Chinua Achebe in Jamaica: speaking his mind.

Author:Ellington, Barbara

In his first interview after arriving in Jamaica to participate in events to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the end of the forced European transport of African people across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean, Jamaica Gleaner newspaper ( lifestyle editor Barbara Ellington spoke with renowned author Chinua Achebe about issues concerning Africa, Pan Africanism, the significance of the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee commemoration, and his literary achievements [the original article was published January 3, 2007, titled the 'Conversation With: Chinua Achebe--Renowned Author Speaks His Mind', thus the content herein is reprinted by permission of The Gleaner Company Limited via Mavis Belasse, the manager of the Information Systems Department and Sheree Rhoden, the research assistant in the Information Systems Department at the same company, with copyright remaining with The Gleaner Company Limited in Kingston, Jamaica].

I begin at a time when on January 1, 2007, as Caribbean people, it concerns us that events in Darfur are horrendous. Just this morning, Somali Islamists were chased out by the Ethiopians following years of conflict. Share thoughts on events as they concern the instability on the African continent and the fact that our people live in subhuman conditions, face inevitable death from starvation or wars, are constantly chased away from home, and all the ills that attend Africans today.

I appreciate your use of the word 'us' in your question because that's what I'm about. What happens to us happens to us all wherever it may be, and Jamaica is as much involved as Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria or anywhere else in Africa. There are some who don't see it and if you don't, you have missed the point and if you miss the point you cannot possibly understand the link to the transatlantic slave trade. And it's the remnants of that influence and meaning that are now unfolding. That's where I begin.


We all are disappointed that things are not going well in Africa now. But we understand why, and one of the reasons is the nature of independence that was granted to the various colonies. Africa was the only continent that was completely taken over, carved up and served to different European countries.

The result of that is a period in which every square inch of the African continent was owned by somebody else. Africans have not been silent on this; they have struggled against it in different ways. Jamaica was quite notorious for its struggle too. That's good.

Today, that part of the story is behind us but the story of the abolition did not end slavery, the exploitation did not end, it just slowed things down. So it was not independence, it was just a ploy because in some ways, Europe did better after independence than she did before in Africa.


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