Chimamanda Adichie Challenges ‘Surname-Changing’ Tradition Among Igbo Women

Chimamanda Adichie Challenges ‘Surname-Changing’ Tradition Among Igbo Women

Chimamanda Adichie Challenges ‘Surname-Changing’ Tradition Among Igbo Women

By Boniface Ihiasota, USA

A renowned Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has expressed strong views on the cultural practices of name-changing among Igbo women.

In a recent interview obtained by Excel Magazine International, Adichie argued that women who adopt their husband’s surname are actually undermining traditional Igbo culture.

“I didn’t change my surname to my husband’s surname because I love my surname, and all my documents bear my father’s surname. I don’t have the strength to run around to change it,” Adichie said.

She further explained that it is ironic when people claim she is disrespecting Igbo culture by retaining her father’s name.

“I laugh when I hear people say this. The fact is that those women who bear their husband’s surname are the ones abusing Igbo culture.”

Adichie recalled that in pre-colonial Igbo society, women did not take their husband’s surname. Instead, they retained their father’s surname, a practice that was altered during British colonial rule.

“In pre-colonial Igbo culture, women belonged to their father’s place; their husbands just borrowed them for both to live together and have children,” she stated.

She emphasized that the colonial influence led to the abandonment of this cultural norm. “We then abandoned our own culture and followed British culture,” Adichie remarked, criticizing the significant shift in cultural identity that occurred.

The renowned author also lamented the declining use of the Igbo language within families.

“I am always worried about why Igbo people are ashamed to speak their language. In most Igbo families in Nigeria, parents communicate in Igbo, but immediately when they talk to their children, they switch to English,” she noted.

Her commitment to preserving Igbo culture extends to her personal choices and parenting. Adichie prefers traditional clothing over international brands to showcase her heritage.

“Many international clothing brands have approached me to be their ambassador by wearing their clothes, but I choose our traditional style of dressing to showcase who we are to the world,” she said.

Reflecting on her education, Adichie shared her experience with learning Igbo in school and her desire for current students to have the same opportunities.

“During my time in secondary school, I studied Igbo and took it in my WAEC examination, achieving an A1. Many of our students now don’t study Igbo in school,” she said.

The Enugu-born writer also shared her efforts to instill cultural values in her own children. “I have two children, and I am teaching them the things we did as children while growing up, like ‘Ikpọ ọga’ and many other traditional activities. These are the things that will help them understand who they are. They speak and understand Igbo,” she proudly noted.

Adichie concluded with a call to action for all Igbo people to work together to restore their language and culture. “It is time for all of us to come together to restore our language,” she urged.

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