It isn’t easy to be called the mother of modern African literature. When we talk about the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it is only fair to talk about the woman who paved the way for female African writers. Florence Nkiru Nwapa was born on the 13th of January 1931; she was a Nigerian author who was also known as the mother of modern African literature. She was the pioneer of female African writers and was the first African female novelist to be published in the English language in Britain.
Florence never regarded herself as a feminist; she was known for portraying the life and traditions of a typical Igbo woman. She used her work to promote African literature and women in the African society. She founded her own printing press called Tana press in Nigeria in the year 1970.
This woman was more than just a female African writer; she volunteered in governmental work during the reconstruction after the Biafran war; she mainly worked with orphans and refugees who were displaced during the war. She was a woman with a golden heart.
Florence was born in Oguta, the southeastern part of Nigeria; she was the eldest of six children of Christopher Ijeoma and Martha Nwapa. she attained her primary education at Oguta and attended a secondary school at Elelenwa, Port Harcourt and CMS girls school in Lagos state. At 26 years, she earned a B.A. degree from the University College Ibadan. In 1958 she travelled to Scotland, where she earned a diploma in Education from Edinburgh University.
Florence’s first and most famous African literature, “Efuru”, put her on the map; she published the book when she was 30 years old. Before the book was published, she sent a transcript to the legend Chinua Achebe in 1962, who replied with a positive letter; he even inserted money for the postage to mail the manuscript to the English publisher in charge of her publishing. She published other good pieces and wrote children’s stories after that.
Florence was also an educator who lectured in a number of schools, including New York University, Trinity College, The University of Minnesota, The University of Michigan and the University of Ilorin. In an interview with Contemporary Authors, she said, “I have been writing for nearly thirty years, my interest has been on both the rural and the urban woman in her quest for survival in a fast-changing world dominated by men”. That was a strong statement coming from someone who never called herself a feminist.
Florence Nkiru Nwapa died of pneumonia on the 16th of October 1993 at a hospital in Enugu State, Nigeria; she died at the age of 62. her last and final novel, “The Lake Goddess”, was published after her death. She is survived by her three children. whenever we talk and praise the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Buchi Emecheta, Akwaeke Emezi, and so many other female authors in Africa, it is only fair we acknowledge the woman who made way for the existence of these women and give the due respect she solely deserves