Akil Khalfani, Pan African Diaspora Ambassador to the Ooni of Ife, says Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, is still valued after 65 years because it tells the story of African history, culture and family.
Mr Khalfani, the director of Africana Institute, Essex County College, Newark, New Jersey, said this in an interview in New York.
Mr Khalfani, also the director of the Centre for Global Education and Experience, spoke against the backdrop of the 65th anniversary of Things Fall Apart, first published in 1958, by William Heinemann, London.
“The value of Things Fall Apart is that it tells the story of the impact of white supremacy and before that, it tells the story of African history, culture and family,’’ he said.
Things Fall Apart, Mr Achebe’s debut novel, and his two other classics, Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease, are called the ‘African Trilogy’ in literature and considered requisite reading for anyone choosing African literature as an area of specialisation.
Mr Khalfani described Mr Achebe as a visionary author, who could put what he saw down six decades ago about the dominance of Western culture over Africa’s.
“We need to understand what were the experiences that helped him to understand the reason for the piece because African people still feel the impact today. It touches the heart and the spirit of people,” said Mr Khalfani. “It talks about African tradition, and it is a note to us today to say don’t let others intrude, once they begin to intrude on your culture, that might be the beginning of losing it.”
Mr Khalfani noted that “if we are not the caretakers of our own culture, then somebody else is going to distort it and use it against us,” stressing that “our history and culture have been studied by Europeans and other folks, and they’ve used it to their advantage and to our disadvantage.”
Mr Khalfani added, “And then we want to cast away our own history and culture and adopt theirs; that is what we see a lot of times.’’
He, however, encouraged Africans in the diaspora to embrace their culture by identifying with the dresses, names, foods and African music.
The don also commended the consulate general of Nigeria in New York for organising ‘Ayan Atayero Festival’ (Festival of Drums), to promote the understanding and appreciation of Nigeria’s rich culture and heritage in the U.S.
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