Binti

by

Nnedi Okorafor

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Okwu Character Analysis

Okwu is a young, hotheaded Meduse. Though Binti occasionally uses he/him pronouns for Okwu, she most often uses “it.” Okwu has a distinctive voice—Binti describes it as almost female-sounding, which sets it apart from the low rumbling voices of the other Meduse—and it also sounds angrier than the others, which are the main reasons that Okwu stands out initially to Binti (Okwu is also the only named Meduse, aside from the chief). Initially, Okwu engages with Binti angrily and fearfully. It’s afraid of the edan and afraid of Binti, but the two gradually begin to trust each other after Okwu brushes Binti’s arm and rubs off some of her otjize—and the otjize heals the wound on Okwu’s stinger, which it suffered trying to sting Binti. Okwu is instrumental in teaching Binti about the Meduse ethos and way of life. Like all Meduse, Okwu is rational, honorable, truthful, and violent when it needs to be. It insists that it’s essential for an individual to act with purpose, and that if someone acts with purpose, violence can be acceptable and even honorable. Okwu also hates humans (Binti included) as a general rule due to the Meduse’s conflict with the Khoush. This hatred increased some time before the novel began, when researchers at Oomza University stole the chief Meduse’s stinger. As Binti and Okwu begin to share information about their cultures and even laugh together, they form a tentative friendship. Okwu is willing to risk its life to help Binti speak to the chief and advocate for a nonviolent negotiation for the chief’s stinger. During the negotiations, Okwu shows itself to be far more like Binti and far more of a friend than Binti initially suspected. Okwu supports Binti when she almost faints, and it gladly accepts a spot as a student at Oomza Uni after the negotiations and takes pride in the fact that most of the other students are scared of it. Though Okwu’s rationality and lack of emotion occasionally hurts Binti’s feelings, Okwu also makes sure to be clear that they’re friends, no matter what.

Okwu Quotes in Binti

The Binti quotes below are all either spoken by Okwu or refer to Okwu. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Tom Doherty edition of Binti published in 2015.
Binti Quotes

In my culture, it is blasphemy to pray to inanimate objects, but I did it anyway. I prayed to a metal even my father had been unable to identify. I held it to my chest, shut my eyes, and I prayed to it, I am in your protection. Please protect me.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Heru, Okwu, Binti’s Father
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

“Evil thing,” I heard the one called Okwu say. Of all the voices, that one I could recognize. It was the angriest and scariest. The voice sounded spoken, not transmitted in my mind. I could hear the vibration of the “v” in “evil” and the hard breathy “th” in “thing.” Did they have mouths?

Related Characters: Okwu (speaker), Binti (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

I couldn’t give all my otjize to this Meduse; this was my culture.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Okwu
Related Symbols: Otjize
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

I sat up straight, ignoring the fatigue trying to pull my bones to the bed. “I am Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib.” I considered speaking its single name to reflect its cultural simplicity compared to mine, but my strength and bravado were already waning.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Okwu
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

I frowned at it. Realizing something. It spoke like one of my brothers, Bena. I was born only three years after him yet we’d never been very close. He was angry and always speaking out about the way my people were maltreated by the Khoush majority despite the fact that they needed us and our astrolabes to survive. He was always calling them evil, though he’d never traveled to a Khoush country or known a Khoush. His anger was rightful, but all that he said was from what he didn’t truly know.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Okwu, Bena
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

“In your university, in one of its museums, placed on display like a piece of rare meat is the stinger of our chief,” it said. I wrinkled my face, but said nothing. “Our chief is...” it paused. “We know of the attack and mutilation of our chief, but we do not know how it got there. We do not care. We will land on Oomza Uni and take it back.”

Related Characters: Okwu (speaker), Binti, The Chief
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Spongy. As if it were full of the firm jelly beads in the milky pudding my mother liked to make. I could sense current all around me. These people had deep active technology built into the walls and many of them had it running within their very bodies. Some of them were walking astrolabes, it was part of their biology.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Okwu, The Chief, Binti’s Mother
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

“Was it the sting?” I asked.

“No,” it said. “That is something else. You understand, because you truly are what you say you are—a harmonizer.”

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Okwu (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Several of the human professors looked at each other and chuckled. One of the large insectile people clicked its mandibles. I frowned, flaring my nostrils. It was the first time I’d received treatment similar to the way my people were treated on Earth by the Khoush. In a way, this set me at ease. People were people, everywhere. These professors were just like anyone else.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), Haras, The Chief, Okwu
Related Symbols: Otjize
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

“You’ve never seen the Meduse, either. Only studied them...from afar. I know. I have read about them too.” I stepped forward. “Or maybe some of you or your students have studied the stinger you have in the weapons museum up close.”

