The Archetypal Search for Kainene: Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun
The Nigerian State and the Lost Biafran Dream
University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s progress as a writer is remarkable. I begin with a meditation on authorial self-presentation via the signature. Her transformation from ‘Amanda’ to ‘Chimamanda’ is reflective of the desire of someone who suddenly discovers a missing cultural link in her personality and quickly backtracks to find this cultural link with a view to reintegrating the lost elements within the existing corpus. The author finds more in the full complement of deep expression and cultural reinterpretation conveyed by the full name – Chimamanda – which the mutant, Amanda, might never have been able to project. The presence of ‘Ngozi,’ which translates to ‘blessing’ in Igbo is a meaningful portrayal of Adichie’s re-emergence on the Nigerian literary scene, having previously tried her hand at poetry and drama at the onset of her publishing career. The career ‘makeover’ of Adichie is worthy of note in the sense that the less famous poet and playwright Amanda suddenly gives way to the world-acclaimed and award-winning Chimamanda, the novelist.
Adichie published Decisions, a collection of poems in 1997, and followed this with a play, For Love of Biafra in 1998. These two titles hardly feature in Adichie’s biography. Then came the season of her revelation with the publication of her novels and short-story anthology: Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2005), The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), and Americanah (2013). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie immediately became synonymous with Nigerian diasporic literature. Her novels have won many literary awards, thus confirming the author’s place in history and in literary celebrity culture. Today in Nigeria, no literary discourse is complete without a mention of Adichie and the impact of her novels on world literature, especially postcolonial, African-American (or Black) and feminist literature.
Though our focus in this paper is Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and the archetypal search for the ‘lost’ Kainene, it is instructive to consider Adichie’s writing retrospectively in order to contemplate her previous titles, especially For Love of Biafra. Daria Tunca (2013) in ‘Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: An Introduction’ reminds us of Adichie’s For Love of Biafra’s heroine, Adaobi, who rejects her Hausa boyfriend after the civil war. Adaobi’s response to her boyfriend calling her a Nigerian in the play is registered with a venom that reveals her frustration and deep regret at the eastern Nigeria’s loss of the civil war:
Mohammed, I am Biafran first, a Biafran last, a Biafran always, don’t ever make the mistake of calling me a Nigerian again (Adichie 1998: 106).
Adaobi’s emphasis in this passage arguably indicates the young Adichie’s position on the issue of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, which might be interpreted to mean: I am a stranger in this whole scheme called ‘Nigeria’. Adichie, through her heroine, makes her position available in her play. Strange enough, Adaobi returns in Half of a Yellow Sun, this time as Olanna, twin sister to Kainene. Like Adaobi, Olanna too goes into a relationship with a northerner, a prince, who also, curiously, is named Mohammed.
Adaobi’s return as Olanna this second time is marked with cultural and ideological segmentation. She is now a pair of twins with an alter ego, Kainene. She is a ‘been-to,’ a graduate from a foreign university, and one who rejects her Hausa boyfriend but chooses to remain friends with him on a platonic basis. She (Olanna) chooses a ‘revolutionary,’ a mathematics lecturer at the university in Nsukka, Odenigbo, over the northern prince well ahead of the political and ethnic crisis that engulfed the country in 1966, six years after independence. Odenigbo, a firm believer in the Biafran cause and one of its champions, according to the novel, becomes a much more viable alternative to the idealistic Olanna. Through her characterization, Adichie seems to be rejecting a perceived union between the north and the east and opts for a robust intra-ethnic coalition with people of the same heritage and common destiny, while still keeping an open arm to accommodate the ‘Others’. Unlike Adaobi who seems powerless and does not have the required emotional and mental support to go through the war, Olanna is surrounded by Odenigbo, her revolutionary lecturer boyfriend, and a coterie of their university colleagues, family, especially her estranged twin sister Kainene, Ugwu, Odenigbo’s (Master’s) reformed houseboy and the lot. Romantic and domestic arrangements, it seems, supplant the more difficult and necessary work of political unity.
