Flora Nwapa

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Flora Nwapa
Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa.jpg
Born(1931-01-13)13 January 1931
Died16 October 1993(1993-10-16) (aged 62)
GenresNovels; Short stories; Poems; Plays

Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa (13 January 1931 – 16 October 1993), was a Nigerian author who has been called the mother of modern African literature. She was the forerunner to a generation of African women writers, and was also acknowledged as the first African woman novelist to be published in the English language in Britain. She achieved international recognition,[1] with her first novel Efuru, published in 1966 at the age of 30 years 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 is also 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. Furthermore, she published 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 year 1970. She was made the Ogbuefi in 1978, not a small achievement in the paternalistic societies of Africa where some men look upon women as objects of subjugation. But with Flora Nwapa, even men doffed their feathered hats and gave her the salutes she truly deserve.


Early years and education[edit]

Nwapa was born in Oguta,[4] in south-eastern Nigeria, the 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, Secondary School at Elelenwa in Port Harcourt and Lagos. At the age of 22 years she entered the university in 1953 and earned a B.A degree at the age of 26 years from University College, Ibadan, in 1957. She then went to Scotland, where she earned a Diploma in Education from Edinburgh University in 1958.

Family Life[edit]

Flora Nwapa had three children Ejine Nzeribe (from her previous relationship), Uzoma Gogo Nwakuche and Amede Nzeribe. She was married to Chief Gogo Nwakuche. This 1987 Norwegian TV documentary provides the best insight on Flora Nwapa's family life. https://tv.nrk.no/serie/forfatterinne-i-dag/1987/FOLA00000687/avspiller

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 1959 to 1962. 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] She was a visiting lecturer at Alvan Ikoku College of Education in Owerri, Nigeria. In 1989, she was appointed a visiting professor of creative writing at University of Maiduguri.

Writing and publishing[edit]

Nwapa's first book, Efuru, was published in 1966 at the age of 30 years and is considered a pioneering work as an English-language novel by an African woman writer.[2] She sent the transcript to the famous Nigerian author Chinua Achebe in 1962, who replied with a very positive letter and even included money for the postage to mail the manuscript to the English publisher, Heinemann.[6][7]

It was followed by the other novels such as Idu (1970), 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 is also the author of several books for children.

In the year 1974, she founded Tana Press, and in 1977 the Flora Nwapa Company, publishing her own adult and children's literature as well as works by other writers.[2][8] She gave as one of her 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][9] Tana has been described as "the first press run by a woman and targeted at a large 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."[10]

At the beginning of Flora Nwapa's literary career, as a result of the way feminism was viewed and the way it was portrayed, she had no interest in feminism because she felt it was prejudiced against men but she eventually came to terms with it. However, her struggle with feminism is representative of the present conversations about the movement in Africa and the world at large.[11]

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, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the 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 of pneumonia on 16 October 1993 at a hospital in Enugu, Nigeria, at the age of 62.[12]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Women are Different, Enugu: Tana Press, 1986; Africa World Press, 1992, ISBN 9780865433267
  • One Is Enough, Enugu: Flora Nwapa Co., 1981; Tana Press, 1984; Africa World Press, 1992, ISBN 9780865433229
  • Never Again, Enugu: Tana Press, 1975; Nwamife, 1976; Africa World Press, 1992, ISBN 9780865433182
  • Idu, Heinemann African Writers Series, No. 56, ISBN 0-435-90056-0; 1970
  • Efuru, Heinemann Educational Books, 1966; Waveland Press, 2013, ISBN 9781478613275
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: Flora Nwapa Co., 1980
  • The Miracle Kittens, Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1980
  • Journey to Space, Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1980
  • Mammywater, 1979; Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1984
  • Emeka, Driver's Guard, London: University of London Press, 1972; Enugu: Flora Nwapa Company, 1987


Flora Nwapa is the subject of a documentary entitled, The House of Nwapa, made by Onyeka Nwelue,[13] that premiered in August 2016.[14][15][16]

On 13 January 2017, Nwapa's birthday was marked with a Google Doodle.[17][18][19][20]

Flora Nwapa's 1st and only son, Uzoma Gogo Nwakuche founded Flora Nwapa Foundation, a California Non Profit Corporation in 1994 following the death of his mother in 1993. Flora Nwapa Foundation celebrated Efuru@50 in 2016. A documentary of the event was produced by Paula Uimonen https://www.socant.su.se/english/research/our-researchers/paula-uimonenhttps://www.youtube.com/watch? @floranwapa v=EndOXak9ESQ&t=1518s


  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. ^ Ainehi Edoro, Flora Nwapa and the Letter That Changed Nigerian Literature Forever, thejournalist.org.za, retrieved March 2017
  7. ^ Ezenwa-Ohaeto, Chinua Achebe: A Biography, p. 93, (ISBN 9780253333421), via google-books
  8. ^ Hans M. Zell, "Publishing and Book Development in Africa: A Bibliography" (Studies on Books and Reading, UNESCO), p. 4.
  9. ^ "Frankfurt Book Fair 1980", Flora Nwapa interviewed in The African Book Publishing Record, Vol. VII, No. 1, 1981, p. 6.
  10. ^ "Flora Nwapa and the Letter That Changed Nigerian Literature Forever", Brittle Paper, 3 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Everything about Flora Nwapa screamed 'feminist', everything but her own words - Ventures Africa". Ventures Africa. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  12. ^ Brenda F, Berrian, "In Memoriam: Flora Nwapa (1931–1993", Signs, Vol. 20, No. 4, Postcolonial, Emergent, and Indigenous Feminisms (Summer 1995), pp. 996–999.
  13. ^ Wealth Ominabo Dickson, Interview with Onyeka Nwelue, Premium Times, 18 August 2016.
  14. ^ Cheta Igbokwe, "Onyeka Nwelue’s ‘House of Nwapa’ Documentary Film Premiers in Zimbabwe", State Reporters, 28 August 2016.
  15. ^ Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, "‘Why I made a documentary on Flora Nwapa’", Daily Trust, 2 October 2016.
  16. ^ Ikhide R. Ikheloa, "Flora Nwapa and the house that Onyeka Nwelue built for her", Ikhide blog, 27 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Flora Nwapa’s 86th Birthday", Google Doodles Archive, 13 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Google Celebrates Flora Nwapa with a 'This Day in History' Doodle", Brittle Paper, 13 January 2017.
  19. ^ Tonye Bakare, "Google honours late Nigerian novelist Flora Nwapa", The Guardian (Nigeria), 13 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Google celebrates Flora Nwanzuruahu Nwapa with a doodle", Vanguard, 14 January 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Curry, Ginette. Awakening African Women: The Dynamics of Change. Cambridge Scholars Press, London. 4 January 2004. [1].
  • 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.