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How Well Do You Know Ada Udechukwu



“Every experience plays into what one creates.”

-   Ada Udechukwu

Ada Udechukwu is one of the few female artists associated with the Nsukka group (a group of Nigerian artists who were associated with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the 1970s.) Born 1960, to an Igbo father and an American mother in the city of Enugu (Eastern Nigeria); where she also grew up. Amid the bloodshed to form the Republic of Biafra – which led to the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), she and her siblings took refuge in Michigan, U.S.A., with her mother while her father stayed behind. They remained in Michigan until 1971, a year after Biafra’s collapse.

Ada 3

Not formally trained in the visual arts; Ada enrolled at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1977, at the age of seventeen, where she majored in English and Literature and obtained her bachelor's degree in 1981. A few years later she began to paint on fabric, using a restrained linear style to draw designs on dresses, shirts, trousers, scarves, and other garments.

Udechukwu considers herself primarily a poet and continues to write. Her book of poetry, Woman, Me, (1993) which expresses many of the same personal qualities as her works on paper, has been well received by critics. As she did in her university days, Udechukwu continues to express herself through poetry, drawing, and painting.

She only began writing fiction in 2003, enrolling in an MFA program at Bennington College, Vermont (USA) where faculty members include award winning American authors, Amy Hempel and Rick Moody.


1.      She has had several gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the The Newark Museum; and her works have been sold at auction, including 'INTERIOR II' which sold at Arthouse Contemporary Limited 'Modern & Contemporary Art' in 2010 for $1,333 – $2,000 (  200,000-300,000).

2.      Her husband is Professor Obiora Udechukwu; he is a Danna Professor of Fine Arts and Coordinator of the African Studies Program at St Lawrence University, New York. He is also an award winning poet, and a fellow member of the Nsukka group.

3.      Her short story, ‘Night Bus', published in The Atlantic Monthly, August 2006 was shortlisted for 2007 Caine Prize for African Writing.

4.      When her family relocated to the USA, they lived at East Lansing, Michigan, because the University of Nigeria, where her mother worked, had a link with Michigan State University.

5.      While living in the US, her mother used to send out her (Ada) and her siblings to raise funds for Biafra.

6.      Her husband, Obiora, was involved in the propaganda units during the civil war, as he didn’t fight. His involvement ended up being a very crucial time for his work as an artist, as he helped to form a group of artists who wrote plays collectively and did their own work – their painting/writing – in the name of the Biafran cause.

7.      When Ada was a student at the University of Nigeria, her future husband, Obiora, was a lecturer. They didn’t meet till she was getting ready to graduate, which was through her roommate who was related to him.

8.      Her daughter, Ijeanuli, 31, had her graduate degree in Film; while her son, Nwora, 27 majored in Art while in college.

9.      She studied under the legendary author Chinua Achebe, at the University of Nigeria.

10.  Her husband accepted a teaching position at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York in 1997, at the height of Nigeria’s military dictatorship, which saw the family’s relocation to US, where they have been living ever since.

By: Olusola Agbaje

The post How Well Do You Know Ada Udechukwu appeared first on Aphroden.

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