23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Chibundu Onuzo

Portrait Chibundu Onuzo
© Hartwig Klappert

Chibundu Onuzo was born in Nigeria in 1991 as the youngest of four children in a family of doctors and grew up in Lagos. At the age of 14, she moved to the UK to attend a girls’ school in Winchester, Hampshire. After graduating from Kingʼs College London with a bachelor’s degree, she received a master’s degree in political science from University College London. In 2018, Chibundu was awarded a PhD in History from King’s College London.

At the age of 17 she wrote her first novel, for which she found a publisher two years later. »The Spider Kingʼs Daughter« (2012) is about a love affair caught between social traditions and conventions: 17-year-old Abike is the darling of her wealthy father and lives in a large manor house in Lagos that is well-protected by guards. Far away from this prosperity, a 17-year-old boy lives in the slums of the city whose family lost everything after his father’s death. To support his mother and sister, he sells ice cream on the edge of a busy road, where he and Abike meet one day. A romance develops that defies the prejudices of Nigerian society. But revelations from the past also threaten their relationship. »The Spider Kingʼs Daughter« won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize. In her second book »Welcome to Lagos« (2016), Onuzo draws a portrait of Nigeria’s metropolis. Tired of killing civilians on behalf of an obscure national mission, an army officer deserts with a comrade in the direction of Lagos. On the way, they meet a rebel fighter who wants to become a radio DJ, a recently orphaned 16-year-old girl, and a married woman who has fled from her violent husband. The five become a kind of family and everyone hopes for a new and better life. They arrive in the lively city of Lagos looking for work and shelter. Finally, they move into an abandoned building, which actually belongs to the Minister of Education, who bursts in one night while on the run from the police with a bag full of money. The five squatters decide to confiscate the loot and hold the minister captive. They want to use the money to build schools and improve the lives of those who have become victims of politicians. With her novel, Onuzo defies widespread convictions, the greed for money is met with charity and altruism. »The Guardian« writes: »Onuzo’s portrayal of human character is often too optimistic, her view of politics and society too charitable; but her ability to bring her characters to life, including the city of Lagos, perhaps the best-painted character of all, is impressive.«