Biafra and Nigeria, Africa in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun

The independent state of the Republic of Biafra in June 1967. PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Gaba. This photo is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“The Second World War changed the world order: Empire was crumbling, and a vocal Nigerian elite, mostly from the South, had emerged. The North was wary; it feared domination from the more educated South and had always wanted a country separate from the infidel South anyway… The South, too eager for independence, accepted the constitution… At Independence in 1960, Nigeria was a collection of fragments held in a fragile clasp.”1

The Nigeria of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is one of political unrest and inharmonious factions. Adichie illustrates her tale of the Nigerian-Biafran war through the perspective of three main characters: Ugwu, the houseboy of the revolutionary university lecturer; Olanna, the daughter of the wealthy Nigerian businessman; and Richard, the British writer whose work and relationships help him grow strong Biafran roots. Each dynamic character witnesses clear discontented feelings among the citizens of Nigeria as to how the country is held together, accompanied with much exploration and confrontation regarding the solution via dinner parties and get-togethers. The birth of Biafra by way of secession from Nigeria becomes a beacon of hope for the Igbo people of the South, but the repercussions are catastrophic as the militant and genocidal Hausa soldiers uproot and destroy their lives and their newly-established country. While dealing with loss, grief, death, and love in their personal lives, each character must come to terms with the difficulty of war, while remaining hopeful for the future of Nigeria.

The Republic of Biafra was established on May 30, 1967. Following Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the Igbo people of the southeastern region pushed for a sovereign state due to the economic, ethnic, and religious tension between themselves and the North. The Muslim Hausa of the North and the predominately Christian Igbo fought a brutal and tumultuous two-and-a-half year war that left more than a million civilians, mostly Biafran, dead and many more starving due to famine. In January of 1970, the Biafrans called for a ceasefire against the Northern forces, and Biafra was integrated back into Nigeria.

Read more about Biafra and Nigerian Civil War on Wikipedia. Find Half a Yellow Sun at a local library or on Amazon.

1 Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 195. Print.

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