The Council of the Caine Prize for African Writing has paid tribute to Buchi Emecheta the Nigerian author who died at her home in London on 25 January 2017, aged 72.
Emecheta, who wrote than 20 books received great acclaim for her work internationally during her lifetime.
Born in Lagos, her father died when she was very young. She married in 1960 aged sixteen, and had her first daughter that year.
She wrote her first book In the Ditch, which details her experience as a poor, single parent in London, after divorcing her husband.
She attended night classes to obtain an honours degree in Sociology. Her other books are Second-Class Citizen, The Bride Price, The Slave Girl, which was awarded the Jock Campbell Award, The Joys of Motherhood, Destination Biafra, Naira Power, The Rape of Shavi, Double Yoke, A Kind of Marriage, Gwendolen, Kehinde and The New Tribe .
Her autobiography, Head Above Water, appeared in 1986 to much acclaim.
MAN Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri said Buchi Emecheta had re-ignited the rich place of women at the heart of African literature and wrote brave tales about survival and motherhood.
“Without her the current strong generation of women writers, who write well and fearlessly, would not exist. We owe her courage a debt of gratitude. May she rest in peace,” Okri said.
Margaret Busby, Caine Prize Advisory Council member, was Emecheta’s editor and publisher at Allison & Busby for more than a decade in the 1970s-’80s.
She said: “It is with pride and a feeling of privilege that I now reflect on the fact that it was on my watch, so to speak, that her best remembered books were published. Sadly, her health deteriorated progressively over the past seven years, following a stroke, so her writing career was prematurely halted. But the resonant impact her work made on readers and fellow writers lives on.”
Nii Ayikwei Parkes, 2017 Chair of Judges and council member, commented that “Buchi Emecheta was a model of the kind of humility that makes a great writer; never self-aggrandising, always ready to listen. Her confident representation of certain realities of Nigerian womanhood gave courage to a generation of young women of the global south to express themselves fully and unapologetically.”
Wangui wa Goro, Caine Prize Advisory Council member, added: “Buchi Emecheta’s towering presence is always there and will remain. She was a fierce trailblazer, both in her writing and in her insistence on being heard. I had the privilege of knowing Buchi, both in the literary world and privately, and she was as funny as she was generous.”
Emecheta served as a judge for the Caine Prize in 2001, alongside J.M. Coetzee, Patron of the Caine Prize, the year that Helon Habila won.