Onyeka Nwelue

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Onyeka Nwelue
Onyeka Nwelue teaching at CRAFT, 2011
Onyeka Nwelue teaching at CRAFT, 2011
BornOnyekachukwu George Nwelue
(1988-01-31) 31 January 1988 (age 34)
Ezeoke Nsu, Imo State, Nigeria
OccupationNovelist, filmmaker, cultural entrepreneur, editor, poet
Notable awardsThe Future Awards Africa,
2009 TM Aluko Prize for Fiction,
2009 Tahir Ibrahim Prize for First Book,
2000 Thomson Short Story Prize

Onyeka Nwelue (born 31 January 1988) is a Nigerian filmmaker, publisher, talk-show host, bookseller, author and an academic visitor and founder of the James Currey Society, at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.[1] He is the Dean of School of Cinematographic Studies at Université Queensland in Haiti. [2]

Nwelue studied sociology and anthropology at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and earned a scholarship to study directing at the Prague Film School in Czech Republic. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, by Universite Queensland in Haiti in 2019.[3]

He studied ancient masterpieces of world literature, under Professor Martin Puchner at Harvard University. The Onyeka Nwelue Scholarship for outstanding Imo State Economics Students is named after him.[4]

He was a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, where he runs a bookshop and co-founded "World Arts Agency".

He is currently a visiting assistant professor and visiting fellow of African literature and studies in the English Language Department of the Faculty of Humanities, Manipur University in Imphal, India. He was a visiting research fellow at the Center for International Studies, Ohio University,[5] where he spent time in Athens, Ohio.

His second novel, The Beginning of Everything Colourful, was shortlisted for the ANA Prose Fiction Prize in 2018, and his collection of poetry, The Lagos Cuban Jazz Club, was shortlisted for ANA Poetry Prize in the same year.[6]

Nwelue is a visiting fellow (academic visitor) at the University of Oxford.[7][8][9][10][11]

He is the founder of the Oxford-based James Currey Society, which administers The James Currey Prize for African Literature, and The James Currey Fellowship, in cooperation with African Studies Centre at University of Oxford.[12]

Early life[edit]

Onyeka Nwelue was born in Ezeoke Nsu in Ehime Mbano in Imo State, Nigeria, the fourth of the six children of Sam Nwelue, a politician and Knight of St. Christopher, and Lady Catherine Nwelue, a teacher and Lay Reader. Lady Catherine, raised in the aristocratic family of Obua Ajukwu (Ndanike), of Oguta, is a cousin of Flora Nwapa.

His grandparents are Origbudu SBC Obiora and Ogbuefi Odiso Obiora (née Nwakuche and eldest sister of Gogo Nwakuche,[13] Nwapa's second husband. His aunt, Professor Leslye Obiora, was Nigeria's former Minister of Mines and Steel.[14] His mother is the religious scholar, a social scientist and a writer, who served in the public service as a teacher for 35 years, Ona Nwelue. He is the great-great-grandson of Nze Ukwu Nnadum.[15]

Nwelue left for Lagos when he was 16 years old to attend the Wole Soyinka Festival,[16] after which he was introduced to the Nobel Laureate. A few years later, Nwelue travelled to India for the 2nd International Writers' Festival, at the invitation of the India Cultural Association. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka remains one of Nwelue's fans. "He has read everything I have published," Nwelue says. He has organized private screenings[17][18] of his films for Soyinka.

Nwelue also identifies as a feminist; in an interview, after making The House of Nwapa, he said: "I made The House of Nwapa, because I am a feminist. I believe we are all equal."[19]

Nwelue has focused his research on his great-great-grandfather, Nze Ukwu Nnadum who was the Royal Court Adjudicator at the King's Palace in Nsu and he translated for the palace when the Portuguese arrived. A film, Merchant, directed by John Paul Nwanganga, has been made on him and Nwangborie, featuring Pete Edochie, Chinwe Owoh and a colourful cast of actors.

Career and works[edit]

Early in his career, Nwelue wrote for The Guardian in Nigeria, a rare opportunity given to him by Jahman Anikulapo,[20] the then Editor of Sunday edition popularly known as The Guardian on Sunday. His non-fiction book Hip-Hop is Only for Children won the Creative Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the 2015 Nigerian Writers’ Awards.

