Chinua Achebe begins his presentation by reading a passage from his 1987 novel, Anthills of the Savanna, as well as several of his poems. The photographer Robert Lyons, who Achebe collaborated with to produce the book Another Africa, joins him on stage. Lyons discusses the role that photography plays in developing stereotypes in African cultures, and he explains his approach to depicting the complexities of the huge, diverse continent. Both Achebe and Lyons talk about their work to broaden the general public’s perspective on Africa.
“I’ve made it my life’s work to talk about my home, because I couldn’t find—in the books I read, in the pictures I saw, in the thinking that I encountered—any awareness of myself. This is really how my interest in writing came about. Because, you see, every people have their story, and, we in Africa, we’re in the unfortunate position of not having our story in the gallery of world stories. And this struck me even as a child.”
“Speed is violence. Power is violence. Weight, violence. The butterfly seeks safety in lightness, in weightlessness, undulating flight.” (from Achebe’s poem “Butterfly”)
Chinua Achebe was born in Eastern Nigeria in 1930. He went to the local public schools and was among the first students to graduate from the University of Ibadan. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer and Director of External Broadcasting, and it was during this period that he began his writing career. Achebe was the author, co-author, or editor of some seventeen books, among them five novels: Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). He was the editor of several anthologies as well, including the essay collections Morning Yet on Creation Day and Hopes and Impediments, and the poetry collection Beware Soul Brother. He was also the editor of the magazine Okike and founding editor of the Heinemann series on African literature, a list that now has more than three hundred titles. Achebe is often called the father of modern African literature. He has received 25 honorary doctorates from universities throughout the world. (Source: The Paris Review The Art of Fiction No. 139)