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Thursday, 6 October 2016

56 Years of Nigerian Literature: Ijeoma Umebinyuo




Today, it's all about writer and poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo in my celebration of Nigerian women writers. A brilliant writer, her words have been described as 'intimate', 'beautiful, heartbreaking and affirming'. Umebinyuo was named one of sub-Saharan Africa's top ten contemporary poets by Writivism, listed as one of seven African women poets that will keep you calm, cool and collected for the summer by okayafrica, and members of the Buzzfeed community chose her words from disapora blues to be among 21 of the most powerful things said by immigrants.


From diaspora blues

She started writing poetry at the age of ten - although as stated in an interview on Femme Feministe her father insists she started writing when she was seven. Her debut collection of poetry - Questions for Ada - was published in 2015, and described as 'a floetry of poetry that will sweep readers away on a wave of pure emotional beauty and alluring artistry.' It is, as discussed by Umebinyuo in an interview on Afroelle magazine, 'a collection of narratives on love, colonisation, depression, pain, grief, Diaspora, self-care, heartbreak. Love. A safe place.'

Photo via theijeoma.tumblr.com

Passionate about reproductive rights, about women in politics, about women owning their narrativesUmebinyuo sees herself - as she explains in her interview with Femme Feministe - as a feminist, a womanist who writes:
... for a lot of people who do not see themselves represented in literature. For black girls. For women with colour. For immigrants. For those who feel alone. For mental health. For everyone and anyone who believes that healing is needed, that narratives like mine are not only important but very necessary.

Umebintuo also seems to write what she wants, and without fear - tackling topics we rarely speak about or discuss in African communities, and honestly Black communities. Depression, for example, which comes up in her interview with Afroelle magazine: 

I wrote 'Love letter to Adeyemi' to say that even African women can suffer from depression. We deny that depression is real in Africa. They told me African women cannot suffer from depression, so I wrote the truth.

On tumblr you will find her words, but also on twitter and instagram - and even this pinterest page.

Ijeoma Umebinyuo on pinterest

Her words really are powerful:

For black girls ... Source: theijeoma.tumblr.com
For Pretoria High School. Source: theijeoma.tumblr.com 
An answer to a question. Source: theijeomatumblr.com

While Umbeinyuo's first published work is a poetry collection, she actually wanted to be known first for her fiction - a genre she is also well versed in. So to also get a taste of that here's a short story The Incident on The Stockholm Review of Literature. And if you want some more poetry, here's Farewell  and The Clinic both on The Rising Phoenix Review.

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