ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Nnedi Okorafor - Science fiction writer
Nnedi Okorafor weaves African cultures into the evocative settings and memorable characters of her science fiction work for kids and adults.

Why you should listen

Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism. Born in the US to Nigerian immigrant parents, Okorafor is known for weaving African cultures into creative settings and memorable characters. Her books include Lagoon (a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist for best novel), Who Fears Death (a World Fantasy Award winner for best novel), Kabu Kabu (a Publisher's Weekly best book for Fall 2013), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com best book of the year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature) and The Shadow Speaker (a CBS Parallax Award winner).

Her 2016 novel The Book of Phoenix is an Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist, while the first book in the Binti Trilogy won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella. Her children’s book Chicken in the Kitchen won an Africana Book Award. The final installment of the Binti Trilogy, titled The Night Masquerade, will be released in September 2017, and the sequel to Akata Witch (titled Akata Warrior) is was published in October 2017. Meanwhile, her book Who Fears Death has been optioned by HBO, with Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin as executive producer.

Okorafor is a full professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY).

More profile about the speaker
Nnedi Okorafor | Speaker | TED.com
TEDGlobal 2017

Nnedi Okorafor: Sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa

Nnedi Okoroafor: Akụkọ Sayensi na-echepụta Afrika nke ọdịnihụ.

Filmed:
995,831 views

"Akụkọ sayensi m nwere nna ochie dị iche iche - nke ndị Afrika," ka onye edemede bụ Nnedi Okorafor na-ekwu. N'etiti ihe odide sitere na ya na Binti na akwukwo ya bụ "Lagoon," Okorafor na-ekwu maka ịhe banyere mmuo na mgbakwasi nke ọrụ ya - na otu o si emeghe ụzọ dị iche iche site n'ịde ịhe gbasara Afrofuturism (Akụkọ Sayensị ndị Afrika)
- Science fiction writer
Nnedi Okorafor weaves African cultures into the evocative settings and memorable characters of her science fiction work for kids and adults. Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