Staking out her ground, Olanna makes it very clear prior to the war to which camp she belongs – that her choice is Odenigbo, and Mohammed has to come to terms with the fact (Adichie 2006: 29). Plain as this development is in fiction, it is imbued with connotations suggesting the contrived political relationship among the three major Nigerian ethnic groups prior to, during and after the war. With the characterization of Olanna in Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie seems to be correcting an impression formed by Adaobi in For Love of Biafra. Here are a few hypotheses: Did Adaobi reject Mohammed because of the pain of the defeat suffered by her people before and after the Nigeria-Biafra war? The answer is ‘Yes.’ Does this further translate to the rejection of northern Nigeria by eastern Nigeria? Adaobi’s answer (Adichie 1998: 106) is also ‘Yes.’ Does Adichie, through her literary work, project the opinion and position of her people of eastern Nigeria on the question of nationhood? Interestingly, the answer also appears to be ‘Yes.’
If the answers to the above questions are ‘Yes,’ and are validated by Adaobi’s characterization in For Love of Biafra, what is it that Adichie does differently in Half of a Yellow Sun with Olanna? In Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie remoulds the character of Adaobi. Now, as Olanna, she does not have to wait for the war to end before rejecting the relationship with Mohammed and choosing Odenigbo instead. The theory, I argue, is to pre-empt the readers such that no one accuses Olanna (a possible substitute for Adichie in Nigerian readers’ minds) of tribalism, hence the authorial rationale for staying friends with Mohammed. And unlike Adaobi’s absent boyfriend during the war, Olanna’s Mohammed is present at the moment of crisis to protect her and ferry her to safety.
Mohammed’s second iteration in Adichie’s writing gains a significant makeover too. He is not jealous and does not pursue a vendetta. Neither is he a bigot, nor a selfish nationalist like the earlier Mohammed. He uses his privileged position as an educated prince to posture as a detribalized Hausa/Fulani man who is willing to marry a ‘kafir’ Christian woman from eastern Nigeria. Perhaps, the recreation of Adaobi and Mohammed in 2002 in a short story and in the 2006 novel of the same title, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ is Adichie’s justification for dismissing For Love of Biafra as ‘an awfully melodramatic play’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Mohammed’s friendship with Olanna also seems an attempt by Adichie to exonerate the Hausa-Fulani elites from the religious intolerance prevalent in the north and the unreasonable hatred for and jealousy of the eastern or southern Christians and animists.
Adichie’s admirable attempt to tackle the hydra-headed problems of ethnicity, religion and politics in one fell swoop does not limit the interpretations we might make of Half of a Yellow Sun. To balance the weight of history, Chinua Achebe’s more assured and sagacious eastern Nigerian voice, might be summoned to “correct” and clear up some misconceptions. We might, therefore, turn to Achebe’s publication entitled There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra in 2012, issued shortly before Achebe’s death. Adichie is regarded among the critics of Nigerian literature as Achebe’s direct successor. Her response to Achebe’s last book, in her review of the work, is titled ‘Things Left Unsaid,’ prompting the old man to ‘mildly wonder if the graceful young woman was running away from him’ (Tade Ipadeola, The Guardian, 2013). Adichie’s tribute to Achebe, upon the latter’s death is titled: ‘We remember differently,’ an attempt to justify her earlier critical review of Achebe’s last book.
Indeed, the two authors do remember differently, as Ipadeola (2013) reveals. Achebe was one of the heroes of the Biafran war and he was actively involved as the Biafran envoy and voice during the war. He witnessed the war first-hand and participated fully in it. This, in my view, accounts for the subtitling of his book as ‘A personal history of Biafra.’ Adichie, on the other hand, was born seven years after the war. She only experienced the war through the many books written on the war, and folktales from her parents and teachers while growing up in the historical city of Nsukka within the same university where the Biafran intellectuals strategized for the war. She confesses this limited knowledge by supplying a list of the books that she consults while writing Half of a Yellow Sun. Tade Ipadeola (2013) criticizes Adichie’s list of 31 books for her exclusion of what could be considered two ‘most important’ accounts of the Nigeria-Biafra war: Obafemi Awolowo’s Awolowo on the Nigerian Civil War and Ken Saro-Wiwa’s On A Darkling Plain. Ipadeola argues that
This is a queer choice to make for anyone who wants to be taken seriously as knowledgeable, empathetic and reasonably ethnically aware. The canon of war literature in Africa is incomplete without those two books (The Guardian, 10 February 2013).