He adapted his novella Island of Happiness into an Igbo-language film, Agwaetiti Obiụtọ, which won Best Feature Film by a Director at the 2018 Newark International Film Festival[21] and went on to be nominated for Best First Feature Film by a Director and the Ousmane Sembene Award for Best Film in an African Language at the 2018 Africa Movie Academy Awards. Island of Happiness was inspired by true events in Oguta.[22] Nwelue is the founder of La Cave Musik, a record label based in Paris, France, and co-founded the UK-based publishing house Abibiman Publishing.[23] Nwelue is represented by literary agent Priya Doraswamy of Lotus Lane Literary Agency, based in New Jersey.[24] In 2012, Debbie Edwards of Debbie Edwards Talent Management, became his manager.[25]

The Abyssinian Boy[edit]

Nwelue began writing his first novel, The Abyssinian Boy, when he was in India. The book partly captures his experiences in India as a black man, and its publication by DADA Books in 2009[26] catapulted Nwelue to international fame.[27]

The Abyssinian Boy received stellar reviews in major Nigerian and Indian newspapers such as Daily Trust ("a Greek tale")[28] and The Hindu ("the Indian ethos are original").


Nwelue's second book is a narrative in verse[29] and has been described by British-Hungarian poet George Szirtes as "breathless". He toured 25 countries of Europe in 2014, promoting the book, which has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Igbo and Yoruba. Translated by Venezuelan writer Alberto Quero, it was published in Peru, where it had its official launch at the Cusco Book Fair in 2015.[30]

Hip-Hop is Only for Children[edit]

Nwelue worked with musicians under La Cave Musik[31] and travelled to different countries to meet different musicians and came up with this controversial book, which details personal encounters with musicians and music promoters. It was released in January 2015 to critical acclaim. It has reportedly sold a million copies.[32]

The House of Nwapa[edit]

He released a documentary detailing the life of Flora Nwapa, Africa's first female novelist in English.[33][34] It was nominated in the Best Documentary category of the 2017 Africa Movie Academy Awards.[35]

Island of Happiness[edit]

At the end of August 2017, Nwelue announced through an article[36] that he had wrapped shoot of his new film, Island of Happiness, adapted from his yet to be released novella.[22][37]

The Beginning of Everything Colourful[edit]

Seven years after The Abyssinian Boy, Nwelue self-published his second novel, The Beginning of Everything Colourful (Hattus Books).[38]

The Spice Bazaar[edit]

The Spice Bazaar is the tale of an Indian couple, Anand and Abha, living in Lagos with their daughter, Aarti and their relationship with their Nigerian hosts. In this 2018 play, Nwelue shows the humane side of the Indian community in Lagos in this witty, comical and ravishing drama of racial integration.[39]

A Country of Extraordinary Ghosts[edit]

Nwelue released his third novel in 2018, A Country of Extraordinary Ghosts, set at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba, a young patient tells his fellow patients and nurses and doctors his intriguing story. From Lagos, he transports his listeners to the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, leading them to Rome, where everything unveils. A Country of Extraordinary Ghosts is a stunning narrative, that is shaped with magical realism. It explores mental health, politics, sexuality, religion and abuse in an uncanny way.[40]

The novel shows the creative mind of the author, drawing inspiration from the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah in the bible and intertwining it with the present-day world while exposing the hypocrisy and selfishness of man. It is an unusual book that piques your curiosity but has the potential to be so much more [41]

84 Delicious Bottles of Wine[edit]

The duo of Onyeka Nwelue and Odega Shawa, both writers and devotees of Wole Soyinka edited this anthology to mark the 84th birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka.[42] 84 Delicious Bottles of Wine had notable contributors such as Adamu Usman Garko, award-winning teenage essayist, poet and writer.[43] It was published in 2018.

