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Transcript of Purple Hibiscus
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Setting: Nigeria
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who grew up in Nigeria, was shortlisted for the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. Her work has been selected by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the BBC Short Story Awards and has appeared in various literary publications, including Zoetrope and The Iowa Review.
Nigeria, one-third larger than Texas and the most populous country in Africa, is situated on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Its neighbors are Benin, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. The lower course of the Niger River flows south through the western part of the country into the Gulf of Guinea. Swamps and mangrove forests border the southern coast; inland are hardwood forests.
The first inhabitants of what is now Nigeria were thought to have been the Nok people (500 BC –c. AD 200). The Kanuri, Hausa, and Fulani peoples subsequently migrated there. Islam was introduced in the 13th century, and the empire of Kanem controlled the area from the end of the 11th century to the 14th.
The Fulani empire ruled the region from the beginning of the 19th century until the British annexed Lagos in 1851 and seized control of the rest of the region by 1886. It formally became the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. During World War I, native troops of the West African frontier force joined with French forces to defeat the German garrison in Cameroon.
On Oct. 1, 1960, Nigeria gained independence, becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and joining the United Nations. Organized as a loose federation of self-governing states, the independent nation faced the overwhelming task of unifying a country with 250 ethnic and linguistic groups.
The military again seized power in 1984, only to be followed by another military coup the following year.
UN fact-finding mission in 1996 reported that Nigeria's “problems of human rights are terrible and the political problems are terrifying.” During the 1970s, Nigeria had the 33rd highest per capita income in the world, but by 1997 it had dropped to the 13th poorest.
Purple Hibiscus takes place in Enugu, a city in post-colonial Nigeria.
It is an irony that Nigeria, the sixth largest exporter of oil, the largest oil producing country in Africa, is also host to over 100 million people living in poverty, according to statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently.
Nigeria's History in the Novel
Kambili Achike is
The main character who narrates the story of her family’s disintegration. When the story begins, Kambili is fifteen years old and painfully shy. She lives under the strict Catholic rule of her father, who expects his children to succeed at all costs
Chukwuka Achike, nicknamed “Jaja” by his family, is an intelligent young man about two years his sister’s senior. For most of the novel, in the same way as the rest of his family, he is dominated by his father, although ultimately he displays more overt defiance than them.
Eugene Achike is Kambili’s father. He is a wealthy businessman and very strict Catholic who dominates his family for much of the novel by imposing a harsh religious regime in the family home.
Beatrice, mother and wife in the Achike family, is a quiet, maternal figure for much of the work, presenting a softer, warmer presence in the home in contrast to the often tyrannical presence of Eugene.
Aunty Ifeoma is Eugene’s sister, a tall, striking, intelligent woman who works as a lecturer at the University of Nigeria. She is highly capable in many aspects of her life, displaying determination and resourcefulness in bringing up her children without a husband
Father Amadi is a young attractive priest in the circle of Aunty Ifeoma and her family. Being youthful, indigenous and well-versed in contemporary life, he could be described as a “new generation” priest, as opposed to white European priests in the country such as Eugene’s pastor, Father Benedict.
Papa-Nnukwu is both father and grandfather in the Achike family, being Eugene and Ifeoma’s father. He is a kind, loving man rooted in the traditional non-Christian beliefs of his indigenous culture, presenting a marked contrast, in particular, to his son Eugene’s adherence to European religion and lifestyle
Purple Hibiscus is a novel set in postcolonial Nigeria, a country beset by political instability and economic difficulties. The central character is Kambili Achike, fifteen for much of the period covered by the book, a member of a wealthy family dominated by her devoutly Catholic father, Eugene
Eugene is both a religious zealot and a violent figure in the Achike household, subjecting his wife Beatrice, Kambili herself, and her brother Jaja to beatings and psychological cruelty.
Told through Kambili’s eyes, the story is essentially about the disintegration of her family unit and her struggle to grow to maturity.
The dangers inherent in religious zeal
Money and social position do not equal happiness
Corruption in a society struggling for political stability
The difficulties of everyday life in a country that is politically unstable
Personal sacrifice and its various manifestations
Traditional indigenous belief in relation to contemporary Western belief
Youthful love, in particular Kambili’s feelings for Father Amadi
The relationship of the natural world (e.g. fauna and flora, climate and geography) to everyday life
The consequences of silence
In Her Own Words
In small groups of 2-3 research one aspect of Nigerian culture relevant to the novel.
Nigerian Ethnic Groups
Religions in Nigeria (both traditional and western)
Nigerian Music (both traditional and contemporary)
Nigerian Festivals and traditional celebrations
Nigerian Family/Tribal structure
Nigerian Schools and universities
Nigerian Tribal Clothing
Search the internet (google, bing, etc.) for information on your group's topic.
Then, create a powerpoint, prezi, infographic, glog or poster presenting your topic.
Your presentation should include Key information about your topic
6-8 slides or pieces of information
Images, music, videos and symbols that represent your topic.
Your group will "teach" the class about your topic.
The more creative and informative the presentation, the higher the grade!
Go to the class website on the Multicultural page to access this presentation and the previous links.
The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes a surprise appearance on Beyoncé's latest album, released on iTunes, declaiming: "We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls 'You can have ambition, but not too much'."
The novelist's intervention comes during the track ***Flawless, appearing as a series of samples from her impassioned TEDxEuston talk, "We should all be feminists".
Kambili and her family are members of one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Igbo. After a coup in 1966, army leaders suspended the national and regional constitutions causing even more turmoil. Later that year, another coup established a new leader, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. The turmoil in the country eventually resulted in the politically-motivated massacre of Igbo people in the North. The leader of the Igbo, Chukwuemeka O. Ojukwu, declared the Igbo region the independent Republic of Biafra, resulting in a bloody civil war between Biafra and Nigeria. The secession effort eventually failed, and Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria in 1970.
The chaos and violence under the leader Big Oga in Purple Hibiscus echoes the atmosphere during the reign of General Sani Abacha who took over Nigeria in 1993. During this time, a well-known writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed along with other human rights activists and Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations. Abacha died in 1998 and was succeeded by General Abdul salam Abubakar who attempted to restore order. He released political prisoners and held elections. A former leader who was imprisoned during the rule of Abacha, General Olusegun Obasanjo, was inaugurated as president of Nigeria in 1999.
Culturally, Nigeria has over two hundred and fifty ethnic groups, but the three largest are the Igbo (or Ibo) in the East, the Hausa in the North, and the Yoruba in the West. As for religion, about half the country is Muslim and approximately forty percent is Christian. Traditional religion, based on the worship of many gods and spirits, is still practiced today.