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Belgian Government honours Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe in US

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  • December 24, 2023
  • 4 min read
Belgian Government honours Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe in US

*‘Chika does not pander to power, tackles difficult topics, and puts her finger or quill, where it hurts’

By Editor

NIGERIAN writer married to a Belgian Prof. Chika Unigwe was honured by her second country Belgium with two distinguished awards for her literary prowess that advances the cause of humanity. Though now a professor resident in the US, the awards represent some of the highest honour Belgium bestows on individuals who have distinguished themselves in their fields of human endeavours.

“This past weekend we were proud to honour the author Chika Unigwe with not one, but two honorary distinctions: the decoration of Knight of the Order of the Crown and recognition with a Proclamation/Oorkonde by the Christoffel Plantin Fonds, an award presented to Belgian nationals who have contributed in exceptional ways to the prestige and image of Belgium abroad,” a statement from the Belgian Embassy in the US said, and praised Unigwe for the exceptionality of her literary achievements in shedding light on aspects of the human condition.

The statement further said, “Chika Unigwe was made a Knight of the Order of the Crown of Belgium due to her artistic and literary merits and services to our nation. She is a professor, acclaimed writer and major figure in Afropolitan literature whose work spans diverse genres in English and Dutch. Born and raised in Nigeria, Chika lived in Belgium for many years and started her literary career there, after which she moved to the US 10 years ago with her family, where she taught, amongst others, at Brown University and Emory University. Currently, she is a professor at Georgia College & State University. This year, she published her latest novel The Middle Daughter.

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Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe (left) receiving her awards from the Belgium Government’s US Consul-General Michel Gerebtzoff at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, Atlanta, US recently

“Several of her novels and short stories are set in Belgium and were written in Dutch, then translated to many other languages. Her work touches on often difficult topics such as migration, human trafficking, marital abuse and the role of women in society, but she always holds space for humour and zest for life and the inner resolve and fortitude of women throughout her literary work.

“Chika is someone who doesn’t pander to power, who tackles difficult topics, and more often than not puts her finger, or rather her quill, where it hurts. In times where questions around identity, freedom of speech, disinformation, the nature of truth are central, almost existential for our societies, it is important that we as a country applaud and recognize voices such as hers.

“Congratulations, Chika Unigwe! We thank you for your services to Belgium!”

On her part, Unigwe expressed gratitude for the honour bestowed on by her second country by marriage and choice, saying she is humbed.

“So, last night, the Belgian Government, via the Consular General in Atlanta, US, honored me with an OVK (Orde Van de Kroon),” Unigwe said. “Unfortunately, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who was supposed to have done the knighting, had to return to Brussels. To be so recognized for “special services to literature and culture,” for not “shying away from difficult or controversial topics” and for not only choosing to tell the happy stories of Belgium/Belgian life was extremely gratifying. (Fiction) writing is about truth telling. To be so acknowledged by a country that became mine through marriage and then by choice, in the presence of my husband, my siblings and my others, by representatives of the Nigerian consulate, to be recommended by the Belgian consulate was both moving and humbling. So many times during the night, I was close to tears. I am so grateful. Chukwu dalu!

“It was also really great to hear from the Consult General that the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria gifted the Oba of Benin a copy of On Black Sisters Street. I’m still overwhelmed. So grateful that this country that love chose for me, and that I became a citizen of by choice, has so honoured me. It was a deeply moving evening for me. Thank you. Dank you. Merci. Danke!”

Unigwe’s body of works includes Better Never than Late, The Phoenix, Fata Morgana, Night Dancer andOn Black Sisters Street, which won The Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2012, with The Middle Daughter being the latest novel, among others.

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