The Lagos Cuban Jazz Club[edit]

The Lagos Cuban Jazz Club is Nwelue's second poetry collection and was published in 2017.[44]

"Onyeka Nwelue sets out to do more than add to the poetry firmament with another collection but instead seeks to provoke unending discourse on the joys of the unconventional poet outmanoeuvring the straitjacket restrictions of the genre. Like a persistent itch that only goes away by scratching, it is hard to ignore this writer." - Eromo Egbejule, The Guardian (UK) [44]

An Angel on the Piano[edit]

An Angel on the Piano was published on January 31, 2020, by Griots Lounge. It's a collection of poems, written by Nwelue, while he was in prison in Rwanda.[citation needed] It has been shortlisted for the 2021 Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Prize in the Poetry section.[45]

Saving Mungo Park[edit]

Nwelue and poet Ikenna Chinedu Okeh collaborated on a children's book titled Saving Mungo Park, which was published by Hattus Books, Nwelue's own imprint. It is intended to subvert the colonial idea that Mungo Park discovered River Niger, and to raise questions in children's minds by suggesting that Africans retrieved Mungo Park from a river.[46]

The Strangers of Braamfontein[edit]

Nwelue's The Strangers of Braamfontein is about people trapped in dire circumstances.[47] It features corruption, gangland violence, sex trafficking, modern slavery and murder, all seen from the perspective of the people brutalised, abused and discarded and those profiting and perpetuating their misery.[48]

Education and teaching[edit]

On his return from India, Nwelue was admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study sociology and anthropology. He went on to study scriptwriting at the Asian School of Media Studies in Noida, India, after which he taught film directing at Center for Research in Art of Film & TV (CRAFT). He handled the Sandwich Class of the English Language Department of the University of Lagos while working as the editor of FilmAfrique, a primer on African film initiatives, published by the Africa Film Academy, curators of the Africa Movie Academy Awards. He was offered a scholarship to study directing at the Prague Film School in the Czech Republic.

He studied business of music at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He is the director of the Oxford-based James Currey Society, which administers the James Currey Prize for African Literature.[49]

Later career[edit]

Since the success of his novel, Nwelue has co-written the film Namaste Naija, directed by Teco Benson and shot in Hyderabad and Lagos, produced by Lilian Bach. He also co-created a short film, The Beginning of Everything Colourful, with British actor and model Dudley O'Shaughnessy.

In early 2012, Nwelue was signed to the Pontas Agency in Spain.[50]

He founded Blues & Hills Consultancy, under which he manages La Cave Musik. Through Blues & Hills, he was featured on MTV Meets MTN with Ben Murray Bruce. Nwelue's firm organized the first-ever Bayelsa Book & Craft Fair, where he served as the director. He also undertook to edit and publish FilmAfrique, a primer on African cinema, funded by the Africa Film Academy, curators of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).

In August 2016, Nwelue's documentary film on Flora Nwapa, entitled The House of Nwapa, premiered in Harare, Zimbabwe.[51][52][19][33]


Since publishing The Abyssinian Boy in 2009, Nwelue has spent most of his time speaking at different events and festivals and forums.

After being invited to the Man Hong Kong literary festival, Nwelue was denied a visa to Hong Kong, sparking media outcry, the alleged reason being the colour of his skin. The decision was reversed and he got a visa to attend the festival.[53]

In 2017, Nwelue was brutalized by military men for trying to stop them from raping a sex worker.[54] A year later, Nwelue was arrested at the lobby of Onomo Hotel in Kigali and jailed for eight days, for allegedly "publicly insulting" Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Twitter and RwandAir.[55] Nwelue was released after the intervention of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Prior to his arrest, he was a Voluntary Lecturer at Kwetu Film Institute, founded by the filmmaker Eric Kabera.[56]

In a May 2020 interview, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka disclosed that some "wannabe Christian Ayatollahs" demonstrated over Nwelue's novel, A Country of Extraordinary Ghosts, carrying placards that read: “Death to Nwelue.”[57]


On 1 February 2018, a day after his 30th birthday,[58] Onyeka was involved in a car accident, sustaining injuries to his lower back. He was confined to a wheelchair for two months, before using a walking aid.

