Why Chinua Achebe Won’t Sell Out For 50 Cent, ‘Not Even For A Billion Dollars’ – AfriPOP!.
Not everything has a price, as mogul rapper Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson with misguided and over simplified views on philanthropy in Africa will have just found out. He was in a fierce court battle for using the title of one of the greatest literary works in the world – Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s seminal Things Fall Apart – as the title of his latest movie venture. The Achebe Foundation was not having it, and has now won the court case against Mr Cent. Clearly not used to no for an answer, 50′s camp counter-offered Mr Achebe’s foundation a cool million (dollar, dollar bills y’all). But Achebe was unflappable: “the novel with the said title was initially produced in 1958 (that is 17 years before rapper 50 Cent was born), listed as the mostly read book in modern African literature, and won’t be sold for even 1 Billion Dollars” (quoted from Broadway Ghana)
Our literature is not for sale, our heritage is not for sale, is what Mr Achebe has just told Africans. It’s not just about lofty idealism, and if you are aware of the legend that is Mr Achebe (as most African matriculants are) this makes sense. The book has all the elements of a tragedy, and culture-specific characterizations. It cannot pass as the title for a 50 Cent (and yes, this will be the ironic interpolation to this story based on his name) movie.
In the family drama, 50 plays a cancer-stricken American football player and lost 60 pounds for the role, worlds apart, in terms of content, from Mr Achebe’s world-renowned book. To have let the movie stand with that particular title would have been to dilute what in many ways is a book that is a foundational pillar of modern African literature. We have no idea whether 50 Cent has actually read Achebe’s book but his showbiz persona represents everything that the book forewarns: the clash of cultures, where a man “ignores the feminine side of life, and over-emphasizes the masculine” according to retired African Literature professor and my dad Prof Felix Mnthali. His whole misogynistic gangsta rap image is in direct contrast to what the novel warns Africans of. One could argue that he is also a product of the Europeanisation of the African, with all its materialism, sexism and amnesia of what black men were, could be and are. He is lauded in this weakened state, because it suits the colonial gaze, or that of those descended from empire.
Fiddy flows about ‘niggas’ and ‘gangstas’ and this is so anti the whole milieu of Achebe. Not to say that most of us haven’t bobbed our heads to a Fiddy track. But with his Gadaffi-reminiscent female outriders in front of his G-Unit truck in one video, celebrating the gangsta lifestyle, materialism, sexism et ceterain others, there is not much doubt that Achebe wouldn’t have taken Fiddy’s offer straight to the bank.