In a heartwarming ceremony this past weekend, Belgium celebrated the acclaimed author Chika Unigwe, conferring upon her not one, but two prestigious honours. Unigwe, a prominent figure in Afropolitan literature, was decorated as a Knight of the Order of the Crown for her outstanding literary contributions and services to the nation.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Chika Unigwe spent many years in Belgium, where she initiated her literary journey. Recognising her profound impact on the global stage, the Christoffel Plantin Fonds bestowed upon her a Proclamation/Oorkonde, a distinguished award reserved for Belgian nationals who significantly enhance the country’s prestige abroad.
Unigwe, now a US resident and a professor at Georgia College & State University, has authored works that traverse diverse genres in both English and Dutch. Her latest novel, The Middle Daughter, published this year, adds another jewel to her literary crown.
Addressing the overwhelming honour, Chika expressed her gratitude, stating, “I’m still overwhelmed. So grateful that this country that love chose for me, and that I became a citizen of by choice, has so honoured me. It was a deeply moving evening for me. Thank you. Dank U. Merci, Danke.”
Known for addressing challenging themes such as migration, human trafficking and the role of women in society, Unigwe’s work resonates globally. The recognition comes at a crucial time when societal discussions around identity, freedom of speech and the nature of truth are paramount.
Social media has since erupted with congratulations, with well-wishers expressing pride from Nigeria to the United States and Belgium. Messages flooded in, exemplifying the widespread acknowledgment of Unigwe’s impactful contributions to literature and society.
Read the citation by the Consulate General of Belgium in Atlanta below:
This past weekend we were proud to honour the author Chika Unigwe with not one, but two honorary distinctions: the decoration of Knight of the Order of the Crown and recognition with a Proclamation/Oorkonde by the Christoffel Plantin Fonds, an award presented to Belgian nationals who have contributed in exceptional ways to the prestige and image of Belgium abroad.
Chika was made a Knight of the Order of the Crown of Belgium due to her artistic and literary merits and services to our nation.
She is a professor, acclaimed writer and major figure in Afropolitan literature whose work spans diverse genres in English and Dutch. Born and raised in Nigeria, Chika lived in Belgium for many years and started her literary career there, after which she moved to the US 10 years ago with her family and where she taught amongst others at Brown and Emory University. Currently, she is a professor at Georgia College & State University and this year published her latest novel The Middle Daughter.
Several of her novels and short stories are set in Belgium and were written in Dutch, then translated to many other languages. Her work touches on often difficult topics such as migration, human trafficking, marital abuse and the role of women in society, but she always holds space for humour and zest for life and the inner resolve and fortitude of women throughout her literary work.
Chika is someone who doesn’t pander to power, who tackles difficult topics, and more often than not puts her finger, or rather her quill, where it hurts. In times where questions around identity, freedom of speech, disinformation, the nature of truth are central, almost existential for our societies it is important that we as a country applaud and recognize voices such as hers. Congratulations @chikaunigwe, we thank you for your services to Belgium!