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.

Long Winded Writer

Woman writing with her computer.Image: Pexels.com After posting my last article – When A Perfectionist Fails – on my blog, I got great reviews and some not so good ones. It was, quite frankly, another day in my life as a writer. Few days after the post, one of my very good friends called me to share his views on the article. I was elated that he took time out to share good tips for future auditions and to critique my writing. Before we ended the call, he advised me to cut down on some of the details in my writing and jump to the point. If that had happened two years ago, I probably would have gone into a fit but I didn’t even get angry. The sky spirits really are working overtime on my anger management issues. Plus, he is a good friend and I know that he was looking out for me. I explained to him that I am a long winded writer and that was my style. He ended the call by urging me to stay true to my style. You see, I grew up reading big books. At 10, I used to ‘steal’ my mum’s Mills & Boons to read. I would finish them in a day so I could return them to the exact spot on her shelf where she left them so I wouldn’t get caught. I got caught one day and received some good ‘konks’ but that did not deter me. The world which flowed from books was something I wanted to explore. You can be sure that because I have an over-imaginative mind, books were the perfect get-away for me.  I bought my first book at age 12. It was ‘When the Splendor Falls’ by Laurie McBain. It was 678 pages long with pages and pages of descriptive writing that some people might have called ‘unnecessary information’. Not me. I kept reading the book like a child chasing after candy. You cannot imagine the utter joy I felt when I found a link between something that happened almost at the beginning of the novel and something that happened close to the end. It gave me great pleasure to scroll back to the page and just cry as I made the connection! When I outgrew romance novels and moved to espionage and murder mysteries, I realized that those unnecessary details tended to be the biggest clues in solving crimes or the murder mystery. If you have read the James Hadley Chase, Agatha Christie, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Quintin Jardine or Mario Puzo books, you know that the devil is in the detail. I wanted to write like these authors. I wanted to translate African stories in clear and concise terms as these renowned authors wrote their stories. I may have been a kid, but I felt that I could project my stories to the world with my pen…and I meant that literally. Thank GOD technology latched on and made things far easier! Hallelujah! When I was in school, I never had problems when we were told to write essays; especially descriptive essays. My only problem was the limit placed on those essays. In my view, 250 words were just too small to convey any idea that I had! As we got older and the limits increased, I had no problems meeting (and going above) the stipulated limit; I cannot say the same about most of friends though. I am sure that you can imagine the subtopic I hated in English Language. Yes! It was SUMMARY! Still hate that thing jare! I write for people who have an eye for detail; people who want to smell the freshly baked croissants off the pages of the book, to feel, from the writing, the scorching sun as they travel the sun-kissed desert road on the way to Niger and the constriction in their hearts with each flip of the page as the victim tries to evade her huge attacker. Every writer has their style and that is great. My sister Enigbe writes poetry so great you have to read twice to understand what she is about; or at least, that is what I do when I read her poetry. I am so not a fan of written poetry! Too much to think about, just like chess. My other sister Sadiya writes poetry in a way that is completely different from how Enigbe writes but is no less deep and thought provoking. My poetry on the other hand just sucks! We are one blood, closer than peas in a pod, have nearly similar interests, but write completely differently. We used to have problems with our styles but we grew to the conclusion that we, after all, have different vantage points on any given issue and that translates to how we write our pieces. While I would like to describe all I can see in an empty room, Enigbe would most likely liken the room to a hollow tunnel that closes up slowly until claustrophobia sets in and Sadiya would probably talk about how the level of our emptiness determines how we react to the world and why it is necessary to never have a vacuum in our lives. One scenario, at least three ways it could be written! And talking vantage points, that movie is one of my all-time favorites because of the details that went into one murder. But hey, I digress. Back to writing. When one of my old friend writes for radio and TV, the pieces are so quirky, fun, and engaging that you wonder where the creativity comes from. I am not ashamed to say that he had the highest number of fans and pulled the largest number of listeners to the shows we used to host together. He inspired me more than I let on. Similarly, one person that really inspires me is another friend of mine. He is a weird writer and trust me, he is weird!

Quick Links

Find Us:

Beaufort Court Estate,

Lugbe, Abuja.

Call Us: