Flora Nwapa: Mother of modern African literature | Media Center | DW | 15.05.2020
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Flora Nwapa: Mother of modern African literature

The novel Efuru established Nigerian author Flora Nwapa as the first African woman to publish a book in English. Her work set the stage for the emergence of female writers in Nigeria and other African countries.

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The mother of modern African literature

When did Flora Nwapa live?

Flora Nwapa was born in January 1931 in Oguta, Imo State, Eastern Nigeria. She had her early education in Oguta, Port Harcourt and Lagos. She attained college education at the University College Ibadan, Nigeria and at the Edinburgh University in the United Kingdom. Nwapa died of pneumonia at the age of 62 in October 1993. 

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What were the themes of Flora Nwapa's novels?

Through her books, Flora Nwapa sought to change the narrative of male African authors whose works were full of stereotypes about the African woman. Nwapa's books did the opposite, by telling success stories of African women. Her novels like Efuru and Idu challenged the  traditional portrayal of the African woman as one who must always live under the shadows of men because she is perceived to be docile, submissive and unproductive. 

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Which are Flora Nwapa's most notable novels?

One of Flora Nwapa's most notable novels is Efuru. It portrays a woman who empowers herself enough to financially support her husband and her father. Efuru, the protagonist in the novel, breaks anti-feminist stereotypes of the traditional African society by showing she has a mind of her own. She takes some crucial decisions in her life based on what she feels is right for her rather than bow to the demands of the traditional African society. Other novels include Idu, Never Again, One Is Enough and Women Are Different. 

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What is Flora Nwapa's legacy? 

Perhaps her most enduring legacy is the birth of contemporary Nigerian female writers who are replicating the themes of her novels in an effort to change the negative narrative of the African woman in a male-dominated literature space.

Is Flora Nwapa a feminist?

While Flora Nwapa is reluctant to be seen as a feminist, some of her books are noted for advocating women's rights. In her work, she uses female characters to challenge unfair cultural practices that African women are subjected to due to widowhood and childlessness. The use of her novels to challenge unfair cultural practices against women remains an inspiration for Nigerian women's rights activists.

Scientific advice on this article was provided by historians Professor Doulaye Konaté, Lily Mafela, Ph.D., and Professor Christopher Ogbogbo. African Roots is supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

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