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Video: “Why Are We Surprised?” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Keynote Speech at the Nordic Africa Institute

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the acclaimed Nigerian author of Purple Hibiscus, The Thing Around Your Neck and the Orange Prize-winning Half of a Yellow Sun, recently gave the keynote speech at the Nordic Africa Institute, in Uppsala, Sweden, as part of the institute’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Entitled “Why Are We Surprised? Thoughts on Nigeria’s Past, Present and Future”, her speech included a personal account of her homeland, and how she loves a place that also frustrates her more than any other.

Purple HibiscusHalf of a Yellow Sun The Thing Around Your Neck

Adichie recounts that she was born seven years after the Biafran war ended, and that her parents had been greatly affected by the war, in which some of their family members had died. Her father never recovered his father’s body, only a handful of dust he gathered at the site of what must have been a mass grave. In the speech she noted that it was in Uppsala that Nigerian and Biafran delegates met to discuss the aftermath of a war in which millions had died, mostly from starvation – a meeting that must have carried the fates and hopes of the remaining millions of people.

Adichie’s speech was intended to point out that post-colonial experiences in Africa often have a basis in the colonial experience itself. She says her father’s generation was “unprepared” for what came next. She asks, “Why are we surprised that countries emerging from colonialism did not develop perfect democracies?”

Adichie’s speech, Part 1:

Chimamanda in Uppsala

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s fourth book, Americanah, is due to be released by Knopf in May, 2013.

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