Flora Nwapa

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Flora Nwapa
Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa.jpg
Born (1931-01-13)13 January 1931
Died 16 October 1993(1993-10-16) (aged 62)
Nationality Nigerian
Genres Novels; Short stories

Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa (13 January 1931 – 16 October 1993) was a Nigerian author best known as Flora Nwapa, who has been called the mother of modern African literature. The forerunner to a generation of African women writers, she is acknowledged as the first African woman novelist to be published in the English language in Britain and achieve international recognition,[1] with her first novel Efuru being published in 1966 by Heinemann Educational Books. While never considering herself a feminist, she is best known for recreating life and traditions from an Igbo woman's viewpoint.[2]

Nwapa also is known for her governmental work in reconstruction after the Biafran War. In particular she worked with orphans and refugees who were displaced during the war. Further she worked as a publisher of African literature and promoted women in African society.[3] She was one of the first African women publishers when she founded Tana Press in the 1970s.


Early years and education[edit]

Born in Oguta,[4] in south-eastern Nigeria, eldest of the six children of Christopher Ijeoma (an agent with the United Africa Company) and Martha Nwapa, a teacher of drama,[5] Flora Nwapa attended school in Oguta, Port Harcourt and Lagos. She went on to earn a BA degree from University College, Ibadan, in 1957. She then went to Scotland where she earned a Diploma in Education from Edinburgh University in 1958.

Teaching and public service[edit]

After returning to Nigeria, Nwapa joined the Ministry of Education in Calabar as an Education Officer until 1959. She then took employment as a teacher at Queen's School in Enugu, where she taught English and Geography from 1969 to 1971. She continued to work in both education and the civil service in several positions, including as Assistant Registrar, University of Lagos (1962–67).[3] After the Nigerian civil war of 1967–70, she accepted cabinet office as Minister of Health and Social Welfare in East Central State (1970–71), and subsequently as Minister of Lands, Survey and Urban Development (1971–74).[2]

Writing and publishing[edit]

Nwapa's first book, Efuru, was published in 1966, a pioneering work as an English-language novel by an African woman writer.[2] It was followed by the novels Idu (1967), Never Again (1975), One is Enough (1981) and Women Are Different (1986). She published two collections of stories — This Is Lagos (1971) and Wives at War (1980) — and the volume of poems Cassava Song and Rice Song (1986). She was also the author of several books for children.

In the 1974 she founded Tana Press and in 1977 the Flora Nwapa Company, publishing her own adult and children's literature as well as work by other writers.[2][6] She gave as one of objectives: "to inform and educate women all over the world, especially Feminists (both with capital F and small f) about the role of women in Nigeria, their economic independence, their relationship with their husbands and children, their traditional beliefs and their status in the community as a whole".[1][7] Tana has been described as "the first press run by a woman and targeted at a largely female audience. A project far beyond its time at a period when no one saw African women as constituting a community of readers or a book-buying demographic."[8]

Later years[edit]

Nwapa's career as an educator continued throughout her life and encompassed teaching at colleges and universities internationally, including at New York University, Trinity College, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, and University of Ilorin. She said in an interview with Contemporary Authors, "I have been writing for nearly thirty years. My interest has been on both the rural and the urban woman in her quest for survival in a fast-changing world dominated by men."[2]

Flora Nwapa died from pneumonia on 16 October 1993 in hospital in Enugu, Nigeria, at the age of 62.[9]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Short stories/poems
  • This Is Lagos and Other Stories, Enugu: Nwamife, 1971; Africa World Press, 1992, ISBN 9780865433212
  • Cassava Song and Rice Song, Enugu: Tana Press, 1986
  • Wives at War and Other Stories, Enugu: Nwamife, 1980; Flora Nwapa Co./Tana Press, 1984; Africa World Press, 1992, ISBN 9780865433281
Children's books
  • The Adventures of Deke, Enugu: Tana Press, 1986
  • Emeka, Driver's Guard, London, 1972; Nwapa, 1987
  • Mammywater, 1979; Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1984
  • Journey to Space, Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1980
  • The Miracle Kittens, Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1980
  • The Adventures of Deke, Enugu: Flora Nwapa Co., 1980

See also[edit]

Nigerian women novelists


  1. ^ a b Margaret Busby, "Flora Nwapa", Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent (1992), Vintage: 1993, p. 399.
  2. ^ a b c d e Susan Leisure, "Nwapa, Flora", Postcolonial Studies @ Emory, Emory University, Fall 1996.
  3. ^ a b Literary Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Hamilton, Janice, Nigeria in Pictures, p. 71.
  5. ^ "Interesting Things About Flora Nwapa, Nigeria’s First Female Novelist", Information Nigeria, 1 March 2013.
  6. ^ Hans M. Zell, "Publishing and Book Development in Africa: A Bibliography" (Studies on Books and Reading, UNESCO), p. 4.
  7. ^ "Frankfurt Book Fair 1980", Flora Nwapa interviewed in The African Book Publishing Record, Vol. VII, No. 1, 1981, p. 6.
  8. ^ "Flora Nwapa and the Letter That Changed Nigerian Literature Forever", Brittle Paper, 3 February 20016.
  9. ^ Brenda F, Berrian, "In Memoriam: Flora Nwapa (1931–1993", Signs, Vol. 20, No. 4, Postcolonial, Emergent, and Indigenous Feminisms (Summer 1995), pp. 996-999.

Further reading[edit]

  • Adeola, James (ed.), In Their Own Voices, African Women Writers Talk, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990.
  • Andrade, Susan Z., "Rewriting History, Motherhood and Rebellion", Research in African Literatures 21. (1990): 91-110.
  • Ezeigbo, Theodora Akachi, "Traditional Women’s Institutions in Igbo Society: Implications for the Igbo Female Writer", Languages and Cultures 3. (1990): 149-65.
  • Githaiga, Anna, Notes on Flora Nwapa's "Efuru", Nairobi: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979.
  • Ikonne, Chidi, "The Society and Woman’s Quest for Selfhood in Flora Nwapa’s Early Novels". Kunapipi 6. (1984): 68-78.
  • Nzegwu, Femi, Love, Motherhood and the African Heritage: The Legacy of Flora Nwapa, African Renaissance Foundation (paperback 2003), ISBN 1-903625-09-2
  • Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo, Africa Wo/Man Palava, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • Umeh, Marie, Emerging Perspectives on Flora Nwapa: Critical and Theoretical Essays, Africa World Press (1998), ISBN 0-86543-515-4
  • Wilentz, Gay, Binding Cultures, Black Women Writers in Africa and the Diaspora, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.