Notable awards[edit]

  • Recipient, Institute for Research in Women, Children and Culture (IRAWCC) Grant
  • Recipient, Princ Claus Ticket Grant 2013
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Universite Queensland 2019.[59]
  • ANA Prize for Fiction 2021 [60][61]
  • Best Indie Novel Winner- The Crime Fiction Lover Awards 2021 [62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ African, Studies. "Academic Visitors". University of Oxford. The University of Oxford. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  2. ^ Universite Queensland, Education. "Dean of School of Cinematographic Studies". Universite Queensland (UQ). University of Oxford/Universite Queensland. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  3. ^ "uqsteg". www.uqstegnetwork.org.
  4. ^ Onyeka, Nwelue (1 January 2022). "Amazing story of Onyeka Nwelue, Nigerian Youth who founded James Currey Society in Uk". Vanguard Newspaper (Interview). Interviewed by Luminous Jannamike. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  5. ^ "What Young Africans Are Writing - an Africa Crossroads event".
  6. ^ Adebisi, Yemi (7 October 2018). "ANA Releases Shortlist Of 2018 Literary Prizes". Independent. Nigeria.
  7. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue".
  8. ^ "Oxford University names Onyeka Nwelue Fellow". 3 August 2021.
  9. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue appointed University of Oxford Fellow". 6 August 2021.
  10. ^ "Oxford appoints Onyeka Nwelue Fellow". 6 August 2021.
  11. ^ "UK: Writer-activist, Nwelue, now Visiting Fellow at Oxford - Naija Times". Naijatimes.ng. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  12. ^ "Stephen Embleton named inaugural James Currey Fellow | African Studies Centre". Africanstudies.ox.ac.uk. 19 October 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  13. ^ "As Violet Odiso 'SBC' Obiora Goes Home". The Nigerian Voice. 9 November 2011.
  14. ^ "Leslye Obiora J.S.D." The University of Arizona.
  15. ^ "The Nwelue Legacy: Emancipation of Slaves and their Education". Vanguard News. Archived from the original on 30 November 2021.
  16. ^ Okorie, Mitterand (14 September 2018). "Is the next Nobel Laureate this 30 year old Nigerian maverick?". The Italian Insider.
  17. ^ "Photos | Wole Soyinka Hosts Private Screening of Onyeka Nwelue's AMAAs-Nominated Film, Agwaetiti Obiụtọ". 4 September 2018. Archived from the original on 5 September 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue: What Soyinka told me when I wanted to start making films". 29 October 2018. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  19. ^ a b Ibrahim, Abubakar Adam (2 October 2016). "Why I made a documentary on Flora Nwapa". Daily Trust.
  20. ^ "INTERVIEW: Why I'm Not married at 50 - Jahman Anikulapo - Premium Times Nigeria". 24 August 2013. Archived from the original on 23 October 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  21. ^ Ndukwe, Jr., Eleanya (16 October 2018). "Onyeka Nwelue's Agwaetiti Obiụtọ: Pushing for Africa's socioeconomic and political emancipation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 3 November 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  22. ^ a b OkadaBooks (18 April 2018). "#LiterallyWhatsHot: What Defines Happiness in Onyeka Nwelue's "Island of Happiness?"". BellaNaija. Archived from the original on 17 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  23. ^ Wood, Heloise (10 May 2021). "Abibiman Publishing launches with African and Caribbean focus". The Bookseller.
  24. ^ "Fiction-Literary Fiction". 30 April 2020.
  25. ^ Tolu (18 December 2014). "Hip-Hop Is Only For Children – Onyeka Nwelue". Information Nigeria.
  26. ^ "The Abyssinian Boy by Onyeka Nwelue". DADA bookshelf. DADA Books.
  27. ^ Nnorom Azuonye (21 January 2009). "The Audacity of Wakefulness". Sentinel. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  28. ^ Amina Alhassan (8 February 2014). "No full-time writer in Nigeria - Onyeka Nwelue". dailytrust.com.ng. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  29. ^ Ebenezar Wikina (23 April 2015). "Writing Is Only for Children: My Stroll with Onyeka Nwelue". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  30. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue: Nigerian Poetry is like Patrick Obaiagbon talking, you are fascinated by what he is saying but you do not understand what he is saying" Archived 27 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Sankofa Magazine. 18 February 2014.
