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Florence Nwapa: The Mother Of African Literature

Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa was born on this day, the 13th of January in 1931 in Oguta, Imo state.

At a time when going to school at a young age was a prestigious achievement, the 22-year-old gained admission to University College, Ibadan in 1953. Upon graduation, the 26-year-old headed to Scotland to earn a diploma in education.


After her education at Edinburgh University, the 27-year-old landed a teaching job at Queens College Enugu. Her job allowed her to have time to pursue other interests and so, Nwapa wrote short stories. She sent one of her stories to Nigeria’s international literary figure, Chinua Achebe. A surprised Nwapa got positive feedback and money from Achebe to send to her publisher, Heinemann. This became her motivation.

In 1966, at 30, Nwapa’s first novel, Efuru put her on the international spotlight making her the first African woman to have her novel published in the English language in Britain.

Florence Nwapa's book Efuru

Florence Nwapa’s book Efuru

Soon, Nwapa became known to the literary community as an author who told stories from the Igbo woman’s narrative.

After the Nigerian civil war (1967 to  1970) that led to the death of millions of Nigerians and Biafrans, she dedicated her time to helping refugees and orphans.


By 1970, Nwapa had shifted her focus slightly and became one of Africa’s first women publishers after she founded Tana Press.

One of her objectives was,

“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”.

Nwapa, a feminist in every right, was a forerunner in using her books especially her 1978 book Ogbuefi to speak up against the patriarchal society. The book got accolades from women and men alike.

She added some other novels to her catalogue: Idu (1970), Never Again (1975), One is Enough (1981), and Women are Different (1986); *collection of stories* This is Lagos (1971) and Wives at War (1980); *poems* Cassava Song and Rice Song (1986) as well as children books.

Nwapa taught at several universities including New York University, Trinity College, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the University of Ilorin.

She died of pneumonia in 1993 at 62.

In this article:
Florence Nwapa
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