Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie is one lady I admire. I read her novels and follow up her interviews as well as social media. Her ‘Dangers of A Single Story’ and ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ are also among my favourite TED Talks. The renowned and award-wining writer who holds her African heritage dearly also admits she is a feminist. Chimamanda is one courageous woman with an ingenious mind. But surprisingly is one among others, where she draws her inspiration from- “The market woman in Nsukka”! A discovery which amazed me, however, I have grown to share her thoughts.
“Recently a feminist organization kindly nominated me for an important prize in a country that will remain unnamed. I was very pleased. I’ve been fortunate to have received a few prizes so far and I quite like them especially when they come with shiny presents. To get this prize, I was required to talk about how important a particular European feminist woman writer had been to me. Now the truth was that I had never managed to finish this feminist writer’s book. It did not speak to me. It would have been a lie to claim that she had any major influence on my thinking. The truth is that I learned so much more about feminism from watching the women traders in the market in Nsukka where I grew up, than from reading any seminal feminist text. I could have said that this woman was important to me, and I could have talked the talk, and I could have been given the prize and a shiny present…”
Whenever Chimamanda describes this market woman, she is not the illiterate, hopeless woman who stays in the sun, wallowing and gossiping, praying for a passing potential buyer to look in her direction; rather, Chimamanda portrays her as a strong character, one whose presumed actions guides her decisions.
“…Does the market woman in Nsukka have depression? When I cannot get out of bed in the morning, would she be able to, since she earns her living day by day?…”
The market woman at Nsukka is a woman who in spite of her poor privileges strives to put food on the table of her family. She wakes up early and sets out in time to display her goods, and from the proceeds of her little sales, retains her children in school and saves for the future. This woman is a hustler. Growing up in Nsukka, Chimamanda recalls how the market woman sails through everyday hardships to keep her home.
“The real heroes are nameless women in the market who are holding their families together. They are traders and their husbands are out drinking somewhere… it is those women I admire. I am full of admiration for them”
It’s amazing how we always look up to get insights and inspiration- nothing bad about having super stars and heroes and role models, but sometimes the people we look up to look down to get motivated. Have you ever taken time to study the ants? You would definitely develop the mindset of “No impossibility!” and yes, taking time to observe “inconsequential” people who in their state, struggle to get going can teach us great lessons in life.
When next you look for reasons to be diligent and hopeful, remember the market woman in Nsukka.
Sources of reported speeches:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Please Make Feminism a Big, Raucous, Inclusive Party