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Being and Becoming African as a Permanent Work in Progress

Inspiration from Chinua Achebe’s Proverbs

edited by Francis B. Nyamnjoh, Patrick U. Nwosu, Hassan M. Yosimbom

This book is a timely addition to debates and explorations on the epistemological relevance of African proverbs, especially with growing calls for the decolonisation of African curricula. The editors and contributors have chosen to reflect on the diverse ways of being and becoming African as a permanent work in progress by drawing inspiration from Chinua Achebe’s harnessing of the effectualness of oratory, especially his use of proverbs in his works. The book recognises and celebrates the fact that Achebe’s proverbial Igbo imaginations of being and becoming African are compelling because they are instructive about the lives, stories, struggles and aspirations of the rainbow of people that make up Africa as a veritable global arena of productive circulations, entanglements and compositeness of being. The contributions foray into how claims to and practices of being and becoming African are steeped in histories of mobilities and a myriad of encounters shaped by and inspiring of the competing and complementary logics of personhood and power that Africans have sought and seek to capture in their repertoires of proverbs. The task of documenting African proverbs and rendering them accessible in the form of a common hard currency with fascinating epistemological possibilities remains a challenge yearning for financial, scholarly, social and political attention. The book is an important contribution to John Mbiti’s clarion call for an active and sustained interest in African proverbs.

ISBN 9789956551477 | 512 pages | 229 x 152 mm | 2021 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback


eBook ISBN: 9789956551958


“The contributors of this book invite us through Achebe to see proverbs as nuggets that open a window to a multidimensional understanding of existence, especially in a world rendered flexible and interconnected by various forms of mobility and encounters with people of diverse geography, and with different ways of being and doing. Achebe was particularly good at using proverbs to share how intelligent his Igbo community have been throughout their history in taking advantage of the promise of such encounters with other peoples and other worlds without losing sight of who they are as a people.” 

Elias Kifon Bongmba, Harry and Hazel Chair in Christian Theology and Professor of Religion, Rice University, USA

“Drawing inspiration from Chinua Achebe’s work – in itself a remarkable archive of Igbo proverbs – this book is a tapestry of insights into the centrality of proverbs as a multifaceted archive of African thought on what it means to be human, to be in relation, and to nurture communities that unconditionally uphold the wellbeing of the human, the natural environment and the spiritual realms. [….] While these chapters approach African proverbs from fields as diverse as communication, linguistics, popular music and literary studies, collectively, they attest to the rich canvas of human experience that Achebe’s own writing honoured.

Grace A. Musila, Associate Professor in the Department of African Literature , University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa



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