  31. ^ Pulse Mix (8 October 2020). "The new voice that we call 'Mr International'". Pulse. Nigeria.
  32. ^ Richards, Oludare (15 January 2015). "Nwelue on world tour with new book, Hip-Hop Is Only For Children". The Guardian. Abuja.
  33. ^ a b Ikheloa, Ikhide R. (27 November 2016). "Flora Nwapa and the house that Onyeka Nwelue built for her". Ikhide. Archived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  34. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue releases documentary feature 'House on Nwapa' on Youtube". Linda Ikeji's Blog. 13 January 2017. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  35. ^ Odunsi, Wale (16 May 2017). "AMAA 2017: Nollywood movies top nominations [Full list]". Daily Post Nigeria. Archived from the original on 21 May 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  36. ^ Nwelue, Onyeka (4 September 2017). "Preying From Paris: Why Oguta Will Remain The Way It Is". Olisa Blogazine. Archived from the original on 21 September 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  37. ^ "Wole Soyinka hosts Onyeka Nwelue to a private screening of his movie 'Agwaetiti Obiụtọ' in celebration of his AMAA nominations". 4 September 2018. Archived from the original on 17 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  38. ^ "Award-winning Nigerian Writer & Filmmaker Onyeka Nwelue Shares Pictures to Celebrate the Release of his New Novel – the Beginning of Everything Colourful". 14 June 2017. Archived from the original on 17 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  39. ^ Nwelue, Onyeka (16 January 2018). The Spice Bazaar. ISBN 9781983929090.
  41. ^ Nwelue, Onyeka (14 August 2018). A Country of Extraordinary Ghosts. ISBN 978-1725659278.
  42. ^ Nwelue, Onyeka; Shawa, Odega (July 2018). 84 Delicious Bottles of Wine for Wole Soyinka. ISBN 978-1724334626.
  43. ^ "Wole Soyinka Biography and Net Worth".
  44. ^ a b Nwelue, Onyeka (26 June 2017). The Lagos Cuban Jazz Club. ISBN 9781548402006.
  45. ^ "ANA Releases Shortlist Ahead Of 40th Anniversary - Western Post News". Westernpostnigeria.com. 21 October 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  46. ^ "Saving Mungo Park". Vanguard News. Archived from the original on 28 March 2021.
  47. ^ "The Strangers of Braamfontein". Kirkus Reviews. 25 March 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  48. ^ "The Strangers of Braamfontein by Onyeka Nwelue". Crime Fiction Lover. 22 September 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  49. ^ "James Currey Prize for African Literature debuts". The Nation. Nigeria. 12 November 2020.
  50. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue: a new Nigerian literary voice in English language". Pontas. 28 June 2012.
  51. ^ Wealth Ominabo Dickson, "INTERVIEW: Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Is Not the Great African Novel – Onyeka Nwelue" Archived 30 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Premium Times, 18 August 2016.
  52. ^ Cheta Igbokwe, "Onyeka Nwelue’s 'House of Nwapa' Documentary Film Premiers in Zimbabwe" Archived 29 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, State Reporters, 28 August 2016.
  53. ^ Nwelue, Onyeka (15 August 2010). "The wrong passport". YNaija.
  54. ^ "Military Brutality Against Nigerians: The Incident of Bonny Cantonment by Elias Ozikpu". 25 February 2017. Archived from the original on 10 September 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  55. ^ "Rwandan government reacts to assault allegation leveled against its investigation Bureau by writer, Onyeka Nwelue". 6 November 2018. Archived from the original on 17 November 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  56. ^ "An evening with Nigerian writer Onyeka Nwelue". 11 June 2018. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  57. ^ "Interview Wole Soyinka 2020". www.projekt-cassandra.net. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  58. ^ Bivan, Nathaniel (3 February 2018). "A tale of 2 Onyekas and one birthday". Daily Trust.
  59. ^ "Rome2020home2".
  60. ^ "Onyeka Nwelue, Kehinde Akano, others make ANA prizes short list", Phenomenal, 21 October 2021.
  61. ^ "2021 literary prizes shortlists out - The Nation Newspaper". Archived from the original on 6 December 2021.
  62. ^ "The Crime Fiction Lover Awards 2021: The Winners", Crime Fiction Lover, 8 December 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]