Ipadeola reasons that Adichie’s deliberate omission of the two accounts from the people Biafrans considered as those who betrayed their dream amounts to Adichie’s open display of partisanship in her attempt to reconstruct history. While Ipadeola’s position is understood, it can be argued that Adichie, as a secondary victim of the Nigeria-Biafra War, is mainly concerned with what Amy Novak (2008: 34) describes as a ‘site of trauma,’ which the author is free to determine how she records or speak about. According to Novak (2008:34),
Adichie’s novel situates the war and the preceding massacre in relationship to an additional site of trauma: the lingering effects of colonialism. Despite independence from Britain in October 1960, individual and national identity in Nigeria remain scarred by the inheritance of colonialism and oppression. In 1966, Igbo military officers led a coup, which was followed by a reprisal against the Igbo. The massacre of the Igbo led to the secession of the southeast Nigeria, the establishment of the Biafran republic, and the beginning of the Nigerian Civil War.
Ignoring Adichie’s recall of Biafra as a history of trauma, Ipadeola’s article further explains how Achebe and Adichie remember the history of the war differently, pointing out that Achebe’s recollection of the Biafran flag’s emblem differs significantly from Adichie’s. While Adichie recollects the flag’s emblem as ‘half of a yellow sun,’ Achebe recalls the symbol on the flag as ‘a golden sun’. Ipadeola (2013) argues that
For example, in his book, There Was a Country, Achebe recalls the symbols on the flag of Biafra. A detail of his recollection suffices here: he recalls a golden rising sun. Ms Adichie, on the other hand, in her book Half of a Yellow Sun, describes a qualitatively different symbol. Half of a yellow sun. Semioticians will say that one description is superior to the other, that a golden sun does more than ‘half of a yellow sun’. Adichie describes a yellow sun, and only a certain half.
Ipadeola’s point in this passage is that Achebe, though he refuses to publicly criticize the younger writer’s ‘recollection’ or ‘remembrance’ of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, tacitly disagrees with her in his verdict: ‘There was a country.’ Achebe’s position is clear, a contrast to Adichie’s enthusiasm. Adichie may now choose to be a citizen of Nigeria with all its complexities, Achebe chooses not to let go of the symbolic Biafran dream. Lily Mabura (2008: 207) says
Chinua Achebe’s own wartime memories of Lagos reveal that “the people were jeering and saying, ‘Let the Igbo go, food will be cheaper in Lagos.’ That kind of experience” – Achebe says – “is so powerful. It is something I could not possibly forget. I realized suddenly that I had not been living in my home; I had been living in a strange place.
Lagos was the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria from independence to 1990 when the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida relocated the capital to Abuja. The argument is still in the public domain about whether Achebe fully accepted Nigeria in his lifetime. Thus, Adichie looks to the future; Achebe revisits the past. It is important to see the dividing line between the two writers from a situated African theoretical perspective. Himself a legend of African proverbs and wise-sayings, Achebe could have responded this way: When a child falls, he looks straight to the future, but when an elder falls he turns his gaze towards the past. Adichie’s choice is understandable given the prevailing Nigerian psychological elements of a would-be ‘giant of Africa,’ which seemingly has all the trappings of a failed state but equally possesses the potential to catapult it to the top as a world power economically.
Still dwelling on the thesis of Achebe’s and Adichie’s remembrance of the Nigeria-Biafra war, Ipadeola posits that ‘strict cognitive science suggests that the term recollection or remembrance only truly applies to Chinua Achebe’s version of the Biafran flag’ and that ‘it would appear that, in the case of Ms Adichie, the proper word is reconstruction or re-figuration, not remembrance.’ Relying on Ipadeola’s theory, I argue here that Adaobi and Olanna are one and the same character in Adichie’s fictional refiguration. I extend this argument to Adichie, the author, as the archetypal fictional reproduction of these two characters. The author here is a meta-textual product of her creations, and not the real-life source of them. But in Half of a Yellow Sun, this ‘amphibian’ character carries with her extra baggage, which are the burden of history and the collective angst of a ‘defeated’ people who have had to wait for over forty years to be reabsorbed and reintegrated into the country Nigeria. This reintegration, in the actual sense of the word, remains a mirage; hence, the concept of twinship which Adichie creatively weaves around the collective unconscious of her people. ‘I am Biafra first, I am Biafra last, a Biafran always, don’t ever make the mistake of calling me a Nigerian again’ is the signpost expression that defines Adichie’s entry into Nigerian literary universe. Her dramatic world-view, if left un-interpolated with her new position and acceptance of ‘Nigeria as home,’ will have agreed with Achebe’s avowed position in There Was a Country and the two voices across generations will have concurred on the controversial subject of Nigerian citizenship and nationhood. Positioning Adichie’s novel as a trauma narrative, Novak (2008: 38), citing Michael Rothberg, argues that
[O]ne way in which trauma narratives detail a past denied or repressed is through what he calls “traumatic realism – a realism in which the scars that mark the relationship of discourse to the real are not fetishistically denied, but exposed, a realism in which the claims of reference live on, but so does the traumatic extremity that disables realist representation as usual.
