Onyeka Nwelue (born 31 January 1988) is a Nigerian cultural entrepreneur, filmmaker, professor and author who is best known for his novel The Abyssinian Boy, which was published when he was 21 and won the TM Aluko Prize for Fiction, came second at the Ibrahim Tahir Prize for First Book. He has been nominated thrice for The Future Awards Africa and was a recipient of the Prince Claus Ticket Grant in 2013.
Nwelue is currently an assistant professor and Visiting Fellow of African Literature and Studies at the English Language Department of the Faculty of Humanities, Manipur University in Imphal, India. He is also a Research Fellow at the Center for International Studies, Ohio University, where he spends time in Athens, Ohio.
- 1Early life
- 2Personal life
- 4Education and teaching
- 5Later career
- 8See also
- 10Further reading
- 11External links
Onyeka Nwelue was born in Ehime Mbano in Imo State, Nigeria to Honourable Sam Nwelue, a politician and Knight of St. Christopher and Lady Catherine Nwelue, a teacher and Lay Reader. When he was 11, he was sent to Mount Olives Seminary in Umuezeala Nsu, where he was meant to become a priest. He left Mount Olives Seminary to continue at Holy Family Secondary School, before running away to Lagos, to pursue his career in writing. He wrote for The Guardian and The Punch.
Nwelue left for Lagos when he was 16 years old to attend the Wole Soyinka Festival, after which he was introduced to the Nobel Laureate. A few years later, Nwelue traveled to India for the 2nd International Writers’ Festival, at the invitation of the India Cultural Association.
He is the fourth of six children to his parents. His mother is cousin to Flora Nwapa, often regarded as the first African female writer to be published internationally, and acclaimed writer Chukwuemeka Ike and Professor Leslye Obiora, former Minister of Mines and Steel.
Early in his career, Nwelue wrote for The Guardian in Nigeria, a rare opportunity given to him by Jahman Anikulapo, the then Editor of Sunday edition popular known as The Guardian on Sunday.
Nwelue began writing his first novel, The Abyssinian Boy, when he was in India. The book partly captures his experiences in India as a black man, and its publication catapulted Nwelue to international fame. It received the 2009 TM Aluko Prize for Fiction, came second at the Ibrahim Tahir Prize for First Book, nominated for The Future Awards Africa and was “Book of the Month” for many magazines. It became a national bestseller and was republished in India and the United States. The book was also a commercial success: Nwelue received more than 2.5 million naira as an advance.
The Abyssinian Boy received stellar reviews in major Nigerian and Indian newspapers such as (“a Greek tale”) and the Hindu (“the Indian ethos are original”), and by the end of the year, Nwelue had spoken at universities and colleges in India, Hong Kong, Kenya, Uganda, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
His second book is a narrative in verse and has been described by British-Hungarian poet George Szirtes as “breathless”. Nwelue toured 25 countries of Europe in 2014, promoting the book, which has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Igbo and Yoruba. Translated by Venezuelan writer Alberto Quero, it was published in Peru, where it had its official launch at the Cusco Book Fair in 2015.
Nwelue worked with musicians under La Cave Musik and travelled to different countries to meet different musicians and came up with this controversial book, which details personal encounters with musicians and music promoters. It was released in January 2015 to critical acclaim.
He released a documentary detailing the life of Flora Nwapa, Africa’s first female novelist in English. It was nominated in the Best Documentary category of the 2017 Africa Movie Academy Awards. It was screened at over 12 film festivals, including Lights, Camera, Africa! Film Festival, iRep Documentary Film Festival, Lagos International Poetry Festival, Lagos Book & Art Festival, Africa Film Trinidad & Tobago Festival, The Caribbean International Film Festival in LA, AfricaFest Film Festival and many others.
After 7 years of publishing The Abyssinian Boy by DADA Books, Nwelue published his new novel, The Beginning of Everything Colourful. It was quickly endorsed by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, when he appeared on The Onyeka Nwelue Show, aired on Linda Ikeji TV.
The novel tells the story of a Mexican musician and his conversation with a Japanese business man at the Doha International airport. It is narrated in Japanese. English and Spanglish.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are welcoming Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, who are visiting Japan as state guests, at the Imperial Palace, with Crown Prince Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also attending a related event there. But there are two nameless people who are not happy with this visit – a Mexican musician, who hates the Spanish and a Japanese business man, who hates the Chinese. They meet at the Transit Lounge in Doha International Airport, waiting for their connecting flight to Tokyo and begin telling revealing stories, which take readers to Lille, Paris, New York, New Delhi, Lagos, Tel Aviv and down to Tokyo.
The Spice Bazaar is the tale of an Indian couple, Anand and Abha, living in Lagos with their daughter, Aarti and their relationship with their Nigerian hosts. We are shown the humane side of the Indian community in Lagos in this witty, comical and ravishing drama of racial integration.
Evening Coffee with Arundhati Roy is a collection of essays, reviews and interviews by 5 young Nigerian writers who admire Indian writer, Arundhati Roy.
Roy invited Nwelue to her home in Delhi, after African students were mobbed in India.
