When Flora Nwapa published her first book, Efuru, in 1966, Africa’s literary climate was vastly different from what is attainable today. It was a decidedly male world but Flora Nwapa excelled despite.
Looking at the leading pack of females in African literary fiction today that include but are not limited to; Chimamanda Adichie, Taiye Selasi, Chinelo Okparanta, Imbolo Mbue, Lauren Beukes, Yvonne Owuor, Petina Gappah and Nnedi Okoroafor, literature lovers cannot help but appreciate the impact of Flora Nwapa and her works.
Chimamanda Adichie has actually included Flora Nwapa in her roll call of past greats who inspired and gave her the courage to write. In her words;
“If Chinua Achebe and Flora Nwapa and Chukwuemeka Ike had not written the books they did, when they did, and how they did, I would perhaps not have had the emotional courage to write my own books.”
Flora Nwapa’s impact on her time stretched beyond writing books. She set up a publishing house in the early ’70s called Tana Press which was the very first publishing house that was run by a woman and it targeted a mainly female audience.
Along with the five novels credited to her, Flora Nwapa also dabbled in poetry and children stories and in the ’90s she served as the president of the Association of Nigerian Authors and later as a member of the Commonwealth Writers Awards committee.
With all this going on, she remained a stoic educator, continuing to teach across the globe in universities like New York University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota and the University of Ilorin.
A political bent also saw her in the brief period of 1970 to 1971 becoming the first female Minister (called Commissioner or State Secretary then) of Health and Social Welfare for what was then the East Central State, an area that has been broken up into Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Ebonyi and Imo State.
Flora Nwapa died of pneumonia on October 16, 1993, at Enugu, Nigeria but today (January 13th) would have been her 86th birthday.