Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa, a Nigerian novelist and publisher who is credited with founding modern African literature, lived from 13 January 1931 to 16 October 1993. She was the first African woman novelist to have a book published in English in Britain, opening the door for a new wave of female writers in Africa. She became well-known all around the world after Heinemann Educational Books released her first book, Efuru, in 1966. Despite being most recognized for portraying Igbo women’s life and traditions from the perspective of an Igbo woman, she never identified as a feminist.
Early Life and Education
Nwapa was born on January 13, 1931, in Oguta, in south-eastern Nigeria. She was the oldest of the six children born to renowned drama teacher Martha Nwapa and Mr. Christopher Ijeoma, an agent with the United Africa Company.
Flora Nwapa completed her basic education at Oguta, Enugu State, before moving on to Elelenwa Secondary School in Port Harcourt and CMS Girls School in Lagos. These two schools later united to form St Anne’s School Ibadan. She started going to college when she was 22 years old, and in 1957, at the age of 26, she earned a B.A. from University College, Ibadan. She then traveled to Scotland, where in 1958 she earned a diploma in education from Edinburgh University.
Teaching and Public Service
After landing in Nigeria, Nwapa started working as an education officer for the Ministry of Education in Calabar and remained there until 1959. She subsequently agreed to a job teaching English and geography at Queen’s School in Enugu, where she served from 1959 until 1962. She is still employed in a number of positions in the public and private sectors of education, such as Assistant Registrar at the University of Lagos (1962–67). In East Central State (1970–1971), she accepted a cabinet position as the Minister of Health and Social Welfare during the 1967–1970 civil war in Nigeria, and later as the Minister of Lands, Survey, and Urban Development (1971–74). In Owerri, Nigeria, she gave a guest lecture at the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education. She was chosen to teach creative writing as a visiting lecturer at the University of Maiduguri in 1989.
Writing and Publishing
Efuru, Nwapa’s debut novel and the first English-language work by an African woman novelist, was published in 1966 when she was 30 years old. When she sent the translation to renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe in 1962, he responded with a letter that was highly supportive and even offered to pay for the postage so that the manuscript could be sent to English publisher Heinemann.
After Efuru, Nwapa published the books Idu (1970), Never Again (1975), One is Enough (1981), and Women are Different (1986). She also published two collections of short stories, This is Lagos (1971) and Wives at War, in addition to the poetry collection Cassava Song and Rice Song (1986). (1980). She has also written a lot of children’s books.
In 1974, she founded Tana Press, then in 1977, the Flora Nwapa Company, both of which published both her own writing for adults and young readers as well as works by other authors. In her mission statement, she listed one of her goals as “informing and educating women all over the world, especially feminists (both with capital F and small f) about the role of women in Nigeria, their economic independence, relationship with their husbands and children, their traditional beliefs, and their status in the community as a whole.” According to one description, Tana was “the first press run by a woman with a substantial female audience.”
In the beginning of her literary career, Nwapa had little interest in feminism since she felt it was prejudiced towards men because of how it was seen and portrayed, but she gradually came to terms with it. But her struggle with feminism serves as an example of the current debates in Africa and the rest of the world concerning the movement. Her work was deemed worthy of being anthologized in these publications, starting with Présence Africaine and Black Orpheus in the 1960s and 1970s and ending with Daughters of Africa in 1992.
Later Life Sojourn
Nwapa was an educator for the majority of her life, spending time in the classroom at schools all over the globe such New York University, Trinity College, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, and the University of Ilorin. I’ve been writing for about three decades, she said in an interview with Contemporary Authors. My research has focused on the problems of urban and rural women to survive in a rapidly changing, male-dominated society.
She published works of African literature and promoted women in African society. She was a pioneering African woman publisher when she founded Tana Press in Nigeria in 1970. Nwapa worked for the government after the Biafran War, especially with orphans and refugees who had been uprooted by the battle.
Uzoma Gogo Nwakuche and Amede Nzeribe are two of Flora Nwapa’s three children who she had with Ejine Nzeribe (from a prior relationship). She ended her previous relationship and later wed Chief Gogo Nwakuche.
According to Onyeka Nwelue’s documentary The House of Nwapa, A. C. Nwapa was the nation of Nigeria’s first Minister of Commerce and Industries. On October 16, 1993, in a hospital in Enugu, Nigeria, Flora Nwapa, 62, died of pneumonia. Her final work, The Lake Goddess, was published after her passing.
Onyeka Nwelue’s documentary The House of Nwapa, about Flora Nwapa, debuted in August 2016. The Google Doodle for Nwapa’s birthday was released on January 13, 2017.
Uzoma Gogo Nwakuche, Flora Nwapa’s son, founded the Flora Nwapa Foundation in 1994 as a non-profit organization in California following his mother’s passing in 1993. The Flora Nwapa Foundation celebrated Efuru@50 in 2016.
- Never Again
- One Is Enough
- Women are Different
- The Lake Goddess
- This Is Lagos and Other Stories
- Wives at War and Other Stories
- Cassava Song and Rice Song
- Emeka, Driver’s Guard
- The Adventures of Deke
- The Miracle Kittens
- Journey to Space
Awards and Honours
- The Flora Nwapa Prize for Feminist Writing is an annual award for the best-unpublished work of fiction or non-fiction written in English by any writer with a feminist theme.
- In 1983, the Nigerian government bestowed on her the OON (Officer of the Order of Niger), one of the country’s highest honours.
- She received the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Merit Award for Authorship and Publishing at the 1985 Ife Book Fair.
- In 1989, she was appointed Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, a position she held until her death.
- She was a member of the PEN International committee in 1991
- The Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes committee in 1992.
- She was awarded the highest chieftaincy title (Ogbuefi) by her hometown, an honour that is usually reserved for men of achievement.
Her net worth is unavailable