My father told me very, very early in my life that why my third Ibo name is Nnenna –father’s mother, was because I am his comeback mother. It was said that when my father’s mother was dying, she had promised my father that she would come again, this time as his daughter.
-Buchi Emecheta, date unknown, from archive document
Comeback mother: Buchi Emecheta was an archive show in fragments that unfolded in parts throughout its durational install, running from 5th – 19th April, 2018. The show centred on Buchi Emecheta’s personal archive: books, manuscripts, plays, personal letters, publishers letters, notebooks, ephemera, essays, newspapers and unpublished material. Elements were shown in both the Kingsway exhibition space and the Library at Goldsmiths.
Buchi Emecheta was a powerful and complex Nigerian British writer, teacher, mother, library worker and feminist. She wrote prolifically and defied easy categorization. She is loved by many: Womanists read her fierce motherhood and solidarity. Feminists, her bold representation of the personal political. Queer readers have picked up on her strong community making. She is proudly held up as a writer of both Nigerian and Black British identity and has inspired many contemporary postcolonial writers. She spent her life demonstrating how she is many things. The tensions, refusals and stands shoot through her novels, plays and critical writing.
At the ‘mid-way reception’ we invited author, Irenosen Okojie to read from her collection ‘Speak Gigantular’. Angelique Golding (MA Black British Writing) read from Buchi Emecheta’s ‘Head Above Water’ and we were very pleased to have Sylvester Onwordi with us to say a few words about the Buchi Emecheta archive. Sylvester’s photographs of the reception are featured on the Buchi Emecheta Foundation website.
We have many of Buchi Emecheta’s books in the library. If you’ve not read her yet, ‘Joys of Motherhood’ is an excellent place to begin. I’d also recommend ‘Head above Water’ and ‘In the Ditch’. Many of her titles will be re-published with Omenala Press. To support the exhibition we curated a reading list and book display at the front of the library. One of the important things looking at Buchi Emecheta’s work was to acknowledge contemporary writing and storytelling that has come before, around and after her.
come back mother: Buchi Emecheta was co-organised by Halima Haruna and Jessa Mockridge in collaboration with Buchi Emecheta Foundation, Goldsmiths Library and supported by Goldsmiths Alumni & Friends Fund. With a very big thanks for all kinds of shaping, support and care from Sylvester Onwordi, Nadine Plummer, Angelique Golding, Althea Greenan and Laura Elliott.
– Jessa Mockridge