“Set the world alight” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie became an Honorary Fellow of SOAS, Graduation 2018

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s list of achievements is very impressive. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed novelist who can boast a run of back to back bestsellers (Barack Obama listed Americanah on his list of recommended ‘summer reading’), her Ted Talk on ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ is one of the platforms most popular lectures and she has been referenced by pop icon Beyonce in her hit song Flawless.

Well, now she can add an Honorary Doctorate to that bulging accomplishment heap.

The novelist received the honour at the SOAS University of London 2018 graduation ceremony. Addressing the graduating class, she said:

“You now have the knowledge to enable you to set the world alight. So however you want to go about doing that do not ever let anyone tell you not to try to change something because that is the way it has always been. Every political, economic and social structure we have in the world today was created by people and can be recreated by people.”

“You’re very fortunate to have studied here at SOAS – this wonderfully multifaceted place that is steeped in diversity where difference is normal, this place where you can study so many non-European and European languages, where different people from different parts of the world converge to learn question and to grow.”

“I don’t know why I write fiction, what I do know is that I have to write fiction. It is how I make sense of the world; it is what gives me joy. To write fiction is to embark on a long walk knowing you will trip and fall many times but still very keen to take the walk. In writing my novels I would often get stuck. I would know intuitively that something was not right but not know how to make it right. And in such situations I would take to my bed and eat a lot of chocolate.

“But even in the middle of the chocolate bingeing I knew that at some point I would get up and try again. And it seems to me this is not a bad way to look at the rest of your life. You will trip many times. It’s part of the journey. Don’t be surprised when you fall, maybe even lounge in the dirt a little and then get up. Always get up.”

Watch Chimamanda’s speech in full below:

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