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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
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Bill Benzon
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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

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Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

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The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

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Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Onaedo: The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Ngozi Achebe

Posted by Bill Benzon on 12/12/10 at 04:49 PM

I asked my friend, Druis Beasley, to write this review. Druis is a dancer, singer and poet. She’s currently enrolled in the MFA program at Goddard College.

“The water brought us the water will take us away.”

These are the words one can hear at nightfall drifting over the mosquito infested swamp marsh at the mouth of Dunbar Creek on Georgia’s St. Simon Island.  In the memory of my ancestors here in America, the tale of Oba, the Ibo warrior who led his kinsmen chained together into the creek when the realization of life-long servitude was clear to them.  Slavers already knew that Ibo were a proud, independent people who would throw themselves over the side of the clipper ships feeding the sharks that followed.  Once on New World plantations the rebellion continued: suicide, maroonage (heading for the hills); fire, poison, revolution.

Ngozi Achebe’s novel Onaedo creates a bridge in the memory of Maafa, the African Diasporan holocaust that some scholars claim brought upwards of 100 million Africans through the Atlantic trade to the New World.  Onaedo is the daughter of Eneda the infamous blacksmith of her village in 16th century West Africa.  Her life is rich and textured with love, diplomacy, and exercises in personal agency that stretch the gender prescribed roles and behavior of villagers.  This is expressed in the dialogue between the diverse characters in the novel.  Observations of cultural beliefs and practices are embedded in colorful first person narratives in which Onaedo reflects on her life dreams within her society; or in the actions and interactions of relatives attending to children, preparing meals, farming; her father’s craft of iron working.

But there are secrets and taboos that become the stones on a trail to the New World.  Connections and choices made in a time before Onaedo that echo like sonar to places beyond her world.  Achebe’s novel is rich with textured language not only about Ibo life, but Portuguese colonial culture.  By contextualizing her narrative on an Afrocentric timeline, Achebe gives the reader an opportunity to experience more fully the dynamic humanism of African people.  This novel captures the emotions and points of reference of the kidnapped.  In fact, the use of the word more appropriately portrays slavery as the economic enterprise that it was.  European discoverers remained on the coast of West Africa prior to the intensified trade of the 16th through 19th centuries.  Their interest at that time was gold mining, and limited trading with the natives.  It was the greed for power; the lust for social position; punishment for spurned intimacies; and, the guns that motivated African led raiding parties into the interior for the body trade. The Blacksmith’s Daughter gives voice to the ancestors who survived the Atlantic voyage and became the fertile soil for a New World African culture.  We are left at the end of the novel with the main character leaving for South America and the beginning of the next volume of her journey.

Ngozi Achebe. Onaedo – The Blacksmith’s Daughter. Mandac-Goldberg Publishing, 2010.

ISBN 978-0-9826473-1-8, trade soft cover 364 pages, list $19.95.


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