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Google posthumously honored Chinua Achebe with a special doodle on what would have been the African literature legend’s 87th birthday Thursday.

The influence of Achebe, who passed away in March 2013 at the age of 82, on modern African literature is nothing short of remarkable. He rose to prominence using books as conduits for African culture to the larger world just after the continent was wrestled from the grips of colonialism.

Things Fall Apart is arguably Achebe’s greatest literary work of art, published in 1958, nearly 60 years ago. The book had a far-reaching global impact, bolstered by its universal appeal. Achebe told the story of Okonkwo, an Igbo leader who grappled with the arrival of Christian missionaries in his village. Life under colonial rule in Africa was laid bare in the author’s novel.

Perhaps more importantly, Achebe strongly encouraged writers to take charge, reclaim their narratives and resist racism.

A telling conversation between Achebe and another activist and literary giant, James Baldwin in April 1980 offered insight into why art can be used to strengthen the Black race.

“Art has a social purpose [and] art belongs to the people,” Achebe said, according to Brain Pickings. ” It’s not something that is hanging out there that has no connection with the needs of man. And art is unashamedly, unembarrassingly, if there is such a word, social. It is political; it is economic. The total life of man is reflected in his art.”

He continued: “Those who tell you ‘Do not put too much politics in your art’ are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is. And what they are saying is not don’t introduce politics. What they are saying is don’t upset the system. They are just as political as any of us. It’s only that they are on the other side.”

With his activism, Achebe remains a literary and Black hero to millions.

SOURCE: Brain Pickings


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