Celebrated Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has been bestowed the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, Harvard University’s highest honours.
The award ceremony, which was held at the Sanders Theatre, Memorial Hall at Harvard University campus in Massachusetts, last Thursday, marked a return of the event after almost a three-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While delivering a heartfelt speech celebrating Adichie’s accolades, a former US Poet Laureate and faculty member in the department of English, African & African-American Studies, Tracy K. Smith, described her as one of the most celebrated writers of our time.
“Chimamanda is consecrated to the work of the word, which is soul work in a large and cosmic way. You have a vision that is large, but it begins in small intimate particular spaces. It is as attached to the vocabularies of causes as it is to the dialect of the heart, and I believe your work reminds us of what it looks like to look around at the small and vast both in and around us,” she said.
K. Smith also hailed Adichie for amplifying the African voice, saying: “In her novels, Adichie has brought African voices to the attention of the wider world. She’s cast African immigrants in stories that are once universally resonant and gloriously precise, particular to the world in which they’re born. She is a superstar who is also part of an African literary renaissance in the company of my brilliant colleagues that demand each of us work hard to understand the vast traffic of cultures, beliefs, and identities that swirl around and intersect with our own.”
The W. E. B. Du Bois Medal is the highest honour given by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research to individuals who “embody the values of commitment and resolve that are fundamental to the Black experience in America.”
Adichie is an award-winning Nigerian writer who has penned numerous novels, short stories, and nonfiction. She was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008 and received the PEN Pinter Prize in 2018, along with winning multiple awards for her individual novels. Adichie’s prolific list of works include Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Americanah (2013), The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), We Should All Be Feminists (2014), Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017), Zikora (2020), and Notes on Grief (2021).
In addition, she holds 16 honorary doctorate degrees from some of the best universities in the world.