In accordance with our meta agreement to have topic challenges and a later meta agreement to have topic challenges lasting for two months and overlapping by one month, it is time (okay, almost a month late) to announce the April–May 2022 topic challenge.
Based on the number of votes (+7), the next topic challenge of the year 2022 will be
Omenuko by Pita Nwana (the first Igbo novel)
What's a topic challenge?
See the meta posts linked above, and also this main Meta post. In short, during April and May 2022 you are invited to try to read Omenuko and ask questions about it.
Participation is not obligatory in any sense, and questions on other works are more than welcome during April and May too; they just won't count as part of this topic challenge.
How can I take part?
By getting hold of a copy of Omenuko (in this case, it's freely available online) and asking good questions about it.
Questions about this work should be tagged with omenuko, pita-nwana, and igbo-literature, along with any other relevant tags.
We'll keep a list of all such questions in an answer to this meta post.
Omenuko (the first Igbo novel)
We haven't had many topic challenges for African literature - only one, as far as I remember - and Igbo is one of the most spoken languages in Africa. This novel is particularly well-suited for a topic challenge because:
- The full text is freely and legally available online, both in the original Igbo and in English (translated by Frances Nkiru W. Pritchett, secretary of the Society for Promoting Igbo Language and Culture in America). So it can be read without any effort or expenditure.
- From the translator's preface, it seems that reading this book might be an interesting experience for learning about Nigerian history, Igbo culture, and some facets of their language:
“Omenuko,” by Pita Nwana, is described as the first novel to be written in the Igbo language. It was published in 1933 after winning an all-Africa literary contest. [...] The book is still a classic in Igbo literature, and continues to be used in Nigerian schools. [...]
The novel is set at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. There are 15 chapters, dealing with Omenuko’s life and deeds in the land of his refuge, his rise to and fall from power there, his efforts to locate and repatriate those whom he had wronged, and the maneuvers that permitted his eventual return to his native place without suffering the wrath of the villagers. Omenuko is shown to be adept at exploiting both the British colonial officials and the traditional practices of his home area. Perhaps this partially explains its popularity with modern-day Igbo people who, like Omenuko, are called on to reconcile two worlds.
Nwana, following Igbo custom, has employed many proverbs throughout his text. I have set these apart by putting them in italics. Elsewhere, some words and phrases were inserted by the translator and are enclosed in square brackets.
I hope that the universal elements in this tale will appeal to all readers.
Columbia University maintains a whole site with all sorts of useful info about Igbo language and culture, which might be useful as surrounding material if someone wants to learn more and deeper as well as reading the book. Also other Igbo novels and plays are available there.
As an extra bonus, if we can attract, or nurture, good knowledge/expertise about Igbo culture on this site, we may be able to get one of our highest-voted unanswered questions resolved.
- Vote for the next topic challenge (May–June), or propose your own!