Flora Nwapa – Tales from Wo-Fan’s Land

I write because I want to write. I write because I have a story to tell. There is this urge always to write and put things down. I do not presume that I have a mission. If you continue to read my books, maybe you could find the mission. But I continue to write because I feel fulfilled. I feel satisfied in what I’m doing.

Flora Nwapa

Flora Nwapa, born in 1931 and died in 1993, was a Nigerian author and Africa’s first internationally known female novelist and publisher. She is best known for her novel “Efuru”, as well as her children’s books such as MammyWater. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Nwapa, but stumbled across her work when I started research for my bachelor’s thesis in the field of postcolonial feminism.  I read an interesting article called “The poetics of economic independence for female empowerment: an interview with Flora Nwapa” by Marie Umeh which not only fascinated me, but also opened my eyes as to how much my own view of the world (and probably many other people’s view as well) is shaped by the Eurocentric nature of the education system in Germany.

It is this exact Eurocentrism that influenced my first contact with Nwapa’s work. A quick google search led me to a Wikipedia page about postcolonial women writers, one of which is Flora Nwapa. The main article about her states that Nwapa is best known for her representation of Nigerian life and traditions from an Igbo woman’s viewpoint. This information immediately and very subconsciously triggered a prejudiced view of African society in my head: men who dominate women, women as housewives and mothers, women’s dependence on men. Reading Marie Umeh’s article, I learned that, contrary to popular belief, gifted women in pre-colonial Africa were recognized for their accomplishments and there were many female leaders and role models within this society. Yet, even with this being the case, Nwapa was a role model herself for writing down her lived reality and making it accessible to the wider public by being the first Nigerian woman to publish books in English. In addition to writing renowned books, she also founded her own publishing company, Tana Press, in 1976.  

One part of Marie Umeh’s interview with Flora Nwapa struck me as particularly interesting. They talk about Nwapa’s novel “One Is Enough” in which the female protagonist is first confronted with the burdens of being a married but childless woman who later leaves her husband behind to live an independent life in the big city. According to Nwapa, the novel captures the ongoing changes in Nigerian society where women strive for (economic) independence and personal happiness and growth rather than a life within the boundaries of an outdated tradition. In stressing the economic independence of women, Nwapa reminded me of Virginia Woolf and her essay “A Room Of One’s Own”. Contrary to Woolf, who I personally always found to be overly dramatic and elitist, and, thus, exclusive, in her viewpoints and demands to literature and feminism, Nwapa did not think of herself as a feminist. At the same time, she is crucially aware of the misrepresentation of women in literature by fellow male authors who tend to display women as prostitutes or mischievous creatures, all of which Nwapa counteracts in her own writing by displaying women as positive, independent and real as they are.

I want to end on this positive note. If there is anything to be taken away from this, I hope it is this:  be more like Flora Nwapa. Focus on the positive. Focus on what you can do to make a positive change to your own and other people’s reality. Open your eyes to literary traditions off the beaten path of Woolf and Austen. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Create for the sake of creation. Be bold. Be real. 


Written by Franziska Knobloch (she/her) from Munich, Germany. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram! This project, Tales from Wo-Fan’s Land, is a series of stories written by Frank Turner fans, inspired by his new album No Man’s Land.


Sources: 

  • Marie Umeh. 1995. “The poetics of economic independence for female empowerment: an interview with Flora Nwapa”. Research in African Literatures. Indiana University Press
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora_Nwapa

One thought on “Flora Nwapa – Tales from Wo-Fan’s Land

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s