“the Knowledge of Cooking Does Not Come With a Vagina” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Saturday, the 22nd of September, 2018 saw Workstation, Victoria Island host the world-renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in an evening of conversation and laughter. People from all walks of life and places as far as Kogi and Enugu state attended the event to hear her speak.

Tagged #AnEveningWithChimamanda, it trended on social media even days after the affair was over. The topics discussed bordered on chivalry, feminism, toxic masculinity, bride price etc.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is no stranger to controversy with the most recent being her interview with Hilary Clinton in April 2018, where she tackled the former US presidential aspirant for the Democratic Party over her twitter bio which stated “Wife” first.

The interview caused a backlash on the Nigerian twitter space with many criticising her action. On the uproar, Chimamanda says, “I used to see myself as a staunch Nigerian, but I realise that self-care involves keeping a distance between me and Nigeria”. She says she came to this epiphany after she saw the mother nearly brought to tears by the comments the interview generated.

But with the help of an incredible family and an impressive support team, she has been able to rise above the unpleasant remarks thrown at her.

On whether or not men can be feminists she had this to say. “Men can be feminists, but you need to leave room for the people we are fighting for to lead the conversation. I absolutely believe that not just men can be, but men should be feminists.” When asked to advise someone raising a male child, she says, “Right now masculinity is telling men to be afraid of vulnerability, to be ashamed of fear, to be ashamed of any sort of weakness, and it has become very exhausting.

So if I had a boy, I would make him know that vulnerability is a very beautiful thing.”

On chivalry, she says, “The problem with chivalry implies a benign misogyny; you are equal but not quite. My thing is, let us hold open the door for every because we are courteous and kind. Her opinion on Bride price seems to set in stone. She strongly believes that the idea of bride price is rooted in placing material value on a human being and it should be scrapped.

She went further to reiterate that domestic work is not specific to a particular gender. As she so aptly put it, “The knowledge of cooking does not come with a vagina.

When asked about the sort of relationship that existed between Kambili, the protagonist in her award-winning book Purple Hibiscus, and Father Amadi, another character in the book, she says, “When you are young, you have a lot of crushes on older people, but their relationship did not go beyond that. And there was certainly nothing like agape love between them.”

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Chimamanda Adichie revealed that the main character, Ifemelu in her book Americanah would be played by Lupita Nyong’o the Academy Award-winning actress who bought the rights to the movie before playing a slave in 12 Years a Slave, the role which got her an Oscar. Asked how she coped with the making of screen adaptation, Half of a Yellow Sun despite a lot of things being cut out of it, she says, “You don’t really have much of a say in the movie adaptation of a book. Sometimes out of courtesy, you may be brought in as a consultant.

The million dollar question was asked. “Where is Kainene?”, And she says, “Honestly, I don’t know. She later went ahead to explain that that theme was very common in the Nigerian civil war where people lost loved ones and never found them or a body to bury. There is never closure whatsoever.

It is no surprise there because the name ‘Kainene” means ‘Let us keep watching’ when literally translated from Igbo to English. Chimamanda strongly believes that commercializing your art isn’t a bad thing. She says that if your art has value, if you are getting paid for it, then it is a good thing. However, she did mention that people don’t usually pay for a certain kind of art such as poetry.

She admitted that she gets tired of talking about feminism, that there is this idea that she is an expert on everything feminism.

Sometimes she simply wants to talk about her art. She revealed that her favorite ways to de-stress are to read and eat chocolate, lots of it. Her advice to upcoming writers was to do lots of reading, get people who would truthfully and constructively criticise your work and always be willing to improve.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening filled with intellectually stimulating conversations. Following the occasion, there were signature and picture sessions, and no one hesitated to get an autograph or a picture. For those that missed the program, she will be definitely be coming back by November. Ms. Chimamanda on Monday at a press conference in Lagos announced that she would be hosting a creative writing workshop from the 20th – 30th of November 2018.

The workshop, formerly known as the Farafina Trust Creative Workshop, it would now be known as the Purple Hibiscus Trust Creative Workshop. It promises to be an exciting and illuminating experience. We are eagerly anticipating it!

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