00:12
What if an African girl
from a traditional family
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Ọ bụrụ kwanụ na nwa agbọghọ Afrika
si na ezinụlọ
dị n'otu akụkụ nke Afrika n'ọdịnihu
00:16
in a part of future Africa
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00:18
is accepted into the finest
university in the galaxy,
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ka anabatara na
mahadum nke kacha mma na ụzọ kpakpando dị na
00:21
planets away?
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ngapụ ụwa?
00:24
What if she decides to go?
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Ọ bụrụ kwanụ ma ọ chọọ ịga?
00:27
This is an excerpt
from my "Binti" novella trilogy:
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Nke a bụ nkewapụta
si na akụkọ "Binti" di ụzọ atọ
00:32
I powered up the transporter
and said a silent prayer.
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A gbanyere m ụgbọ njem
wee kpee ekpere n'ime obi m
00:35
I had no idea what I was going
to do if it didn't work.
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Amaghị m ihe m ga-eme
ma ọ bụrụ na ọ rụghị ọrụ
00:38
My transporter was cheap,
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Ụgbọ njem mụ dị ọnụ ala
00:40
so even a droplet of moisture
or, more likely, a grain of sand,
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ya bụ na otu ntụpọ mmiri
ma ọ bụ otu mkpụrụ aja
00:43
would cause it to short.
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ga eme ya ka ọ mebie.
00:45
It was faulty, and most of the time
I had to restart it over and over
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Ọ na emebikarị, mgbe ọbụla
ana m ebidokarị ya ọtụtụ oge
00:49
before it worked.
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tupu ọ rụọ ọrụ
00:50
"Please not now,
please not now," I thought.
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"Biko ọ bụghị ugbua, biko ọ bụghị ugbua,"
e kwuru m n'ime obi m.
00:53
The transporter shivered in the sand
and I held my breath.
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Ụgbọ nje m mara jijiji n'aja
m wee jide ume m
00:57
Tiny, flat and black as a prayer stone,
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Ọ pere mpe, basaa, na eji oji ka nkume ekpere,
00:59
it buzzed softly and then
slowly rose from the sand.
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ọ zụrụ obere ụzụ wee
jiri nwayọ bilie n'aja
01:03
Finally, it produced
the baggage-lifting force.
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Ọ mechara, wepụta
ike nke buliri ya
01:06
I grinned.
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A chịrị m ọchị.
01:07
Now I could make it
to the shuttle on time.
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Ugbua aga m eru
n'ugbọelu ahụ n'oge.
01:11
I swiped otjize from my forehead
with my index finger and knelt down,
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e ji m mkpịsịaka hichapụ otjize n'ihu isi m
m wee sekpuru ala
01:15
then I touched the finger to the sand,
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wee metụ mkpịsị aka n'aja,
01:17
grounding the sweet-smelling
red clay into it.
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na-agbari
ụrọ na-esi isi ọma n'ime ya.
01:20
"Thank you," I whispered.
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M wee jiri nwayọ kwuo "Daalụ,"
01:23
It was a half-mile walk
along the dark desert road.
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Ọ bụ ije kilomita
n'ogologo ụzọ ọzara gbara ọchịchịrị.
01:26
With the transporter working
I would make it there on time.
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Ụgbọ nje m ka na arụ ọrụ
Aga m eru ebe ahụ n'oge
01:30
Straightening up,
I paused and shut my eyes.
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A kwụụrụ m ọto,
kwụsịnata, wee mechie anya m.
01:32
Now, the weight of my entire life
was pressing on my shoulders.
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Ugbua, ibu ndụ m niile
na arụgide m n'ubu.
01:36
I was defying the most traditional
part of myself for the first time
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Nke a bụ izizi
m na emere onwe m isiike
01:40
in my entire life.
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na ndụ m niile.
01:41
I was leaving in the dead of night,
and they had no clue.
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Ana m ahapụ n'etiti abalị,
ma ha amaghịị.
ụmụnne m niile dị iteghete, bụ ndi tọchara m
ma ewepụ nke nwanyi na nke nwoke ndi nke obere
01:45
My nine siblings, all older than me
except for my younger sister and brother,
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agaghị ama ihe na-achọ ịme.
01:49
would never see this coming.
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Nne m na Nna m enweghị ka ha ga-esi
chepụta na aga m emenwu udi ihe a n'ụwa a.
01:51
My parents would never imagine
I'd do such a thing in a million years.
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Oge ha ga-eji mara
ịhe m mere na ebe m na-aga
01:55
By the time they all realized
what I'd done and where I was going,
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A ga m ahapugo ụwa.
01:59
I'd have left the planet.
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02:02
In my absence, my parents