The foregoing account helps to explain the juxtaposition of Adaobi’s declaration as Biafran first, last and always with Adichie’s interview with Aaron Bady of Boston Review in 2013, where she declares that her ‘fiction borrows from my life’ and extends this a little further to another interview granted Kate Kellaway of Sunday Observer also in 2013, where she declares: ‘Home is Nigeria… it always will be.’ We find a writer whose psyche is in turmoil – rent between affiliations. Unlike Achebe, an old man who refused to see a future for the country with a damning verdict and an emphatic syntactic configuration of the Nigerian project with a past tense ‘was,’ Adichie is torn between her affection for the lost Biafra and her loyalty to the Nigerian state. Half of a Yellow Sun is her attempt to speak to the realities of this double consciousness that continues to define her existence both as a Biafran and a Nigerian at the same time. I extend Adichie’s symbol of Biafra’s flag as ‘half of a yellow sun’ to the well-worn expression of ‘half a loaf,’ which is said to be better than none. To this end, Adichie seems to say through her novel, let us stay in Nigeria but let us not forget our dream of an ideal state for the people of eastern Nigeria, Biafra.
Kainene, the ‘half’ Olanna, disappears with the war. If Kainene and Olanna are one, and Olanna is in retrospect Adaobi, then it behoves Adichie as the creator of this reconstruct to remind her people of the Biafran archetype in their search for acceptance within the Nigerian state.
Added to Adichie’s dilemma is her newfound knowledge on the subject of exile and diaspora. Leaving home at 19 to pursue a university degree in the United States of America opens her to a new world where she becomes not only a significant other, black, but a black woman too. Adichie is left with no choice. Her painful remembrance of the colonial past and the sad realities of the Nigeria-Biafra war echo the beginning of a country doomed to fail. The contention for Adichie’s mind is made palpable in Olanna’s boyfriend’s explanation that ‘The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world’ (Adichie 2006: 104, emphasis in the original). If the situation were different, would Adichie declare ‘Nigeria as her home?’ If Biafra had been allowed to be, wouldn’t it be a better country than the current Nigeria? If the people that make up the country had been allowed to ‘negotiate’ the terms of the union from inception, would there have been a war, wanton killings and the destruction of property? Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun supplies more than enough answers to the questions above in its form and content as well as in its characterization.
Kainene, therefore, is the romantic half that accepts life with equanimity. She is the stoic party in the battle for self-actualization. We meet her early in the novel as the less attractive pair of the twins (Adichie 2006: 36) and therefore not available as ‘sex bait’ for her father’s business partners. Instead, she is the strong one, the eagle woman with an immense capacity for industry. She is the one upon whom falls the responsibility to manage their father’s business establishments (Adichie 2006: 32). She is the one who accepts the semi-potent Briton Richard without complaints. She is the epitome of a Biafran undying spirit. Though vanished, she remains ever present in the minds of her people and admirers.
Making a Gothic reading of Half of a Yellow Sun, Mabura (2008: 206) argues that ‘Adichie teases out the peculiarities of the “Postcolonial Gothic” in continental Africa as she dissects fraught African psyches and engages in a Gothic-like reclamation of her Igbo heritage, including Igbo-Ukwu art, language and religion.’ Like the ‘roped pot’ that Richard pursues from England to southeast Nigeria, Kainene’s disappearance confers on her the attributes of a precious artwork for which a perpetual search is not out of order. Mabura (2008: 207) further describes Kainene as ‘androgynous,’ the one who ‘plays the role of the son in the family, expanding the family business in Port Harcourt, brokering military contacts during the Biafra War, and running an Igbo refugee camp.’ Mabura’s depiction of Kainene serves to foreground her disappearance and its wider ‘implications of Igbo loss of political, juridical, and sovereign powers under, first, the colonial government and, second, the Nigerian federal state’ (Mabura, 2008: 206).
