MIF21: Notes On GriefSarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful reflection on family, love and loss journeys from page to stage in Rae McKen’s new production, which you can watch live at Manchester Central or online.
“I last saw my father in person on March 5th,” wrote award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in part 26 of her ‘Personal History’ essay Notes On Grief, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine in September last year, “just before the coronavirus changed the world.”
Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, and making its world premiere at MIF21, Notes On Grief creates a space for those who have experienced loss to gather and reflect.
Her father, the scholar James Nwoye Adichie, who became Nigeria’s first professor of statistics in 1976, died at home in the Nigerian town of Abba on Wednesday 10 June 2020, a result of complications that exacerbated his long-term kidney disease. He was 88. Three months later, Chimamanda, one of his five children, published Notes On Grief, described as “a beautiful tribute to the father she loved ‘so much, so fiercely, so tenderly’ and a poignant meditation on the meaning, impact and nature of grief”.
From that essay – “one of the most compelling pieces of writing to be published in 2020” – grew a book, which has just come out, and now this powerful and timely new production. Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, and making its world premiere at MIF21, Notes On Grief creates a space for those who have experienced loss to gather and reflect.
Expanding on her original piece, in the book, Adichie shares how the loss of her father shook her to her core and how, as the pandemic spread across the world, she and her family members remained separated. She writes about being one of the millions of people grieving this year, about the familial and cultural dimensions of grief, and about the inevitable loneliness and anger. Penguin Random House call it an “exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope”, as well as “durable and timeless, an indispensable addition to Adichie’s canon”.
Born in 1977 in Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie now lives in the States and, since her 2003 debut Purple Hibiscus, has won awards for the novels Half Of A Yellow Sun (2006) and Americanah, named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. She has written a short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, published in 2009, and the essays We Should All Be Feminists – published as a book in 2014 following her 2012 TED Talk – and Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions, which was published in 2017.
Director Rae McKen is of Jamaican heritage and is the artistic director of London-based theatre company Custom/Practice, who are dedicated to drawing in young people from poorer and racially mixed backgrounds and who are committed to widening access to classical text for audiences and artists through collaboration and experimentation.
If you can’t make the physical performance of Notes On Grief, you can stream the show on demand via MIF LIVE – the Festival’s broadcast channel, accessible via the MIF website or via the ‘Book Now’ button below.