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Laura Evans and Finian Reece-Thomas on Purple Hibiscus
12 January, 2022
Adichie’s rich and immersive descriptions of interiors, gardens, climate and the changing seasons serve to situate fictional events within a world so tangible that it is hard to leave it behind even when the book is finished. Her domestic settings in particular unfurl to reveal the hidden structures of class, religion and power that underpin everyday life in Nigeria.
The book is structured around three contrasting houses: the formality and oppression of narrator Kambili’s childhood home, a compound house in Enugu, and her family’s home in their ancestral town of Abba, and the comparative freedom and spontaneity of her Aunty Ifeoma’s flat in Nsukka. Ifeoma is a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, and although her way of life offers a new model to Kambili, ultimately Ifeoma and her children are forced to emigrate to the United States. The lives of these two families are played out in kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms, but most of all in gardens, in the spaces beyond the interior where the dual forces of the harmattan and the rainy season drive the cycle of growth and decay onward at a furious pace. Here, nature continually invades the interior, whether it is through the sickly-sweet scent of blossoming frangipani trees, the red airborne dust brought by the dry Harmattan winds or the bees that bump against the mosquito netting on Kambili’s bedroom window, the rustling of the coconut fronds that wakes her from her dreams.
The novel was studied by Finian Reece-Thomas as part of Unit 3 at Kingston School of Art. Finian chose to expand the narrative by following the path taken by Kambili’s cousin, Amaka – at the end of the novel, the young Amaka moves to the United States with her mother, and Finian imagines her return to Nigeria as an adult. A successful artist, Amaka wishes to establish an art school in Enugu. This is the project for the Enugu School of Art.
This is a project for a residence for the school’s first professor, which takes its cues from the domestic spaces described in the book.