Susan Strehle’s (2011) essay, ‘Producing Exile: Diasporic Vision in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun’ and Nick Mdika Tembo’s (2012) piece ‘Ethnic Conflict and the Politics of Greed: Rethinking Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun’ help in the proper situation of Adichie’s worldview on the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. We gain insights into her role as the documenter of history through literary refiguration, and a glimpse into her psyche as the projector of her people’s collective unconscious prior to the war, during and after the war.
Strehle (2011: 652) accounts for the tragic costs of colonization on the people of Africa. She writes about destabilizations and border-crossing as the real tragic costs of African people’s diasporic experience in their own lands:
In regions where underdevelopment, government corruption, and ethnic tensions accompany decolonization, these costs fall on subaltern victims more often than on the intellectuals and artists who record their losses of home, kin, safety, and homeland. The double consciousness experienced by diasporic subjects may be more paralyzing than illuminating; their nostalgia for what is lost, permanently alienating (652).
Through this passage, Strehle strives to show that the common people suffer more than authors who document the history. It is in sharing in these subaltern victims’ feeling of loss that the intellectuals and artists redeem themselves. Strehle (2011) stresses further that
Adichie’s novel depicts the inevitable failure of the nation created by British colonialism and grounded in the Western myth of the nation as a single family of those born (natio) to a homogeneous clan. The violations of the social contract in Nigeria, made vivid in sanctioned genocidal murders of the Igbo minority, fracture the nation, and the doomed war for Biafran independence strips the novel’s protagonist-witnesses of their status as citizens and propels them into diaspora. In the first days of the war, they lose homes; by the war’s end, they lose homeland – not simply because Biafra is defeated, but also because their experiences have shaped them as permanent outsiders. The loss of Biafra renders these figures spectral in their powerlessness and foreign in their alienation from the triumphant nation. Adichie represents in her novel the emergence of a diasporic vision, conscious of the vicious exclusivity implicit in nationalism and attuned to the costs of diaspora (652-53).
Nigeria, by this account, is an experiment destined to fail from inception. Citing Charlie Kimber (2006) in an interview with Adichie, Adichie is said to have responded that ‘Nigeria was set up to fail. The only thing we Nigerians should take responsibility for is the extent of the failure’ (654-55). Strehle also argues that ‘Half of a Yellow Sun places Nigeria in historical context as a nation created in Europe, by Europeans, for European profit, and infused with European ideological commitment to the nation as an emblem of popular unity’ (654). If we combined the effect of Strehle’s argument above with Adichie’s ‘exilic experience’ and position on the Nigerian state, we come in contact with a psyche trying to locate her place in the entire universe. Here is how Strehle (2011: 654) plots the graph of Adichie’s biography:
Herself an example of what Said calls the “artist in exile,” Adichie has lived outside her homeland for much of her adult life. She left Nigeria at nineteen to study in the United States, first in Philadelphia and then in Connecticut, near her sister’s medical practice. Adichie has received degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University (a BA in 2001), Johns Hopkins (an MFA in 2003) and Yale (an MA in African studies in 2008). While she has returned to Nigeria to visit and has said in interviews that she would like to start a writers’ colony in Nigeria, she has lived as an émigré for the past fourteen years (Anya, Shea). Her published books – Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun, and That Thing Around Your Neck (2009) – have been written primarily in the West, though they represent Nigeria and “Nigerians in diaspora” (Anya). Adichie credits the West with her early publishing success; she told one interviewer: “I couldn’t have published my [first] novel in Nigeria without the money to pay the publisher” (Garner). She has written about migrants to the West in Purple Hibiscus, where conditions force the protagonist’s aunt to leave her position at the University of Nsukka and emigrate with her children to the United States. Adichie’s comments in interviews reflect an exilic consciousness, at once deeply attached to a homeland from which she is distanced and to the Western place where she lives without belonging: “I will always feel like I don’t belong here fully. Even though I also feel I’m an observer in Nigeria” (Blackburn).
