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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A decade of literature, politics and cultural activism

The new decade is looking better for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as she is set to receive the first Belle van Zuylenring this month, starting off where she left last decade. An honorary prize set by the ILFU International Literature Festival Utrecht, Adichie is receivingthe prize “because of the unique way in which she knows how to display and question the world of today and its ingrained thinking patterns.”

Last decade was surely the lady’s.

From receiving five honorary doctorate degrees in one year to her bestselling book Half of a Yellow Sunbeing listed in BBC’s’100 Novels That Shaped Our World’ and more, 2019 seemed to be the year with some of the greatest achievements for the writer.

Chimamandahas bagged nothingless than 15 honourary doctorate degrees from respected universitiesaround the world includingDoctor of Letters, (D. Litt) honoris causa, from Yale University; Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa fromGeorgetown University, Northwestern and American Universities; honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Designand herlatest honorary degree from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland in November 2019. Her2009 TED talk,The Danger of aSingle Story, iscurrentlyone of the most viewed TED Talks of all timewith5.7 million views.In 2010,she wasamongThe New Yorker’s ’20 Under 40″; alist devoted to young fiction writers, who the editors believe are, or will be, key to their generation.

An entire decade. Where were you 10 years ago? How far have you come from this past decade?It isbeyond amazing how much has beenachieved in such a long while as time passes without human slightest permission on how fast or slow it should be.What started out as a fan-driven exercise on Twitter tagged #ChimamandaDecade, has inspired the need to recap the renowned writer’s achievements in the last decade even as the world welcomes a New Year and a new decade. Each year of this past decade has been nothing but achievements upon great achievements for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has come so far frombeingthe new author in the block who stole hearts with her debut novel,Purple Hibiscus,to becoming not just a writer but a feminist and fashion icon who is duly recognised as a Global Force for Change. Let’s have a recap, shall we?

The Nigerian government gave her theGlobal Ambassador Achievement Awardin2011.Her 2012TEDx Euston talk,We Should All Be Feminists,gave more prominence to thefeminism world.It was published intoa book andhad excerpts featured inBeyonce’s song,Flawless, in 2014. In 2016, it was also customised onT-shirts by the first female Creative DirectorofChristian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri.This piece has been worn by celebrities including Rihanna, Kylie Jenner,Jennifer Lawrence,Demi Lovato and Asap Rocky.

Shewaslistedby CNNamong the ‘Leading Women of 2014’ andwas nominated for Forbes Africa ‘Person of the Year’that same year and the next.In 2015,her novel,Half of a Yellow Sun wonthe ‘Best of the Best’in the20thanniversaryof the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction).

She was also honoured withGirls Write Now Awards; Groundbreaker honouree.ARISE Magazine listed her as one of the’100 Dynamic Women’in recognition of the strive she puts into her areaof expertise.Time Magazine, which referred to her as a ‘Conjurer of Character’listed her among its’100 Most Influential People’.

As a fashion icon,she was named one of the best dressed people in the worldby Vanity Fair in 2016, alongside Barack and Michelle Obama, Zadie Smith. She won theSilverbird SpecialAchievement Award jointlywith Desmond Majekodunmi and Alistair Soyode).

In 2017,Chimamandalaunched the ‘Wear Nigerian’ Project to promote Nigerian fashion brands globally, this had her wearing clothes designedmostlyby Nigerians to prestigious events all around the world.Shealsobecame the first Nigerian winner ofthe Mary McCarthy Prize for her “thought-provoking novels and charismatic public presence.”

That same year, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions;an open letter guiding her friend on how to raise a feministwas published.The manifesto waslisted among the best books of 2017 by NPR Books and Audibleandwon’Le Grand Prix de l’héro¯ne MadameFigaro’ for itsFrench versionthesame year.She bagged theHarper Bazaar’s Women of the Year Award.Half of a Yellow Sunearned her the spot offirst Nigerian to win the Orange Prize award.

Thanks toPurple Hibiscus,she became the first Nigerian winner of the’One Maryland, One Book’ Programme, which was created by The MarylandHumanitiesto unite diverse people through shared experiences of reading the same book. She alsowon the’One Book, One New York Program’, for Americanah,a citywide book club that gets everyonein New York to read the same book simultaneously.Fortune Magazinelisted heralongsidePope Francis, Melinda Gates,Ava Duvernay and othersinits ’50GreatestWorld Leaders’.

‘First’ has been her tag and so in 2018,Chimamandabecame the first African to win the PEN Pinter Prize and also first African to speak at an Harvard University Class Day.Barnes & Noble Writers for Writersawardedherfordedication towardsherwriting workshop – the Farafina Workshop(now known as The Purple Hibiscus Trust).She became arecipient of the Leadership Award during The Women’s Centre’s 32nd Annual Leadership Conference, was presented withHumanitarian Awardby Action Against Hunger inher strong advocacy for gender equalityand awardedGlobal Hope Coalition Thought Leadership Awardfor being an “Everyday Hero”shaping global conversationsconcerningfeminism, race, and North/South relations.

She was also featuredon the cover of Elle Magazine, India as “The Original Feminist” in September 2018.Americanahgot featured on PBS’s The Great American Read;alist of America’s 100 most-loved books,itwasincluded in Barack Obama’s recommended summer reading listandlisted among the New York Times “15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century”.

She delivered the Yale University Class Day speech becomingthe first African to do so.She received the Everett M. Rogers Award which is givenyearly to honourthe late USC Annenberg professorwas given to her.She was named in New African’s list of’The 100 Most Influential Africans’and the fourthmost influential African as well asonly woman named in the top 5 list. September 2019had her gracing more Magazine covers including the special issue of British Vogue where the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle selected Adichie amongst 15 others as a ‘Force for Change’.Inthespecial issue of National Geographic Magazine Landmark Book titledWOMEN, Adichie was featured in the section ‘Portraits of Power’ alongside Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates and more.

On September 15, her birthday, she became the first Nigerian to win theKassel Citizens ‘Prism of Reason’ award(whichwas presented to her by the citizens of Kassel in Germany)for hervision of humanistic diversity.That same September, it was announced that HBO Max, a division of WarnerMedia Entertainment, is creating a straight-to-series order for the television adaptation of Adichie’s most recent novel, Americanah. The 10-episode series will star Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, with the pilot being written by screenwriter and actor Danai Gurira (who starred in the movie Black Panther) – and will be co-produced by Lupita and Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B.

In November 2019, The UN Foundation awarded her with the Global Leadership Award, making her the first Nigerian and youngest African to receive the prestigious award, which had been won previously by world leaders like Barack Obama, the late Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.In December 2019, Chimamanda hosted friend and Creative Director of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri in Lagos in a series or impactful activities for Nigerian fashion designers and creators. One of such activities includedthe ‘Wear Nigerian’ FashionShow where some Nigerian designers like The Ladymaker, Mai Atafo, Emmy Kasbit and more were invited to showcase their beautiful designs to the delight of all.

Also in December 2019, she hosted the 12thedition ofthe Purple Hibiscus Creative Writing workshop –herannual creative writing workshop for upcoming and aspiring writers –in Anambra statefor the first time(the previous editions were held in Lagos State).While participants are mostly Nigerian, the workshop takes a continental stance as others have come from Kenya, Botswana and other African countries.



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