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Cyprian Ekwensi

Cyprian Ekwensi (1921–2007) was born into an Igbo family in a small city in central Nigeria and raised in the country’s rural southwest. He studied Yoruba culture at Ibadan University College before matriculating at the School of Forestry. While working as a forestry officer in 1945, he began writing short stories, which were soon anthologized in both Nigeria and England. In 1951 Ekwensi moved to London on a scholarship to study pharmacy; in 1954 he published his debut novel, People of the City. After his return to Nigeria, he worked at the Nigerian Broadcasting Company and married Eunice Anyiwo, with whom he had five children. At the outbreak of civil war in 1966, Ekwensi took a post in the secessionist Biafran government. All the while, he wrote hundreds of short stories and radio and television scripts, as well as dozens of novels, including Jagua Nana (1961) and Burning Grass (1962), two staples of the Nigerian high-school curriculum. In 1968 he was awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld International Prize in Literature, and in 2006 he became a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters.