Earlier this year, it was announced here, that our dear Chimamanda had been awarded a PEN Pinter Prize for her ‘Boldness’. She officially received this award 3 days ago and she spoke out about the responsibility of authors to engage with politics and “call a lie, a lie”.
According to Maureen Freely, the prize was awarded to an outstanding writer who shows:
the real truth of our lives and our societies with their work
and she described Chimamanda as
sophisticated beyond measure in her understanding of gender, race, and global inequality
During her acceptance speech, Chimamanda said that
art is a valid reason for evading the responsibilities of citizenship – which are to think clearly, to remain informed, and, sometimes, to act and speak
Art can illuminate politics. Art can humanise politics. Art can shine the light towards truth. But sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes politics must be engaged with as politics. And this could not be any truer or more urgent today, with the political landscapes of many western countries so blatantly awash in what Harold Pinter called ‘a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed’. We must know what is true. And we must call a lie a lie…
She also talked about how she has been criticized in Nigeria because of her views ranging from homosexuality to gender:
I could not, as an African, claim to be a feminist because feminism and being African were mutually exclusive. Feminism was a sickness of the west, and one I had appropriated by being poisoned by the west. As for gay people, homosexuality was un-African, and my supporting the rights of gay people meant a disregard of African culture.
She talked about how restricted she feels to speak out about social issues because she is a writer:
But my writing gave me a platform to speak about issues that I have always cared about. I do not want to use my art as an armour of neutrality behind which to hide. I am a writer and I am a citizen, and I see my speaking out on social issues as a responsibility of citizenship. I am struck by how often this speaking out is met, in Nigeria, not with genuine engagement, whether to agree or disagree, but with a desire to silence me. A journalist once helpfully summed it up for me: people don’t like it when you talk about feminism, they just want you to shut up and write.
Deep words from Chimamanda; she truly deserves this award and many more. Congratulations!