At the public presentation of a new version of Things Fall Apart Illustrated, the audience was treated to bouts of explosive laughter. The book is an illustrated version of Chinua Achebe’s 50-year old legendary novel, Things fall Apart as published by BooKraft. Of particular interest were the coincidences that have trailed the life of His Majesty, Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe for sharing the same surname with the respected author. These he gladly shared with his audience in his remarks. He was either the writer’s son, brother or some form of relative to the majority of those he usually encountered, especially at intenational airports around the world.
It was the sort of mistaken identity he could not run away and which he has come to treasure. He described Prof. Achebe as a “bigger masquerade” from whom smaller masquerades ran whenever they made their appearances. The Obi saw himself as a small masquerade where Prof. Achebe is; Prof. Soyinka he also similarly ranked. His open admittance was an exercise in humility coming from a ruling monarch.
Not least was how a flight was delayed for an hour so the confusion in their names could be resolved at Heathrow Airport in London. Whether at home or abroad, His Majesty has had several occasions to say he was not a relation of the erudite professor of English. But he was glad to be part of such happy coincidences with the revered author, to share his greatness although momentarily.
The Obi of Onitsha referred to the new Things fall Apart Illustrated as a unique book written by a unique author and presented in a unique form. The all gloss hardcover book bears the artistic impressions of 26 Nigerian contemporary artists, who interpreted scenes and incidents from the classical novel using uli/nsibidi motifs. These images help readers, especially young readers, to understand some of the contexts in which the story was cast.
On the other hand, Prof. Wole Soyinka sounded relieved that he got away from talking politics and the perennial problems plaguing the nation, which have engaged him for the past week or so to the humanising field of Literature, where sanity reigns. He called those who have hijacked the nation’s wealth as colonialists in black skin, who were unrelenting still in plundering of the nations’ till.
The book reviewer, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi and Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe — who had both served in government agencies related to regulating fuel prices — would not talk government’s planned deregulation or opposition to it to anyone because they had talked too much to an unheeding system that is deaf to sound advice on the way forward for Nigeria.
On the whole, the public presentation of Things Fall Apart Illustrated was a success in spite of the poor audience attendance at such an important literary event. However, like the revered author himself testified, the book “has found a treasured home” at last as a world-class work of literary ingenuity in its illustrated form.
The book is a publication of Ibadan-based Bookcraft; it got support from Diamond Bank Plc, C&F Porter Novelli and Pendulum Gallery.