Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

10 Igbo Women Trailblazers and More

Igbo Women Trailblazers

On the schedule (pronounced shedule in British-speak, and skedule in American) at the London Igbo Conference was this pre-recorded presentation by Emeka Keazor. He relates brief stories of ten powerful Igbo women.

He opens the video with a greeting in Igbo, when he says, Ndi be anyi, ekene unu, My people, I greet you. He apologizes for not being present at the conference In fact, we didn’t see his video then – apparently it hadn’t arrived – but it was sent out later. Don’t worry about the Igbo, the rest is in English.

He starts by telling us about the only female Igbo sovereign ever. Ezenwanyi Nnenne Mgbokwo ruled the Aro kingdom in the late 17th and early 18th centuries after amassing a fortune through trading.

He concludes with Chi- Chi Nwanoku, a classical musician who plays double bass and is a professor at The Royal Academy of Music in London.

His stories are short but full of fascinating information.

Chi-Chik Nwakodu photo from her website

Chi-Chi Nwanoku, photo from her website

I was intrigued by Chi-Chi Nwanoku – she sounded almost too good to be true. So of course I googled her, and found lovely pictures, recordings she’s made, and her story of how her parents met. Her mother is Irish and her father Igbo. She apparently grew up in England.

There are segments of a documentary about her on her website. She not only tells how her parents met; she also refers to difficulties they faced as an inter-racial couple in the late ’50’s and ’60’s. I couldn’t tell in my brief look whether she has spent time in Nigeria.

She performs with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. I will watch for their next appearance in the U.S. And I will tell her about my memoir, Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad.

California Calls

Several weeks ago I was nominated for the board of the US National Committee of UN Women. Today I learned that I have been elected. (The election was uncontested, so no surprise!)

An email came from Mary Daily who said, “Congratulations on your election. . .  I look forward to meeting you at the Annual Meeting and Conference in Longbeach, June 26 – 28.  The weekend will be a wonderful initiation for you as well as an opportunity for you to meet the other board members.” I too am looking forward to meeting other board members and understanding the expectations and the role of the board.

So I’ll be in California at the beginning of the month to see Clem’s sister, attend the National Peace Corps Association Annual Convention, give a book talk organized by my friend Kimmie at Paradise Valley Estates near Sacramento and make a side trip to Park City, Utah, to my friend Karen’s for a meeting with her book group and maybe another presentation. Then again at the end of the month for UN Women.

Charity: Water and a Friend

Christoph's picture from Charity: Water's website.

Christoph’s picture from Charity: Water’s website.

Christoph Gorder and our son Sam were in school together at Hillcrest in Jos, Nigeria. They’ve remained friends and see each other when they are on the same continent or in the same country at the same time. Christoph was at Americares for 15 years.

He’s been Chief Global Water Officer at Charity: Water for the past couple of years. His bio on Charity: Water’s website says, “Christoph grew up in the Central African Republic and Nigeria, where getting clean water is still a dream for millions.”

His wife Alisha posted this on Facebook a couple of days ago. He speaks eloquently about the work of Charity: Water and the difference donors make in the lives of individuals. I’m proud to know him. I’ve written about Charity: Water on my other blog, Grandma Charity Challenge.

Women’s Rights in Africa

Tomorrow I’m attending a discussion on Women’s Rights in Africa presented by Yale and Stanford student and alumni groups in New York City. I wonder if Igbo inheritance, widow’s rights, or “the female son” will be mentioned.

I’m looking forward to hearing about issues in other parts of Africa than Nigeria. I hope there will be some discussion of finding a balance between honoring cultural traditions and women’s rights.

What interesting lectures, seminars, concerts, or films have you attended recently? Was there an outstanding moment for you?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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