Meet Haiti’s first envoy to Nigeria in 218 years

Onyeka Nwelue with M Euvrard Saint Amand, Haiti’s Ambassador to the UK

By Nehru Odeh

Onyeka Nwelue, award-winning writer, publisher, filmmaker and music producer, has been appointed Haiti’s Honorary Consul in Anglophone West Africa. This is indeed ground-breaking because with this appointment, Haiti is about to have its first diplomatic ties with Anglophone West Africa in its 218 years as an independent nation.

As Haiti’s Honorary Consul in Anglophone West Africa, Nwelue would put his wealth of experience both as a culture producer and one who is widely travelled and conversant with Haitian history and culture to represent the interest of Haiti and create a synergy between it and Anglophone West Africa.

Speaking from his base in the UK, Nwelue said: “There is a need for Haiti, to synergize with the African continent as our souls come from the same source. I am glad and fulfilled that Haiti will permit me to serve Haiti in the fullness of my genuine love for the country. I look forward to building bridges and developing artistic visions that will bring us together.

“Mwen trè rekonesan anvè w e mwen pwomèt pou m sèvi Ayiti ak tout kè m. (Haitian Creole: I am very grateful and I promise to serve Haiti with all my heart.”

Nwelue is indeed on a familiar turf. He had spent a considerable time in Haiti and is conversant with its people and culture. His knowledge of both the Haitian and Anglophone West African cultures make him very fit for the job. “I started a film school at Queensland University, where I received my honorary Doctorate. The former Prime Minister is impressed with what I am doing. So they thought, Okay, this could be their right man for the job,” he told TheNEWS.

The academic visitor at the University of Oxford also spoke about the socio-economic and cultural things that Haiti and Anglophone West Africa have in common. “When I was in Port- au-Prince, I thought I was in Enugu. In fact, I headed to some parts of the city where they have the temples and  the  same way people hawk groundnut and banana on the street,” he recalled.

Nwelue, a well-noted historian, culture enthusiast, founder of The Diplomatic Jazz Nights, which was rotated through embassies in Nigeria, has been an Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford, where he is currently developing Igbo and Haitian studies.

He is also the founder and director of the James Currey Society, which celebrates the work of James Currey, the co-founder of James Currey Publishers, which was established in 1984.  His publishing house is responsible for producing a vast number of academic books, journals, fiction and non-fiction books about Africa, especially in a period when it was considered not profitable to publish books about Africa.

He, together with Chinua Achebe, under the auspices of Heinemann Publishers, produced the famous African Writers Series (AWS), which have inspired many African(ist)s around the world.

The Dean of School of Cinematographic Studies at Université Queensland in Haiti, 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 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.

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, where he spent time in Athens, Ohio.

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.

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.

He is the founder of the Oxford-based James Currey Society, which administers The James Currey Literary Festival, The James Currey Writing and Publishing Workshop, the James Currey Igbo Language Class, the James Currey Haitian Studies, the James Currey Prize for African Literature, The James Currey Fellowship, in cooperation with African Studies Centre at University of Oxford.