Professor Akachi Ezeigbo’s specialization as a humanities scholar and researcher is African Literature, with biases in Gender, Feminist and Cultural Studies. Within the context of this interdisciplinary range, she has contributed to scholarship and national development by chiefly galvanizing recognition of the role of gender and women empowerment in national life, politics and culture. Through her stimulating scholarship, wide corpus of creative writing and committed advocacy of women’s empowerment, she continues to expand the frontiers of thinking in the humanities while also generating positive image for the nation at the international arena.
Since her appointment as a lecturer in the Department of English, at the University of Lagos, in 1981 and since attaining the position of a professor in 1999, Akachi Ezeigbo (also known as Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo) has been involved in vigorous research and continuous writing. Over the years, she has contributed immensely to knowledge in her areas of expertise which are literature, creative writing and gender studies. She obtained a B.A. and M.A. (English) from the University of Lagos and a PH.D from University of Ibadan. She was Head of English Department three times, 1997-1998, 2002-2005, 2008-2009. Her contributions are threefold – scholarship, creative writing and women’s/gender issues and empowerment.
Scholarship: She has published five books and co-edited four others. She has also published fifteen articles in both local and international journals and twenty six articles in books edited by home-based and foreign-based scholars. Her doctoral thesis which is based on the literature on the Nigerian Civil War was published as a book in 1991, entitled Fact and Fiction in the Literature of the Nigerian civil War. Complementing this effort is The Literatures of War which she co-edited with Prof. Liz Gunner as a special issue of the University of London-based journal, African Languages and Cultures which has since become a critical reference text on the literature produced on the events of three wars in Africa – The Nigerian Civil War, the Zimbabwean War of Liberation and the War in the Horn of Africa. In 2006/2007, she gave a series of lectures (three) on the Nigerian Civil War and the literary responses on it, at Royal Holloway University of London, which enlightened the university community on the war and the literature it has produced. Gender Issues in Nigeria is a significant contribution to the gender debate in Nigeria while A Companion to the Novel illuminates the study of the novel genre and has proved an indispensable companion to the study of the novel for students in and outside Nigeria. Ezeigbo’s numerous articles in scholarly journals and edited books have contributed significantly by giving profound insights into the understanding of gender and feminist issues, cultural and theoretical issues in African literature.
She has given lectures in Nigerian and overseas universities – University of Uyo; University of Calabar; University of Ibadan; University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus, South Africa; Humboldt University, Berlin; Royal Holloway University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and University of Sussex, in the UK; Winston-Salem University and Wake Forest University, both in North Carolina, USA, etc – which have contributed to knowledge in her field of expertise: African literature, Gender, Feminist and Cultural Studies.
Ezeigbo has enlivened the global reception of her creative writing by streamlining her commitment to women empowerment in the theoretical formulation of ‘Snail-sense Feminism’ – essentially a dialogic and conciliatory approach to the attainment of gender justice and social equality in which actual and literary conflicts are resolved through recognizing the cultural peculiarities of the African landscape. This formulation is a culmination of years of research, writing and activism/advocacy. It is significant in terms of its capacity to illuminate the interpretations of her writing by paradoxically reducing simplifications and ‘complexifications’.
In the 1990s, to propagate further her activism for women’s rights, she began to write a regular column in the Weekly Independent (Lagos) in which she cast a critical light on gender relations in Nigeria, focusing on such diverse aspects as education, work, politics and family. In 1996, she published these and other related essays in a book called Gender Issues in Nigeria: a Feminine Perspective. Ezeigbo was WOCALA Keynote Speaker at the African Literature Association (ALA) conference at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA. Her thought-provoking lecture on “Literature as a Tool for Gender Activism” at the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, Wake forest University, NC, in April 2011, was well received and highly commended. She was Best Researcher in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Lagos in 2005 (the first scholar in the Humanities to win this award), and was a Commonwealth Fellow at SOAS, University of London, 1989/1990; Research Fellow at University of Natal, South Africa, 1999/2000; at University of Bayreuth, Germany, 2005; and at Royal Holloway University of London, 2006/2007; She is a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and the Literary society of Nigeria.
