Wherever possible, Okonkwo never failed to seize the opportunity to express his masculinity. Through the village fights, meetings with the elders and interactions with his family members, the preservation of his tough, manly, undefeated and fearless figure was of paramount importance. So much so that he coldly murdered Ikemefuna - who looked up to him as a father - just to protect this ‘masculine’ image. The irony in Okonkwo’s story is the fact that the display of masculinity and the desire to be feared and respected was an exhibition of a different form of fear in itself. That is, the fear of being anything close to the legacy of his late father - lazy, weak, and in turn, feminine. The need to dissociate himself from his father, Unoka, was the bane of Okonkwo’s existence and simultaneously, the shovel for which Okonkwo dug his grave. The desire to be alienated from the negative legacy of his father is however not synonymous to Okonkwo. It is an innate feature that unconsciously drives majority of people, especially young people. The fear of failing or mirroring the thing(s) loathed in familial relationships, unbeknownst to us, shapes our decisions, and who we strive to be.
I have read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe a number of times, and each and every time, it never failed to transport me to the land before now; to when the ancestors were very much present with us, and culture was rich and celebrated. When I think about Things Fall Apart, a visual representation of certain scenes always comes to mind. On this occasion, I decided to create a painting that exhibits the culture that was beautifully shown in the book.
Without my consent, Things Fall Apart recklessly engages not just my mind, but also my body; as my right shoulder is occasionally forced to collide with the left in the form of a dance and they sway from side to side, feeling the winds that erupt from the brilliantly orchestrated plot, village scenes, stories and proverbs; and my lips sing along to the melody of Igbo expressions and language used across the book. Every page turned is an invitation to awaken my imagination, as the book transcends me to village scenes that I have, growing up, always romanticised. It skilfully draws me in as I, just as one of Okonkwo's wives, occasionally tremble at Okonkwo's fury, and find myself uttering "mmmhmn" as I nod in agreement with the character(s). Like I needed an extra reason to not want to put it down, the book gets me laughing from time to time, and also has me responding to my imaginary Igbo kinsmen saying "Eee!"