would growl to each other
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Mgbe m na-anọghị, nne m na
nna m ga na-atagbu onwe ha.
02:05
that I was never
to set foot in their home again.
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na m agaghị atụ ụkwụ
n'ụlọ ha ọzọ.
Ndị umunne nne m anọ na ụmụnna m abụọ
bụ ndị bi na mgbada okporo ụzọ
02:08
My four aunties and two uncles
who lived down the road
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ga na-eti mkpu na agba asịrị n'etiti onwe ha
02:11
would shout and gossip amongst themselves
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Otu m siri mebie
agburu anyi niile.
02:13
about how I had scandalized
the entire bloodline.
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02:16
I was going to be a pariah.
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Aga m abụ onye a kpọrọ asị.
"Gaba," e jiri m nwayọ
takwunyere ụgbọ njem
02:19
"Go," I softly whispered
to the transporter,
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02:21
stamping my foot.
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na-azọsi ụkwụ m ike.
02:23
The thin metal rings I wore
around each ankle jingled noisily,
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ola mgbanụkwụ m yi
na nkwonkwo ụkwụ m abụọ yọgharịrị,
02:26
but I stamped my foot again.
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mana a zọsiri m ụkwụ m ike ọzọ.
Ọ nwere oge ụgbọ njem na arụkarịcha
ọrụ mgbe m anaghị emetụ ya aka.
02:29
Once on, the transporter worked best
when I didn't touch it.
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"Gaba," ka m kwuru ọzọ,
ọsụsọ ana apụta m n'ihu isi.
02:32
"Go," I said again,
sweat forming on my brow.
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Oge n'onweghi ịhe megharịrị,
02:36
When nothing moved,
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02:37
I chanced giving the two large suitcases
sitting atop the force field a shove.
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A kwara m nnukwu igbe abụọ
nọ n'elụ ogbe ike aka.
02:42
They moved smoothly,
and I breathed another sigh of relief.
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Ha megharịrị ọfụma,
m wee kutuo ume.
02:45
At least some luck was on my side.
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E nwetụla m obere chiọma.
02:50
So, in a distant future part of Africa,
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Ya mere, n'otu akụkụ dị anya
n'ọdịnihu nke Africa,
02:53
Binti is a mathematical genius
of the Himba ethnic group.
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Binti bụ ọkachamara mgbakọ na mwepụ
nke agbụrụ Himba
02:57
She's been accepted
into a university on another planet,
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Anabatala ya
n'ime mahadum dị n'ụwa ọzọ,
03:00
and she's decided to go.
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o kpebiela na ya ga-aga.
O bu ọbara
ndi agbụrụ ya n'akwara nke ya.
03:02
Carrying the blood
of her people in her veins,
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03:04
adorned with the teachings,
ways, even the land on her very skin,
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eji nkuzi na amamiihe chọọ
ya mma, ma n'elu akpụkpọ ahụ ya,
03:09
Binti leaves the earth.
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Binti hapụrụ ụwa.
Ka akụkọ na-aga n'ihu,
ọ ghọghị onye ọzọ, kama tinyekwuo n'elu nke ọ bụ.
03:12
As the story progresses,
she becomes not other, but more.
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03:16
This idea of leaving but bringing
and then becoming more
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Echiche nke a bụ ịhapụ ma na-eweta
wee bịa ghọọ ndị ọzọ
03:19
is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism,
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bụ otu n'ime obi Afrofuturism
03:22
or you can simply call it
a different type of science fiction.
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ma ọ bụ ị nwere ike ịkpọ ya
ụdị akụkọ sayensi dị iche.
03:26
I can best explain the difference between
classic science fiction and Afrofuturism
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Enwere m ike ịkọwa ọdịiche dị n'etiti
nka akụkọ sayensị amaara ama na Afrofuturism
03:31
if I used the octopus analogy.
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ma ọ bụrụ na m jiri ihe gbasara akaasatọ tụnyere okwu.
03:34
Like humans,
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Dị ka mmadụ,
akaasatọ bụ ụfọdụ n'ime ọtụtụ
anụ ndị nwere oke amamiihe n'ụwa.
03:35
octopuses are some of the most
intelligent creatures on earth.
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03:39
However, octopus intelligence evolved
from a different evolutionary line,
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Kama, amamiihe akaasato malitere
site n'usoro nke evolushọn dị iche,
03:44
separate from that of human beings,
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dị iche na nke mmadụ,
03:46
so the foundation is different.
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Ya mere ntọala ya ji dị iche.
03:49
The same can be said about the foundations
of various forms of science fiction.
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Otu ihe a ka aga ekwu banyere ntọala