Creative Writing: Her contributions to creative writing/imaginative literature are significant. Her creative writing complements her critical writing, as both have a symbiotic relationship in her career as a scholar and writer. Recognition for these achievements has come in the form of numerous awards, prizes and fellowships, including the highest – The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2007 – and almost all other literary awards in Nigeria. She has published five novels which have won literary prizes (Spectrum Prize, Flora Nwapa Prize, Zulu Sofola Prize, and one of the novels, Roses and Bullets, was shortlisted for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2012); four collections of short stories (one of her stories won the WODOC Prize, 1994); two plays; four poetry collections (one of them won The Cadbury Prize, 2009); and nineteen books for children (one of them, My Cousin Sammy, jointly won The Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2007 and another won the Atiku Abubakar Children Literature Prize, 2008). No less than seventeen of her short stories have been published in books, journals, magazines and anthologies locally and internationally. Her poems have appeared in anthologies and some of her works have been translated into Swahili, Xhosa, Turkish and German. Ezeigbo received, on December 29, 2012, “An Award of Excellence for her immense contributions and efforts towards the development of Uga town”. July, 2013, Ezeigbo received an award for her exemplary accomplishments in the literary field from His Excellency, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State. Ezeigbo has contributed extensively in the genre of children literature and today she is recognized as one of the most prolific children literature authors in Nigeria. She has been appointed chief examiner or judge of essay competitions and literary prizes, the most important being The Nigeria Prize for Literature which she chaired its panel of judges in 2011 and Bishop Okonkwo Essay Competition for Senior Secondary School (nationwide) which has continuously chaired since 2004. She has also been invited to organize or participate in Creative Writing Workshops, the most significant being the workshop organized by the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) in January, 2011 at the University of Ibadan, sponsored by NLNG. A handbook on creative writing is expected to be published from the materials provided by all the resource persons with Ezeigbo producing two chapters on The Novel and Children’s Literature. She has also participated in or run creative writing workshops in South Africa (at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg), the United Kingdom (at the Runnymede Literary Festival and at Royal Holloway University of London), in Scholars’ Crest International School, Lagos in 2008, in Yola, Adamawa State (organized by Association of Nigerian authors, ANA, and the American University of Nigeria) and at Greensprings School Book Fair, Anthony and Lekki Campuses, Lagos in 2010, 2012 and 2013 , and two times at the Lagos International Book Fair organized by University Press Plc in 2011 and 2012. She was invited as a resource person and lecturer in 2010 and 2011, respectively, by Rainbow Book Club, organizers of the annual Garden City Literary Festival (GCLF) in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Women’s Empowerment/Gender Advocacy: Ezeigbo is one of the most visible and productive womanist/feminist critics and writers in Nigeria today. She has consistently published landmark essays and books in the area of women’s and gender studies and given lectures and talks in different parts of the world – Africa, Europe, North America and Asia – on issues relating to women, especially Nigerian and African women. She developed two courses which she has taught over the years at the University of Lagos: Feminism and Contemporary Literature; and Introduction to Gender Studies. She formulated the “snail-sense” feminist theory which prioritizes dialogue and negotiation in both the creative and critical literary practice in post-colonial African literature. She has been a member of executive committees in practically every literary association in Nigeria, especially women writers’ associations. She was the Treasurer of Association of Nigerian Authors in 1995-1997 and Vice President of PEN Nigeria, 2000-2011. She is currently the Chair of Women Writers Committee of PEN Nigeria Centre. Since 2007, she has organized yearly activities to mark the International Women’s Day (IWD) at the University of Lagos, partnering with PEN Nigeria and the Department of English and Faculty of Arts. She has been Hall Mistress in at least three Female Hostels at the University of Lagos and a patron of many students’ clubs at the University of Lagos and other social clubs outside the university. Some other positions she has held include: Vice President, Women Writers of Nigeria (WRITA) and Financial Secretary WRITA and the current Assistant Secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Letters. She is also actively involved in community service in her town, Uga, in Anambra State, and has been a member of Ada Uga Association (Association of Uga Daughters) which promotes peace education in the town. In 1999, she wrote a letter to the Igwe (traditional ruler) of the town, protesting his exclusion of women from the chieftaincy (traditional) titles given to more than fifty Uga men during his Ofala Festival. She copied the letter to all the women’s associations in the town. This action provoked the plan for a massive demonstration by Uga women; the act was stopped only when the umbrella union, Uga Improvement Union (UIU), led by the President General, mediated between the women and the Igwe and arrived at the compromise that women would be compensated and honoured with titles in the next exercise. She has been given a chieftaincy title, ‘Ugonwanyi Edemede Ndigbo’, meaning ‘Queen of Letters of Igbo land’ by Eze Nwabueze Ohazulike (OON), Eze Nkpume II, Eze Ndigbo, Lagos State in 2012. Some community and social clubs in her home town, Uga, have given her awards in recognition of her activities in the town.
