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Pita Nwanna and Pita Nwosu

Born around the year 1881 to two farmers in Arondizuogu, Pita Nwanna was an avid trailblazer, an Igbo man, and a scholar whose 1933 publication “Omenuko”—the world’s first ever Igbo language novel—paved the way for the birth and growth of Igbo literature and has since influenced the works of other African language writers and scholars.

The okpara, or eldest, of the five sons of Nwana and Mgbokwo Izuogu, Pita was born as Nwosu, and in his youth, displayed various charming characteristics that set him apart from his peers.

Among many other things, Nwosu was said to be extremely clever, possessing wit well beyond his years. His brothers valued his adroit nature and came to see him and his thorough knowledge of the outdoors as an indispensable asset on their daily hunting expeditions.

Nwosu’s dexterity made him a successful carpenter in his youth, and his love for game trapping and fishing earned him the nickname “ututu agbaa aka” (trans. the morning never comes empty-handed; referring to how he would return every morning with meat from his traps). When he became of age, Nwosu served as an apprentice for a local trader with whom he travelled regularly to Onicha (Onitsha), where he learned to buy and sell goods in the marketplace. On one of his regular business excursions, he came into contact with European missionaries who were preaching the gospel at the marketplace, and pleased with their message, invited them to preach at Aro-Ajali, a neighboring town. Nwosu and his friends began attending their church services there until they formally converted into Christianity and he adopted the baptismal name Pita.

Pita lived an eventful life and worked as an educator, a carpenter, and hunter. In 1933, he published his novel “Omenuko”, which won first prize that year in a contest organized by the Institute of African Languages and Culture. The novel, centered on the life of Omenuko, a historical Arondizuogu man whose life dramatically changes after he is forced to leave his homeland and find green pastures elsewhere after selling his kinsmen into slavery, opens up a discourse

on the importance of the fundamental human values of kinship and belonging, which are increasingly losing relevance in today’s large, global society.

On this topic, Pita writes: “In our part of Africa, it is almost like an obligation that a man does not forsake his fatherland. a man can live in a foreign land but no matter how he is accepted our how successful he becomes in business or social relationships, and no matter how much the people among whom he lives hold him in high regard, there are bound to be attitudes or things which will remind him once in a while that he is a stranger and ought to be more determined to return to his native land.” Pita died a humble death in 1968 while in his mid-eighties. His widely successful novel has been published in several languages and has since been a recognized classic of African literature.#igbohistory


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