Flora Nwapa; the phenomenal woman

I remember when I watched Onyeka Nwelu’s documentary of Flora  Nwapa at the Lights Camera Festival in 2016, amidst sipping wine and talking to a stranger. Her story thrilled me. The documentary portrayed her as a woman with strong roots and a deep sense of belonging.

Flora saw her novels as an attempt to think of African femininity beyond the idea of victimization. She was tired of the way male writers represented African women in their novels. African women were more than simply poor traders, prostitutes, and unhappy wives. Writing her own novels allowed her to refashion African femininity through complex and multi-faceted characters. Time after time, Nwapa refused the feminist tag as a politics of women’s empowerment—an aspect of her life and work that has intrigued literary scholars for decades. “I don’t think that I’m a radical feminist,” she says in an interview, “I don’t even accept that I’m a feminist. I accept that I’m an ordinary woman who is writing about what she knows. I try to project the image of women positively.”

She saw her work as an intervention in an African literary culture where women were often portrayed from a male-centered perspective. Her highly acclaimed book Efuru, got her famous because it  attracted much attention in different parts of the world, as it was quite unusual to read about a woman who got the guts to oppose what others would call “fate.” An intriguing story of a woman with a savvy business mindset and a mind of her own. Even though it was criticized for its “weak writing” and “inauthentic story.” She became the first African woman ever to publish her controversial novel in English, Flora Nwapa, is known throughout the world.

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She is not only talented in writing but is also an active public person. Her life story is an incredible example of one woman that knew what it meant to be a good mother, a responsible citizen and a female writer that has to overcome a lot of difficulties on her way to the fame.

Flora Nwapa was born 1931 in Oguta which is in Imo State. Her family belonged to a wealthy class who has the certain power in their circles. Even though her parents were just teachers, they were highly respected, and their opinions were highly valued. She schooled in the prestigious University of Ibadan and spent four years learning geography, languages, and History.

Some of the most popular writings of hers are “Wives At War and Other Stories”, “Women Are different”, “Mammywater”, “Journey to Space” and “This Is Lagos and Other Stories”.

Flora was a patriotic Nigerian, even after suffering from the Civil war in Nigeria she helped children that were left without parents in the course of the military opposition. Moreover, Flora Nwapa helped to reconstruct the homes of the families that had no other place to live in after the War.

After the Nigerian “recovery time” she helped at the Committee that was working with the Urban Development and ways for Nigeria to move and develop in that direction. In the view of both her talent and determination, she was awarded several awards in her own time. Not so long ago, in 1983 she was honored with the Officer of the Order of Niger. This honor is believed the highest in her state. Since Flora Nwapa was helping with the publishing at the University of Ife, she received A Merit Award of the University of Ife. Until the last years of her life, Nwapa was teaching creative writing art at the University of Borno State, and the authorities decided to reward her hard work and dedication with the honor of being a Visiting Professor. She was also one of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes Committee in 1992 as well as a member of the PEN International Committee.

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The tales of Flora Nwapa can never be forgotten, she actively sought for positive change and level of recognition for women without dragging rights with men.

As the documentary video drew to an end, I smiled sheepishly because Flora Nwapa lived her life to the fullest even as death took her painfully on October 16, 1993, 51 years later she is still relevant to African literature. It ended with a standing ovation with everyone in the not so crowded cinema space clapped their hands for Flora Nwapa.

And today being her 86th birthday, Goggle celebrated it with a doodle.





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