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), The Chief, Okwu, Haras
Page Number: 75-76
Explanation and Analysis:

The spiderlike Haras raised two front legs and spoke in the language of the Meduse and said, “On behalf of all the people of Oomza Uni and on behalf of Oomza University, I apologize for the actions of a group of our own in taking the stinger from you, Chief Meduse. The scholars who did this will be found, expelled, and exiled. Museum specimen of such prestige are highly prized at our university, however such things must only be acquired with permission from the people to whom they belong. [...] We will return it to you immediately.”

Related Characters: The Chief, Binti, Okwu
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
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Binti PDF

Okwu Character Timeline in Binti

The timeline below shows where the character Okwu appears in Binti. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Binti
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
The voices argue. One Meduse, whom the others call Okwu, wants to break down the door and kill Binti. Binti interrupts their arguing and calls... (full context)
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...Binti sits against the door. Leaves appear above her shoulder and make her giggle. Calmly, Okwu asks if Binti understands them. Binti says she does, but Okwu says that all humans... (full context)
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
Okwu speaks again and asks about the “blue ghost” that Binti created to help them converse.... (full context)
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...a tentacle. The Meduse tells Binti that she’s evil, and Binti recognizes the voice as Okwu’s. The Meduse leave. (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...speak to the Meduse. It reveals nothing. Binti lies down and lets herself tree. Suddenly, Okwu surprises her and demands to know what’s on Binti’s skin. Binti snaps that she’s the... (full context)
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Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
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Fifteen minutes later, Okwu returns. Binti checks to see that she was right—the tentacle that touched her otjize isn’t... (full context)
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Okwu doesn’t move. Binti asks if the otjize helped its tentacle, but Okwu blows an irritated... (full context)
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Okwu again asks how they’re able to communicate. Binti makes herself sound powerful and admits she... (full context)
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Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...full of bones. As Binti tries to work a long bone out of her mouth, Okwu suddenly appears. Surprised, Binti almost chokes on the bone. Okwu just hovers and breathes as... (full context)
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...the chefs on the ship do, but they remove all the bones. Hesitatingly, Binti thanks Okwu for the food. Okwu says it wishes it could just kill Binti, but Binti parrots... (full context)
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Okwu remarks that the Khoush’s skin is the color of the flesh of Binti’s fish. They... (full context)
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Binti can tell that Okwu is young. In a way, it reminds Binti of herself. It’s curious. Maybe this is... (full context)
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Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
Binti reminds Okwu that its okuoko is healed and asks if it’ll let her live in thanks. Angrily,... (full context)
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Binti asks Okwu about the “current-killer” it used in the Meduse-Khoush war and reminds it that suicide means... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
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Binti knows she should be terrified. The chief hates humans, so both she and Okwu are risking their lives. But the ground feels spongy like pudding that Binti’s mother likes... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
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...to spare other lives, lowers her head, and pulls the edan to her belly like Okwu told her to do. She confirms that she knows about the chief’s stinger, and Binti... (full context)
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With Okwu’s prodding, Binti shares her plan to negotiate peacefully with Oomza Uni. Binti insists that many... (full context)
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Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...horrible, rumbling, angry growl. She’s terrified that a monster is coming for her, but it’s Okwu—and she understands what Okwu is saying. Binti sits and then drags herself onto her bed... (full context)
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Binti follows Okwu and the chief through the ship. She sees all the Meduse in the dining room.... (full context)
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Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...the ship, human soldiers meet them. The chief growls for Binti to go first and Okwu softly tells Binti to look strong. Her scalp still tingles as Binti steps off the... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...it up willingly. After this, the professors form a group and talk among themselves. Binti, Okwu, and the chief stand awkwardly. Binti is used to elders talking privately, and Okwu seems... (full context)
Science, Humanity, and the Ethics of Research Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...stinger right away, which makes Binti sink to the floor. She apologizes and then feels Okwu steady her from behind. Binti pulls herself back up, and Haras tells Binti that she... (full context)
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Then, Haras invites Okwu to stay as the first Meduse student at Oomza University. Okwu’s attendance will be a... (full context)
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...meditation and trees to calm herself. Her hair isn’t hair anymore; it’s blue okuoko like Okwu’s tentacles. (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...the rest of her body to see what else the sting did to her, but Okwu quietly assures her that it was just her hair. Binti asks if this is why... (full context)
Science, Humanity, and the Ethics of Research Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...that people look at her skin and hair with wonder. When they see her with Okwu, they move away. Binti is fascinating; Okwu is a threat. Okwu enjoys this and declares... (full context)
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In one of the libraries in Weapons City, Binti and Okwu stare at the empty place where the chief’s stinger used to be. The city is... (full context)
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...like hair or if they are hair, but she decides she’s not ready to ask Okwu. Binti allows her okuoko to dry in the sun. (full context)
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Binti goes to see Okwu at its dorm. Okwu emerges and tells Binti that she looks well; she looked like... (full context)
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At Binti’s dorm, Okwu insists it knows what Binti is thinking. Binti sobs that the Meduse are honorable, but... (full context)