My emphasis here is on the statement credited to Adichie: ‘I will always feel like I don’t belong here fully. Even though I also feel I’m an observer in Nigeria.’ Adichie never minces her words. Her fiction is a true reflection of her psychology. In Americanah (2013), she strives to bring home to her readers the true picture of racism and the cost on the psyche of an average black woman represented by the hairdressers and the blogger protagonist, Ifemelu. Irrespective of her later response to For Love of Biafra as ‘an awfully melodramatic play,’ Adaobi’s assertion continues to ring true in her body language. Wherever she goes, she is confronted with the double consciousness of being a Biafran first, and then a Nigerian in that order. We must not forget to add to those adjectives that define her the more prominent ones her emigrant position thrusts on her; that of being black, and being a black woman living in a whiteman’s land.
Therefore, Adichie’s reinforcing of the Nigeria-Biafra archetype through the concept of twinship in Half of a Yellow Sun, I argue, is not a coincidence. Biafra is Nigeria in the same way a Nigerian can also be a Biafran without any fear of contradiction. The political logic of internal differentiation is subsumed by a larger psychological logic of integration. Olanna is Kainene. Even though they have characteristics that distinguish them, and they drift from one another often, there is mutual feeling for oneness and togetherness in the way they relate and resolve their differences. Kainene is representative of all that is Adichie’s personal loss during the war. I argue that she (Kainene) is archetypally projected through what Carl Jung regards as the collective unconscious to symbolize the general loss of the Biafran people in the novel. That the novel concludes without a hint about Kainene’s disappearance or hope of seeing her someday evidences Adichie’s unending quest for her lost self in the Nigeria-Biafra war as well as the search for acceptance and reintegration into the country to which she has become ‘exiled’. This line of thought, if associated with Adichie’s authorial dilemma, is in tandem with Strehle’s (2011: 655) argument that “Nigeria thus had from its inception no basis for the narrative of a single, imagined community of the kind Benedict Anderson finds basic to nations.” Citing Wayne Nafziger (1983: 32), Strehle (2011: 656) opines that ‘In African states like Nigeria, though, with some two hundred languages reflecting a range of separate ethnicities, the assertion of a home community based in a single language, culture, and custom must necessarily create a significant population of outsiders and exiles.’
Recalling Adichie’s loss during the war, Strehle reports of a consciousness that troubles Adichie greatly. She reports that ‘Adichie says that writing about the civil war “was something I had to do. It is a personal issue – my father has tears in his eyes when he speaks of losing his father, my mother still cannot speak at length about losing her father in a refugee camp”‘ (2011: 654).
Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is a psychic recollection of a lost dream for which a collective search is essential. Kainene becomes the ‘soul’ of Biafra that has disappeared within the Nigerian state and for which generations of people from the eastern part of Nigeria must forever search. This archetypal search for Kainene will bring to consciousness the need for proper identification – are we Biafrans or Nigerians? The search for the answer is still ongoing, as splinter groups continue to agitate for a sovereign Biafra state within the Nigerian set-up. The full sun, albeit yellow, is Nigeria; the half of it remains the lost Biafran dream. As long as the search for Kainene continues, Nigeria may not experience greatness, given that literature is expected to project a healing of the inflicted wounds on the psyche of the people.
Zoe Norridge (2012: 24) submits that
Half of a Yellow Sun explores both the endemic racism of some ex-pat circles in postindependence Nigeria and the growing ethnic prejudice amongst groups of the Nigerian population. This sets the tone for the homogenization and polarization that is then taken to another level during the descriptions of the Nigerian civil war.
According to Norridge (2012), Adichie’s relocation to the United States means that majority of her audience is not Nigerian, hence the rationale to provide detailed illustrations for the Nigeria-Biafra civil war to those she (Adichie) might have considered ‘cultural outsiders’ (Norridge, 2012: 24). Projecting Kainene to outsiders as the lost Biafran dream is a step towards healing but how far Half of a Yellow Sun has gone in healing the wounds of the Nigeria-Biafra war is yet to be seen.
Abayomi Awelewa studied English (Literature) at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, both in Nigeria. He spent a semester at the University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom as a Miscellaneous Research Student in the School of English. His PhD research focused on Nigerian Diasporic Literature. He is an African Humanities Program (AHP) Fellow, courtesy of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and a playwright with a published title, Dilemma of an African Prince (2004). As an early career researcher, Awelewa’s interest is in African Diasporan Literature and the interconnection between Literatures from Africa and the rest of the world.
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[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 78 (2016/17), pp. 105-117]