akụkọ sayensị dị n'ụdị n'ụdị.
03:54
So much of science fiction speculates
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Ọtụtụ akụkọ sayensị na-akọwa
03:57
about technologies,
societies, social issues,
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maka ịhe banyere teknụzụ,
ọha mmadụ, nsogbu ọha na eze,
04:00
what's beyond our planet,
what's within our planet.
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ihe karịrị ụwa anyị
ihe dị n'ime ụwa anyị.
04:03
Science fiction is one of the greatest
and most effective forms
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Akụkọ sayensị bụ otu n'ime ndị kacha
na ụdị dị na
ihe gbasara odide ndọrọ ndọrọ ọchịchị.
04:06
of political writing.
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04:08
It's all about the question, "What if?"
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Ọ bụ maka ajụjụ a, "Gịnị mere ma ọ bụrụ na?"
04:11
Still, not all science fiction
has the same ancestral bloodline,
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N'agbanyeghị nke ahụ, ọ bụghị akụkọ sayensị niile
si n'otu ahịrị ndi nnanna
bụ echiche bụ na akụkọ sayensị ndị bekee,
04:16
that line being Western-rooted
science fiction,
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04:19
which is mostly white and male.
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nke na-abụkarị ndị ọcha na ndị nwoke.
04:22
We're talking Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne,
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Anyị na-ekwu maka ndị dị ka Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne,
04:25
H.G. Wells, George Orwell,
Robert Heinlein, etc.
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H.G. Wells, George Orwell,
Robert Heinlein, dgz.
Gịnị mere ma ọ bụrụ na onye Naijiria-Amerika
dee akụkọ sayensị?
04:30
So what if a Nigerian-American
wrote science fiction?
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04:35
Growing up, I didn't
read much science fiction.
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Oge m na-etolite, agụghị m
ọtụtụ akụkọ sayensị.
04:38
I couldn't relate to these stories
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Enweghị m nghọta obụla gbasara akụkọ ndị a
04:40
preoccupied with xenophobia,
colonization and seeing aliens as others.
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na-echegbu onwe m na ịhe gbasara anabataghị
ndị ala ọzọ, ọchịchị na ịhụ ndị ọbịa ka ndị ọzọ.
04:46
And I saw no reflection of anyone
who looked like me in those narratives.
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Ahụghị m onye ọ bụla
yiri m n'ime akụkọ ndị ahụ
N'ime akụkọ "Binti" gbara ụzọ atọ,
04:50
In the "Binti" novella trilogy,
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04:52
Binti leaves the planet
to seek education from extraterrestrials.
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Binti hapụrụ ụwa
ịchọ ịhe ọmụmụ site na ndi ụwa ọzọ.
04:56
She goes out as she is,
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Ọ na-apụ dị ka ọ na-adị,
04:58
looking the way she looks,
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dịrị ka ọ na-adị oge ọbụla,
05:00
carrying her cultures,
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buru omenala ya,
05:01
being who she is.
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bụrụ onye ọ bụ.
Ọ mere m n'ime mmụọ ịde akụkọ a
05:04
I was inspired to write this story
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na abụghị na m na-eso
usoro ejiri mara akụkọ ngapụ ụwa,
05:05
not because I was following
a line of classic space opera narratives,
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05:10
but because of blood that runs deep,
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ma n'ihi ọbara nke na-agbami agbami,
05:12
family, cultural conflict
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ezinụlọ, esemokwu omenala
na mkpa dị n'ịhụ ka nwa agbọghọ Afrika
hapụrụ ụwa etu o sịrị chọọ ya.
05:15
and the need to see an African girl
leave the planet on her own terms.
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05:20
My science fiction
had different ancestors,
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Akụkọ sayensị m
nwere ndị nna nna dị iche,
05:23
African ones.
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Nke ndị Africa.
05:26
So I'm Nigerian-American.
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A bụ m onye Naijiria-Amerika.
05:28
I was born to two
Nigerian immigrant parents
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A mụrụ m na ezịnụlọ
ndị Naijiria kwabatara Amerika
05:31
and raised in the United States,
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A zụọ m na obodo United States,
05:33
one of the birthplaces
of classic science fiction.
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Otu n'ime ebe
akụkọ sayensị malitere.
05:36
However, it was my Nigerian heritage
that led me to write science fiction.
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Kama, ọkwa ọbara Naijirịa m nwere
mere m jiri malite dewe akụkọ sayensị.
05:41
Specifically I cite those family trips
to Nigeria in the late '90s.
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Okachasị nje m ezinụlọ anyị gara na
Naijiria oge ndịda afọ niile gbasara oge 1990
05:47