Onyeka Nwelue and Odega Shawa edited an anthology to mark Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka’s 84th birthday. There are over 60 poems from young poets celebrating this giant of African literature.
“Let us start from the beginning of this story, when God created the Heaven and the Earth. Shapeless earth; nothing was real. It looked deep. Like a well. A well with no water. Darker as it got deeper. Everything seemed ordinary. Its extraordinariness was brought about by the omnipotence of God. God solidified everything. He said, Let there be Light. Light came, shining like a young, excited virgin.” At Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba, a young patient tells his fellow patients and nurses and doctors his intriguing story. From Lagos, he transports his listeners to the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, leading them to Rome, where everything unveils.
“Onyeka Nwelue has written a very powerful novel that you wouldn’t want to ignore.” – Ephraim Adiele, The Trent.
On his return from India, Nwelue got admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study Sociology & Anthropology. He spent two years and dropped out, to study Scriptwriting at the Asian School of Media Studies in Noida, India, after which he taught Film Directing at Center for Research in Art of Film & TV (CRAFT). He handled the Sandwich Class of the English Language Department of the University of Lagos while working as the editor of FilmAfrique, a primer on African film initiatives, published by Africa Film Academy, curators of the Africa Movie Academy Awards. He was offered a scholarship to study Directing at the Prague Film School in the Czech Republic.
In 2014, he was appointed a Visiting Lecturer of African Studies at the School of Modern Language and Culture, the University of Hong Kong, and later an assistant professor of African Studies at Instituto d’Amicis in Puebla, Mexico.
By January 2015, he was promoted as Visiting Fellow cum assistant professor of African Literature at the University of Manipur in Imphal, north east India.
Since the success of his novel, Nwelue has co-written the film Namaste Naija, directed by Teco Benson and shot in Hyderabad and Lagos. He also co-created a short film, The Beginning of Everything Colourful, with British actor and model Dudley O’Shaughnessy.
In early 2012, Nwelue was signed to the Pontas Agency in Spain.
He founded Blues & Hills Consultancy, which was featured on MTV Meets MTN with Ben Murray Bruce. Nwelue’s firm organized the first ever Bayelsa Book & Craft Fair, where he served as the director. He also undertook to edit and publish FilmAfrique, a primer on African cinema, funded by the Africa Film Academy, curators of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).
Under Blues & Hills Consultancy, La Cave Musik was created and situates in Paris and Puebla, to serve as CEO/President.
At 27, Nwelue became the youngest jury member of any film festival, as part of the Woodpecker International Film Festival in India. He went on to later create The Italian-Nigerian Festival of Cultures, curating the Diplomatic Jazz Nights for the diplomatic community in Nigeria.
Since publishing The Abyssinian Boy in 2009, Nwelue has spent most of his time speaking at different events and festivals and forums. He has courted controversy by describing Chinua Achebe‘s famous novel Things Fall Apart as the “worst book ever written by an African”. After being invited to the Man Hong Kong literary festival, Nwelue was denied a visa to Hong Kong, sparking media outcry, the alleged reason being the colour of his skin. The decision was reversed and he got a visa to attend the festival.
On 1st February 2018, a day after his 30th birthday, Onyeka was involved in a ghastly car accident, sustaining injuries to his lower back.
- Nnorom Azuonye (21 January 2009). “The Audacity of Wakefulness”. Sentinel. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
- Amina Alhassan (8 February 2014). “No full-time writer in Nigeria – Onyeka Nwelue”. dailytrust.com.ng.
- Ebenezar Wikina (23 April 2015). “Writing Is Only for Children: My Stroll with Onyeka Nwelue”. The Huffington Post.
- “Onyeka Nwelue: Nigerian Poetry is like Patrick Obaiagbon talking, you are fascinated by what he is saying but you do not understand what he is saying”, Sankofa Magazine. 18 February 2014.
- “Flora Nwapa and the house that Onyeka Nwelue built for her”. Ikhide. 27 November 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
- “Onyeka Nwelue releases documentary feature ‘House on Nwapa’ on Youtube”. Linda Ikeji’s Blog. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
- “AMAA 2017: Nollywood movies top nominations [Full list] – Daily Post Nigeria”. Daily Post Nigeria. 16 May 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
- “Preying From Paris: Why Oguta Will Remain The Way It Is”. Olisa Blogazine. 4 September 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
- Wealth Ominabo Dickson, “INTERVIEW: Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Is Not the Great African Novel – Onyeka Nwelue”, Premium Times, 18 August 2016.
- Cheta Igbokwe, “Onyeka Nwelue’s ‘House of Nwapa’ Documentary Film Premiers in Zimbabwe”, State Reporters, 28 August 2016.
- Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, “‘Why I made a documentary on Flora Nwapa’”, Daily Trust, 2 October 2016.
- Ikhide R. Ikheloa, “Flora Nwapa and the house that Onyeka Nwelue built for her”, Ikhide blog, 27 November 2016.
- “The Dropout Professor, Articles – THISDAY LIVE”. thisdaylive.com.