I actually had this bookmarked for posting before Chinua Achebe’s death. It seems even more timely in the wake of his untimely passing especially for those seeking to understand why he was such a significant voice in African and international literature.
Excerpts on his role as writer:
A major concern of the time was the absence of the African voice. Being part of that dialogue meant not only sitting at the table but effectively telling the African story from an African perspective — in full earshot of the world.
Engaging such heavy subjects while at the same time trying to help create a unique and authentic African literary tradition would mean that some of us would decide to use the colonizer’s tools: his language, altered sufficiently to bear the weight of an African creative aesthetic, infused with elements of the African literary tradition. I borrowed proverbs from our culture and history, colloquialisms and African expressive language from the ancient griots, the worldviews, perspectives, and customs from my Igbo tradition and cosmology, and the sensibilities of everyday people
I worry when somebody from one particular tradition stands up and says, “The novel is dead, the story is dead.” I find this to be unfair, to put it mildly. You told your own story, and now you’re announcing the novel is dead. Well, I haven’t told mine yet.