Akachi’s publications include –
- Fact and Fiction in the Literature of the Nigerian Civil War
- The Literatures of War, Special Issue of African Languages and Cultures
- Gender Issues in Nigeria
- A Companion to the Novel
- Things Fall Apart: 50th Anniversary, Special Issue of LARES
- Artistic Creativity: Literature in the Service of Society
- Snail-Sense Feminism: Building on an Indigenous Model
- The Buried Treasure
- Rhythms of Life: Stories of Modern Nigeria
- The Prize
- Echoes in the Mind
- Rituals and Departures
- The Last of the Strong Ones
- House of Symbols
- Children of the Eagle
- Alani the Troublemaker & Other Stories
- Asa and the Little Stream
- Whisker the Brave Cat
- Red One and the Wizard of Mula
- Wings of Dawn, An Anthology of New Writing by Nigerian Women, co-editor with Ronnie Uzoigwe
- Aventures of Anum the Tortoise
- Fractures & Fragments
- My Cousin Sammy
- Fire from the Holy Mountain
- Heart Songs
- Ako the Storyteller
- Zoba and his Gang
- Cloud and Other Poems for Children
- Waiting for Dawn
- The Slave Girl
- The Dwarf’s Story
- The Return of the Thief
- Hands that Crush Stone
- Barmaid and the Witches of Izunga
- Roses and Bullets
- Kidnapped at Noon
- Mina the Shy girl
- Seyi’s Strong Voice
- Toki Learns the Hard Way
- Dancing Masks
House of Symbols
“This is a mature work with a high moral tone, deep philosophical musings and uplifting gender relations. It is an important contribution to Nigerian fiction.” [Panel of Judges for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2004.]
“Ezeigbo’s strongest asset is her characterization. The characters in this novel are three-dimensional human beings, living in Igbo land in the Forties and Fifties at the intersection between the old and the new…” [Panel of Judges for the Zulu Sofola Prize.]
“Akachi … is an enchanting painter of portraits. In the tradition of the omniscient narrator, she weaves freely in and out of the minds of her characters …. Again and again, she shows that she has an eye for those telling details which mark out a situation for drama, lyricism or suspense.” [Femi Osofisan, Best Nigerian playwright of the second generation.]
“This is a profoundly written book, a work of immense significance which fills an aching vacuum in African Literature.” [The Lumina.]
My Cousin Sammy
“… Ezeigbo’s handling of the story of domestic conflict and its resolution through the sheer selfless love and fellow feeling of an eleven-year-old girl is sustained by skillful storytelling. She is in complete control of her medium in this novel for children in their teenage years.” [Judges’ citation, NLNG-sponsored, The Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2007.]
“In Ezeigbo’s hands, words are kernels to be cracked for the particles of truth. Her tool for the operation is largely forged with materials from riddles and praise-poetry in African oral tradition. The populist appeal of her poetic idiolect is reinforced by her use of Pidgin English in a section of the work. The diction of the poetry is innovative in the Nigerian tradition of poetry in English.” [Judges’ citation, ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry, 2009.]
“In our age where the few who still read poetry wish to see original craft and vision expressed transparently and accessibly, the poems in this collection give some significant promise of rejuvenating the readership of the venerable art.” [Dr. Patrick Oloko, English Department, University of Lagos.]
“Heart Songs, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s first collection of poems, reveals the hidden poetic mind of a writer who had previously worked extensively and excelled as a novelist …. Adimora-Ezeigbo is at home with subjects as varied as power, love, culture, gender, philosophy and crime, in this collection.” [The Punch.]
Waiting for Dawn
“Waiting for Dawn bristles with frankness, pain and hope.” [The Vanguard Media.]
“In this collection which captures our common tragedy in vivid language, the poet, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, has shown her mastery of the art.” [The Sun Newspaper.]