I'd been taking trips back to Nigeria
with my family since I was very young.
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Ezinụlọ anyị niile na-agakarị Naijiria
kemgbe m dị na nwata.
05:51
These early trips inspired me.
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Nje m ndị a kpaliri mmụọ m.
05:54
Hence the first story that I ever
even wrote took place in Nigeria.
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Ya bụ na akụkọ izizi m dere bụ na Naijiria
ka m dere ya.
05:58
I wrote mainly magical realism and fantasy
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Edere m maka ịhe dị omimi dị ka awnansị na echiche efu
06:01
inspired by my love of Igbo
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sitere n'ịhụnanya m nwere maka ịhe ndị Igbo
06:03
and other West African traditional
cosmologies and spiritualities.
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na omenala ime ihe mmụọ ya na ofufe
ndị ọzọ dị n'ebe ọdịda anyanwụ Afrika
06:08
However, in the late '90s,
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Kama, oge ndịda afọ niile gbasara oge 1990
06:11
I started noticing
the role of technology in Nigeria:
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A bịara m hụ
ọrụ teknụzụ na-arụ na Naijiria:
06:15
cable TV and cell phones in the village,
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Ihe onyoyo kebulu ya na ekwentị n'ime ọbọdo,
06:18
419 scammers occupying the cybercafes,
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Ndị otiaka 419 na anọ n'ịme ụlọ ịntaneti
06:21
the small generator connected
to my cousin's desktop computer
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Igwe mweta ọkụ na-enye
kọmpụta ibenna m ọkụ.
06:25
because the power
was always going on and off.
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maka na ọkụ na-anyụkarị
oge ọbụla
Onye america m bụ mere
06:28
And my Americanness othered me enough
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ka udi ịhe ndị a jiri kpalie mmụọ m.
ịhe ndị Naijiria ejighi kpọrọ ịhe.
06:31
to be intrigued by these things
that most Nigerians saw as normal.
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Mmụọ m kpalitere nụ
bụ ịhe mechara mụpụta akụkọ.
06:36
My intrigue eventually
gave birth to stories.
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06:40
I started opening strange doors.
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Amalitere m ịmeghe ọnụ ụzọ na amaghị ama.
Ndị ụwa ọzọ bịakwanụ Lagos, Naijiria?
06:44
What if aliens came to Lagos, Nigeria?
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Nke a bụ nkewapụ si
n'akwụkwọ akụkọ m bu "Lagoon"
06:50
This is an excerpt
from my novel, "Lagoon."
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06:56
Everybody saw it,
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Onye ọbụla hụrụ ya,
n'ụwa niile.
06:58
all over the world.
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07:00
That was a real introduction
to the great mess happening in Lagos,
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Nke ahụ bụ ezigbo mmeghe
na-egosi nnukwu ọgba aghara na-eme na Lagos,
07:04
Nigeria, West Africa, Africa, here.
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Naijiria, ọdịda anyanwụ Afrika, Afrika, ebe a.
07:10
Because so many people in Lagos
had portable, chargeable,
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N'ihi na ọtụtụ ndị nọ na Lagos
nwere ngwaọrụ obere a na-achanwu ọkụ,
07:13
glowing, vibrating, chirping, tweeting,
communicating, connected devices,
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na enwu ọkụ, ma ama jijiji, na-ebe ka nnụnụ,
nwekwara njikọ n'ịntaneti,
07:17
practically everything was recorded
and posted online in some way,
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A na edekọ ihe niile,
na-ebugo ya n'ịntaneti n'ụzọ ọbụla,
n'ụzọ dị iche,
07:21
somehow,
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07:23
quickly.
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ọsịsọ
07:25
The modern human world
is connected like a spider's web.
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Ụwa agbaaọhụụ ndị mmadụ
jikọtara ọnụ ka ọnya nwa ụdudo.
07:30
The world was watching.
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Ụwa na-ele anya.
07:32
It watched in fascinated horror
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O jị oke ụjọ na mmasị na-ele
07:34
for information,
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maka ozi,
07:36
but mostly for entertainment.
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Mana bụrụ karịa maka ntụrụndụ.
07:39
Footage of what was happening
dominated every international news source,
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Ndekọ nkiri ihe na-eme
na-achị akwụkwọ akụkọ ọ bụla dị na mba ụwa
07:42
video-sharing website, social network,
circle, pyramid and trapezoid.
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ebe nrụọrụ weebụ na-ese foto, netwọk mmekọrịta,
okirikiri, piramidi na trapezoidi.
07:47
But the story goes deeper.
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Mana akụkọ ahụ miri emi.
07:50
It is in the mud,
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Ọ dị n'ụrọ,
07:51
the dirt,
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aja,
07:53
the earth,
