Nigerian author and celebrated feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has become the subject of criticisms following her claims that in Nigeria “skin colour didn’t have meaning.”
Adichie was a panelist at the 2019 social and political forum, Open Future 2019 in Manchester.
In the interview, Adichie spoke about the meaning of identity, indicating the ways identities are construed from place to place.
“I think identity is something one always negotiates. But it is also often something that is external,” opined the Americanah author.
She continued: “I identify happily now as black but I didn’t always because I became black in America. When I went to the US to go to the university, I realised I am something else called black.”
Adichie said she juxtaposed this realisation against the experience in her native Nigeria where “really, skin colour didn’t have meaning.”
But the author’s tendency to describe her racial self-awareness as something that came from living in a place like America, did not go down well with many.
British-Nigerian actress Kelechi Okafor tweeted: “I really respect Chimamanda for who she is and all that she has achieved and I’d really like to be in conversation with her one day to address some of the things she says. Colour absolutely has meaning in Nigeria otherwise why are people bleaching their skin??”
Another, journalist Tobi Oderein, tweeted: “Love Chimamanda but she knows lighter skin carries meaning in Nigeria – one attached to wealth and class. So to say skin colour don’t have meaning in Nigeria is to turn a blind eye to colourism.”
But as with most debates that play out on the intellectual corners of social media, there were some who claimed Adichie was taken out of context, probably deliberately.
Meanwhile, Nigerians have expressed mixed reactions to the news that Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o will be playing a Nigerian character in her passion project Americanah, based on the best-selling novel by Adichie.
For many in the West African country, the work of bringing the book’s female protagonist to the screen should be carried out by a Nigerian actress.