Catherine Acholonu was born in Orlu to the family of Chief Lazarus Olumba. She attended secondary schools in Orlu before becoming the first African woman to gain a master's degree (1977) and a PhD (1987) from the University of Düsseldorf, Germany. She taught at Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, commencing 1978.
Acholonu was the author of over 16 books, many of which are used in secondary schools and universities in Nigeria, and in African Studies Departments in USA and Europe. Her works and projects enjoyed the collaboration and the support of United States Information Service (USIS), the British Council, the Rockefeller Foundation and in 1989 she was invited to tour educational institutions in USA, lecturing on her works under the United States International Visitor's Program. In 1990 Catherine Acholonu was honoured with the Fulbright Scholar in Residency award by the US government, during which she lectured at four colleges of the Westchester Consortium for International studies, NY, USA.
Part of her work took her into the wider sphere of sustainable development. In 1986 she was the only Nigerian, and one of two Africans to participate in the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on "Women, Population and Sustainable Development: the Road to Rio, Cairo and Beijing”, which was organised jointly by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Division for the Advancement of Women, and the Division for Sustainable Development. This took place in the Dominican Republic, and focused on the mainstreaming of gender into the Plans of Action of the UN world conferences of Rio, Beijing and Cairo.
From 1999 to 2002, she was the Special Adviser on Arts and Culture to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a post she resigned from to seek election, along with a number of other writers who felt their inclusion in Nigerian politics would for the good. However, she lost the contest for the Orlu senatorial district seat of Imo State, and drew attention to irregularities and rigging.
She was recently appointed African Renaissance Ambassador by the African Renaissance Conference with headquarters in the Republic of Benin, and Nigeria's sole representative at the global Forum of Arts and Culture for the Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNFAC). Prof Acholonu holds several awards from home and abroad. She was listed in the International Who's Who of World Leadership, USA; the African Women Writers' Who's Who; the Top 500 Women in Nigeria; Who's Who in Nigeria; and the International Authors and Writers Who's Who, published in Cambridge, UK.
Acholonu was the Director of the Catherine Acholonu Research Center, Abuja (CARC), which she co-founded with Ambassador (Dr.) Ajay Prabhakar. The center, based in Abuja, is pioneering research into Africa's pre-history, stone inscriptions, cave art, and linguistic analyses of ancient symbols and communication mediums from the continent. She argues that Nigerian rock-art inscriptions, known as Ikom Monoliths, prove that "Sub-Saharan African Blacks possessed an organized system of writing before 2000 B.C." and that she and her assistants are able to translate these.
In her book, They Lived Before Adam: Prehistoric Origins of the Igbo The Never-Been-Ruled, she says that Igbo oral tradition is consistent with scientific research into the origins of humanity. Speaking at the Harlem Book Fair, Acholonu summarised the content of her argument as follows:
Our research includes the origin and meanings of symbols used in every religion and sacred literature all over the world. In these, we found that the Hebrew Bible, the Kabbalahs of the Hebrews and the Chinese, the Hindu Vedas and Ramayana, and the recently discovered Egyptian Christian Bible called the Nag Hammadi are of immense importance in revealing lost knowledge. Wherever we looked we found evidence confirming the claims by geneticists who have been conducting mitochondrial DNA research in four leading universities here in the USA that all mankind came from sub-Saharan Africa, that Eve and Adam were black Africans...Igbo oral traditions confirm the findings of geneticists, that by 208000BC – 208000 BC – human evolution was interrupted and Adam, a hybrid, was created through the process of genetic engineering. However, our findings reveal that the creation of Adam was a downward climb on the evolutionary ladder, because he lost his divine essence, he became divided, no longer whole, or wholesome. All over Africa and in ancient Egyptian reports, oral and written traditions maintain that homo erectus people were heavenly beings, and possessed mystical powers such as telepathy, levitation, bi-location, that their words could move rocks and mountains and change the course of rivers. Adam lost all that when his right brain was shut down by those who made him.
Acholonu died on 18 March 2014 at the age of 62 from a year-long renal failure."Going Home"
"Spring's Last Drop"
"Harvest of War"
"Other Forms of Slaughter"
The Spring's Last Drop, 1985
Nigeria in the Year 1999, 1985
Recite and Learn – Poems for Junior Primary Schools, 1986
Recite and Learn – Poems for Senior Primary Schools, 1986
Trial of the Beautiful Ones: a play in one act, Owerri, Nigeria: Totan, 1985
The Deal and Who is the Head of State, Owerri, Nigeria: Totan, 1986
Into the Heart of Biafra: a play in three acts, Owerri, Nigeria: C. Acholonu, 1970
Western and Indigenous Traditions in Modern Igbo Literature , 1985.
Motherism, The Afrocentric Alternative to Feminism, 1995.
The Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano, 1995, revised 2007.
The Earth Unchained: A Quantum Leap in Consciousness: a reply to Al Gore, 1995
Africa the New Frontier – Towards a Truly Global Literary Theory for the 21st Century. Lecture Delivered to the Association of Nigerian Authors annual Convention, 2002.
The Gram Code of African Adam: Stone Books and Cave Libraries, Reconstructing 450,000 Years of Africa's Lost Civilizations, 2005
They Lived Before Adam: Pre-Historic Origins of the Igbo – The Never-Been-Ruled (Ndi Igbo since 1.6 million B.C.), 2009. Winner of the USA-based International Book Awards (2009) in the Multi-cultural non-fiction category.
The Lost Testament of the Ancestors of Adam: Unearthing Heliopolis/Igbo Ukwu – The Celestial City of the Gods of Egypt and India, 2010
(with Joyce Ann Penfield), "Linguistic Processes of Lexical Innovation in Igbo." Anthropological Linguistics. 22 (1980). 118–130.
"The Role of Nigerian Dancers in Drama." Nigeria Magazine. 53.1 (1985). 33–39.
"The Home of Olaudah Equiano – A Linguistic and Anthropological Search", The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 22.1 (1987). 5–16.
"L'Igbo Langue Litteraire: Le Cas du Nigeria." [Literary Igbo Language: The Case of Nigeria.] Notre Librairie: Revue du Livre: Afrique, Caraibes, Ocean Indien. 98 (Jul–Sept 1989). 26–30.
"Mother was a Great Man." In The Heinemann Book of African Women's Writing. Ed. Charlotte H. Bruner. London: Heinemann, 1993. 7–14.
"Motherism: The Afrocentric Alternative to Feminism." Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine. (March–April 2002).