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ala
n'ihe omimi nke oke igwe.
07:55
in the fond memory of the soily cosmos.
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07:58
It is in the always mingling
past, present and future.
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Ọ dị na-ngwọkọta ihe na-eme
n'oge gara aga, ugbu a nakwa n'ọdịnihu.
08:02
It is in the water.
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Ọ dị na mmiri.
08:04
It is in the powerful spirits
and ancestors who dwelled in Lagos.
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Ọ dị na mmụọ dị ike
ya na ndi nna nna biiri na Lagos.
08:08
It is in the hearts and minds
of the people of Lagos.
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Ọ dị n'ime obi na uche
ndị Lagos
08:12
Change begets change.
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Mgbanwe na-ebute mgbanwe.
08:15
The alien Ayodele knew it.
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Onye ọbịa Ayodele maara ya.
08:17
All her people know it.
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Ndị nke ya niile maara.
08:21
So, this is a voice of Udide,
the supreme spider artist,
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Ya bụ, na nke a bụ olu Udide,
oke ọmenka ududo,
08:25
who is older than dirt
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bụ onye tọrọ aja
08:26
and lives in the dirt
beneath the city of Lagos,
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ma biri n'ime ala
n'okpuru obodo Lagos
08:29
listening and commenting
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na-ege ntị ma na-ekwu
08:31
and weaving the story
of extraterrestrials coming to Lagos.
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na-akpa akụkọ maka
ndị si ụwa ọzọ bịa Lagos
08:35
In the end, the great spider
who was the size of a house
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Na ngwụcha, oke ududo
nke ha ka ụlọ
08:38
and responsible for weaving
the past, present and future
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nke ọrụ ya bụ ịkpa
ihe gara aga, ugbua na ọdịnihu
08:41
decides to come forth
and be a part of the story.
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kpebiri ịpụta
ma bia soro n'akụkọ ahụ.
Di ka Udide , ududo omenka
08:45
Like Udide, the spider artist,
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Ọbara akụkọ sayensị Afrika gbamiri agbami
08:47
African science fiction's blood runs deep
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08:51
and it's old,
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ọ kara nka,
ọ dịla njikere ịpụta,
08:52
and it's ready to come forth,
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08:55
and when it does,
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oge ọ ga-apụta,
08:56
imagine the new technologies, ideas
and sociopolitical changes it'll inspire.
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were uche hụ ihe gbasara teknụzụ ọhụrụ, echiche
na mgbanwe ndị mmadụ nke ọ ga-akpalite.
09:03
For Africans, homegrown
science fiction can be a will to power.
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Abịa na ndi Africa, akụkọ sayensi si Africa
nwere ike ịbụ uche ga-enye ike.
09:08
What if?
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Ọ bụrụ na?
09:10
It's a powerful question.
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Ọ bụ ajụjụ siri ike.
Daalụ
09:12
Thank you.
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09:13
(Applause)
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(Nkụrụaka)
Translated by Yvonne Mbanefo
Reviewed by TED Translators Admin

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ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Nnedi Okorafor - Science fiction writer
Nnedi Okorafor weaves African cultures into the evocative settings and memorable characters of her science fiction work for kids and adults.

Why you should listen

Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism. Born in the US to Nigerian immigrant parents, Okorafor is known for weaving African cultures into creative settings and memorable characters. Her books include Lagoon (a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist for best novel), Who Fears Death (a World Fantasy Award winner for best novel), Kabu Kabu (a Publisher's Weekly best book for Fall 2013), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com best book of the year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature) and The Shadow Speaker (a CBS Parallax Award winner).

Her 2016 novel The Book of Phoenix is an Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist, while the first book in the Binti Trilogy won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella. Her children’s book Chicken in the Kitchen won an Africana Book Award. The final installment of the Binti Trilogy, titled The Night Masquerade, will be released in September 2017, and the sequel to Akata Witch (titled Akata Warrior) is was published in October 2017. Meanwhile, her book Who Fears Death has been optioned by HBO, with Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin as executive producer.

Okorafor is a full professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY).

More profile about the speaker
Nnedi Okorafor | Speaker | TED.com