Western education. But here, we have him sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher trained by the white man. Although like his old self, we find him quiet throughout the lesson, only nodding occasionally to his friend Obierika who answers all the questions. Back home, we find him asking Obierika how he is able to answer all the questions and Obierika reveals his big secret—Wikipedia.
The choice of characters is remarkable. No young people flipping iPhones and headsets—it’s after all an online ad—instead, we have elderly, traditional people seated in a classroom and seeking adult education. This sheds light on the purpose of the ad: knowledge is for all, free and accessible from anywhere in the world.
One would think: why Things Fall Apart? Aren’t there other contemporary Nigerian novels that could have suited same purpose? Apart from Things Fall Apart and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of Yellow Sun, what is the Nigerian film industry doing to tap into the abundant creativity of the country’s literature today? It begs the question: Is the nation’s reading populace stuck on Things Fall Apart? Chinua Achebe was a legend and his contribution to African literature is immeasurable, but could there not have been other recent book adapted to fit into the same message?
Things Come Together is surely a brilliant work. With the quote from William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” and a question on multitheism, I am taken back to the classroom where my students admit that the only African novel they have read is Things Fall Apart. While I commend Anakle for bringing this interesting perspective onto the ad screen and doing it so creatively, I am concerned about what we are reading. Like Obierika, we should not forget, while visiting the past, to flourish in the present. Be aware, exude knowledge and be current. The film provides an extensive platform for the propagation of Nigerian literature. Writers and filmmakers alike need to tap into this. Otherwise, we keep having people mentioning Chinua Achebe as the only Nigerian author, even when they could just look it up on Wikipedia.
About the Author:
Jennifer Chinenye Emelife is co-founder and lead correspondent at Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature.