Buchi Emecheta

Biography of Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta was a sociologist and activist for the human rights of women in Africa, who was born on July 21, 1944 in Yaba, near Lagos, Nigeria. His full name is: Florence Onyebuchi “Buchi” Emecheta.

Their native parents of the ethnic group Igbo, were Jeremy Nwabundinke and Alice Okuekwuhe Emecheta.

The way in which Buchi carried out her activism for the rights of African women was through the writing of novels, articles and even television productions. The life experiences that Buchi Emecheta reflected in her writings are a way of expressing her desire to advocate for the human rights of women in Africa.

Buchi Emecheta died in London, on January 25, 2017, at the age of 72, due to health complications caused by a stroke she suffered in 2010.

Buchi Emecheta’s childhood

Motivated by the gender prejudices that existed in the community where she was born, Florence Onyebuchi had to remain in her parental home, while her younger brother went to school. For this reason, her childhood was full of the stories that her grandmother told her about her people and her culture.

Yaba, in Lagos, Nigeria

These stories made her want to write her own stories, just as her grandmother told her. This desire caused Buchi’s interest in going to school to grow, so she set out to convince her parents of the benefits that education could give her. This is how she began her studies at the “Ladilak” school and later, at the “Reagan Memorial Baptist”, a secondary school for girls.

But when he was 9 years old, his father passed away from complications caused by an injury that occurred in the swamps of Burma, where he worked. After the death of her father, Buchi was sent to live with her mother’s cousin in Lagos, while her younger brother went with her father’s brother.

With the clarity of knowing what you want, he made it his goal to get a scholarship to continue studying. And within a year, Buchi Emecheta won a scholarship to attend Methodist Girls’ High School, where she studied until she was 16 years old.

Map of Yaba, the birthplace of Buchi Emecheta.

Buchi’s marriage

While waiting to attend the University of Ibadan, his dream was frustrated by having to marry Sylvester Onwordi. And it is that she had been promised in marriage to Sylvester, when she was 11 years old, according to the custom of her culture.

The couple had four children, until her husband went to study at the University of London, leaving her in Lagos in charge of the children. To support her children, she began working in the Consulate General of the United States in Lagos, where she stayed for two years, while her husband was in London.

Stay in London

In 1962, she and her children moved to London to reunite with her husband, which led to their fifth child. Being in London, she worked as a librarian at the British museum, which refreshed her dream of being a writer.

So, while surrounded by books, in her spare time, she began to fulfill her childhood dream of writing her stories. But at the conclusion of her first manuscript, her husband, who she suspected of writing, took it and burned it. The destruction of the manuscript led to the separation of the marriage, which was full of unhappiness and even occasional violence.

After separating, Buchi continued working in the library to support her children, while also beginning her attendance at classes at the university. And so it was, as in 1974, Buchi Emecheta graduated in Sociology from the University of London, where she obtained her degree with honors. All of this, despite the emotional stresses, social pressures and financial difficulties of being an African woman and a single mother in Britain.

Buchi Emecheta’s motivation

Taking advantage of the Nigerian custom of storytelling, Buchi transformed her real life experiences into novels, where she narrated the difficulties African women experience on a daily basis. In this way, she defended the rights of African women in Igbo, Nigeria and even throughout Africa.

In her writings, Buchi Emecheta laments and at the same time protests the oppression, impotence and silenced aspects that manifest and govern the lives of women. Emecheta was a faithful believer that women deserved to be freed from the traditional and cultural shackles of having to be mothers.

Don’t miss this interview with Emecheta from 1975 (in English)

As well as, of raising their children in a certain way, according to certain specific standards, and of having to be servants to their husbands. In relation to the sexual and cultural politics of Nigerian society, she advocates against female subjugation in Igbo society and advocates for the liberation of women.

The characters in his novels usually resist and defy a predetermined destiny, trying to negotiate a balance between what they believe and accepted traditions. Although her works are a cry for the rights of African women, they also aim to improve the quality of life among men, women and their communities. Likewise, she wrote to proclaim her hope for the existence and growth of equality between African women and men.

She shows the public, her vision of Africa, one in which women and men share common cultural and social roles in a harmonious way. A continent where neither men nor women, specifically, are enslaved by each other.

That this vision of Africa came true is the reason why she turned her own life stories and the traditional ones told by her grandmother into books. She used her voice to elevate and expose the lives of African women, and to fight for the freedom of women from cultural and traditional oppression.

Buchi Emecheta inspired men and women to coexist with each other, so:

  • He encouraged men to respect and understand the role of women in society.
  • She encouraged women to fight for their freedom, using herself as an example.

Works by Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta was a fruitful writer, publishing 16 novels for adults, four books for children, as well as numerous articles and television productions. Among his works for adults we find:

Among his works for children we find:

  • El Gato Titch “Titch the Cat” (1979)
  • Nowhere to Play “Nowhere to Play” (1980)
  • The Bride in the Moonlight “The Moonlight Bride” (1980)
  • The Wrestling Match “The Wrestling Match” (1981)

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