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Invitation to World Literature

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These Igbo men, photographed in 1921, were professional guinea fowl dancers. Each part of their costumes has a symbolic meaning. Dancing plays a big role in the life of Umuofia.
An Igbo woman with a beautiful and permanent hairstyle, which is held in place by charcoal dust and palm oil. Hair like this was a sign of high status, just like clothing.
Igbo men thatching the roof of a house; this sort of every-day activity, practical and skilled, is the kind of activity Achebe wanted to show in Things Fall Apart to counter the usual depictions of Africans as purely mystical or uncivilized.
David Damrosch talks about this image
A 19th-century depiction of African leaders with British soldiers. The Africans seem to have been taken captive, as a result of one of the many small-scale wars the British fought against African groups as the British took their lands. The African leader retains his dignity even as a prisoner.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
These women are photographed shortly after the creation of the state of Nigeria; the influence of British rule is shown in their fully covered bodies.
David Damrosch talks about this image
The men in costume are depicting spirits visiting the human world; they would have taken part in Igbo ceremonial dances. An African man in English clothing stands between them, a bridge between two worlds.
This painting from the 1960s shows an Igbo ceremony, and captures the life and vibrance of the ancient culture in the modern world.
National Archives and Records Administration
This painting shows a festival celebrating the harvesting of yams in the Ohafia district of Igbo lands. In the story, yams are considered a "man's crop." Yams are thus symbolic of Igbo masculinity, the more yams you yield, the more manly you are in the eyes of your family and community.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
A recent photo of the author of Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe.
Photo by Don Hamerman, Courtesy of Bard College