Why Flora Nwapa Matters

The first thing that hit us today when we went online was the Google Doodle showing a black woman in what looked like a field of corn seemingly planting (or harvesting) books. We were piqued. Who was this woman? A further click revealed her to be Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa or the popular short form, Flora Nwapa. She was born January 13, 1931 and is a Nigerian (Igbo) author from Oguta, Imo State. She was the eldest of six children and attended school in Port Harcourt and Lagos. She then went on to earn a BA degree from University College, Ibadan, in I957. In 1958, she headed to Scotland where she earned a Diploma in Education from Edinburgh University. When she returned to Nigeria, she became a teacher and grew in the ranks of civil service. By 1974, she had been a registrar at the University of Lagos, a Minister of Health and Social Welfare in East Central State and subsequently, a Minister of Lands, Survey and Urban Development. She has been called the ‘Mother of modern African Literature’ and is famous for her book, Efuru. A forerunner to a generation of African women writers, she is recognized as the first African woman novelist to be published in English Language in Britain. Flora Nwapa wrote from the Igbo woman’s viewpoint by recreating life and traditions of the people. Her first book – Efuru – launched her into international acclaim but didn’t stop her drive. She went on to write Idu, Never Again, One is Enoughand Women are Different. She also published two collections of stories – This is Lagos and Wives at War – and the volume of poems Cassava Song and Rice Song. There are other books credited to her; mainly books for children. Her drive was persistent as she moved from writing to owning her publishing companies; Tana Press and Flora Nwapa Company. She published her own work and firmly pushed the objective of informing and educating women from all over the world about the role of women in Nigeria, their economic independence, their relationships with their husbands and children and other areas of a woman’s life. She continued to teach all through her life and held lectures at various colleges and universities across the world. While never considering herself a feminist, she inspired a generation of writers by daring to pioneer writing and publishing as an African woman. Her need to educate and inform African women on their roles in development is something we will always treasure. She died in Enugu after a bout of pneumonia on October 16, 1993. She was 62 years old. She would have been 86 today. And though she died physically, she lives on! In her books, in every life she has touched, in every heart she inspired and helped ignite a fire for better, she lives on. Thank you Flora Nwapa for refusing to be average at a time where being so was the expected. Thank you for being you! Happy posthumous birthday.

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