Op-Ed: Book Review — Onaedo, 'The Blacksmith’s Daughter' by Ngozi Achebe

Posted Oct 6, 2011 by Gibril Koroma
I was introduced to Ngozi Achebe, the Olympia, Washington state based Nigerian writer by New York based journalist Dennis Kabatto.
Nigerian writer Ngozi Achebe is a niece of world famous writer Chinua Achebe.
Nigerian writer Ngozi Achebe is a niece of world famous writer Chinua Achebe.
ngozi achebe
I was particularly curious about Ngozi because of her uncle the famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who was one of the numerous writers that made me realize that reading fiction can be a pleasurable activity, a form of entertainment in addition to teaching one a lot of things about life and the environment (which includes, history, geography etc).
I read Chinua Achebe’s Chike and the River (I suspect it’s now out of print) in the early 70s when I was just starting high school and I have never looked back. I have read most of what he has written including his master work, Things Fall Apart. Other African writers that thrilled me in those days of glory for African literature, thanks to the publishers Heinemann were icons like Cyprian Ekwensi(Nigeria), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Yulisa Amadu Maddy(Sierra Leone), Ngugi Wa Thiongo (Kenya), Ferdinand Oyono (Cameroun), Ayi Kwei Armah (Ghana), Can Themba and Peter Abrahams (South Africa) and a host of others. Yes, I was a voracious reader (still am) rapidly going through the fiction and biography collections at the Albert Academy school library, the Sierra Leone library in central Freetown, Fourah Bay College library, the British Council library, Alliance Francaise library and the even the small American embassy library. Not to talk of the prescribed literature texts I had to study meticulously at school and university.
But it all started with people like Chinua Achebe and the Sierra Leonean historian Talabi Aisie Lucan and her simple abridged texts on the history of Sierra Leone. Those two are among the writers that lit a fire in me early in my life that’s still burning (my own book of short stories will soon be out).
Indeed when I had nothing to read at all I would read old newspapers and magazines, Mathematics texts(General Mathematics for Secondary schools), Chemistry texts, Geography texts, Physics texts, Biology texts, anything at all!
Coming back to Ngozi, the medical doctor and novelist, she struck me as somebody who has a deep commitment to sharing the story of her people, the Ibo of Eastern Nigeria. This first novel of hers presents Iboland (some of my Nigerian friends call it Biafra) in a beautifully constructed plot embedded in the brutal slave trade that destroyed most of Africa in terms of human resources not to talk of the immense suffering it caused those that were taken away to the Americas and those they left behind.
But one thing I loved about Onaedo, The Blacksmith’s Daughter, is not only the simple diction and clear sentence structure, but the meticulous way Ngozi (who does not write like a medical doctor at all) brings alive Ibo culture, through the invisible narrator looking in on the daily activities of the villagers in this serene Ibo village that will soon be violently abused and violated by European slave traders and their African collaborators. There is no preaching or pontification, the author merely offers a story and leaves you the reader to make your own inferences or judgements. She does not condemn the European and African slave traders, she merely presents to us what they do and say. In fact she just shows, not tell, as any seasoned writer would do.
Much of the action revolves around Onaedo, one of the village beauties and her family. On another level it’s also about Africa and African culture, a well researched expose of what it meant to be an Ibo before the barbarism of the slave trade and colonialism.
Even though Ngozi has put in a lot of research in this book, she carefully avoids making it sound like a historical or sociological treatise on the effects of the slave trade on the Ibo people of Nigeria.
No, it’s first of all about Onaedo, a strikingly beautiful and cultured African girl and her romance with Dualo, the man she had given her heart to, with all the tragic happenings that would follow later. A fluid and smooth narrative taking the reader into the bowels of Africa and a past that is seldom seen or experienced these days, Onaedo, The Blacksmith’s Daughter is not only a work of art but a reminder of what Africa has lost and would hardly ever regain.
Title: Onaedo, The Blacksmith’s Daughter
ISBN-13: 978-0-9826473-0-1 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9826473-1-8 (Paperback)
Publisher: Mandac-Goldberg Publishing
Price: USD 19.95,
CAD 20.50.
UK: 13.25