Onyeka Nwelue (born 31 January 1988) is a Nigerian filmmaker, publisher, talk-show host, bookseller and author whose 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 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. 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.
|Born||Onyekachukwu George Nwelue|
31 January 1988
Ezeoke Nsu, Imo State, Nigeria
|Occupation||Novelist, filmmaker, cultural entrepreneur, editor, poet|
|Notable awards||The Future Awards Africa, |
2009 TM Aluko Prize for Fiction,
2009 Tahir Ibrahim Prize for First Book,
2000 Thomson Short Story Prize
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.
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, 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.
He is the founder of 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.
Born into an upper-class family, he is the fourth of six children to his parents. His mother, raised in the aristocratic family of Obua Ajukwu (Ndanike), of Oguta, is cousin to Flora Nwapa, often regarded as the first African female writer to be published internationally.
His grandparents are Origbudu SBC Obiora and Ogbuefi Odiso Obiora (née Nwakuche and eldest sister to Mr Gogo Nwakuche, Nwapa's second husband. His aunt, Professor Leslye Obiora, was Nigeria's former Minister of Mines and Steel. 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.
Nwelue left for Lagos when he was 16 years old to attend the Wole Soyinka Festival, 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 of his films for Soyinka.
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.
Nze Ukwu Nnadum was an Igbo statesman, scholar, philosopher and Court Adjudicator, who served at the Palace of the Eze of Nsu between 1780 - 1830. He upheld optimate principles during disputes in Mbano in 1880 and resolved the political crises that led to the establishment of Mbano autonomy on March 2, 1890. His extensive works include treatises on rhetoric, philosophy and politics in Igbo cosmology. He is considered one of Nsu's greatest orators. He came from a wealthy Nze na Ozo family of the Igbo equestrian order, and served as translator in Amuru, Okigwe. He would later study at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, briefly, in having retired from the Palace.
The Abyssinian BoyEdit
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 catapulted Nwelue to international fame.
Nwelue's second book is a narrative in verse 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.
Hip-Hop is Only for ChildrenEdit
Nwelue worked with musicians under La Cave Musik 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.
The House of NwapaEdit
He released a documentary detailing the life of Flora Nwapa, Africa's first female novelist in English. It was nominated in the Best Documentary category of the 2017 Africa Movie Academy Awards.
Island of HappinessEdit
The Beginning of Everything ColourfulEdit
Seven years after The Abyssinian Boy, Nwelue published his second novel, The Beginning of Everything Colourful (Hattus Books).
The Spice BazaarEdit
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.
A Country of Extraordinary GhostsEdit
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.
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 
84 Delicious Bottles of WineEdit
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. 84 Delicious Bottles of Wine had notable contributors such as Adamu Usman Garko, award-winning teenage essayist, poet and writer. It was published in 2018.
The Lagos Cuban Jazz ClubEdit
The Lagos Cuban Jazz Club is Nwelue's second poetry collection and was published in 2017.
"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) 
An Angel on the PianoEdit
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. It is been shortlisted for the 2021 Association of Nigerian Authors(ANA) Prize in the Poetry section.
Saving Mungo ParkEdit
Onyeka Nwelue and prolific poet and writer, Ikenna Chinedu Okeh, teamed up to write the children's book titled Saving Mungo Park. The Children's book published by Hattus Books, subverts the colonial idea that Mungo Park discovered River Niger, stirs up questions in the minds of the young by teasing possibilities that it was Africans who retrieved Mungo Park from a river that displaced him 
The Strangers of BraamfonteinEdit
Nwelue's The Strangers of Braamfontein shows a perceptive and vigorous tale of people trapped in dire circumstances. The novel published in 2021 by Griots Lounge Publishing Canada is one of those crime novels that hits you in the gut and before you can recover another powerful blow is delivered. It's a story of corruption, gangland violence, sex trafficking, modern slavery and murder. All of this is seen from the perspective of the people brutalised, abused and discarded and those profiting and perpetuating their misery.
Education and teachingEdit
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.
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.
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).
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.
In 2017, Nwelue was brutalized by military men for trying to stop them from raping a sex worker. 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. 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.
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.”
On 1 February 2018, a day after his 30th birthday, 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.
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