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Google celebrates Flora Nwapa’s 86th birthday with a doodle

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Google has celebrated the birthday of Nigerian ground breaking author, Flora Nwapa, with a remarkable doodle. Nwapa would have been 86 years old today. The doodle has Nwapa in a field of books, sowing new gems as she goes along.

Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa (13 January 1931 – 16 October 1993) is best known as Flora Nwapa, who has been called the mother of modern African literature. She is acknowledged as the first African woman novelist to be published in the English language in Britain with her first novel, Efuru being published in 1966 by Heinemann Educational Books While never considering herself a feminist, she is best known for recreating life and traditions from an Igbo woman’s viewpoint.

She was also known for her work in reconstruction after the Biafran War, in particular her work with orphans and refugees who were displaced during the war. She was a publisher of African literature and promoted women in African society. In fact she was one of the first African women publishers when she founded Tana Press in the 1970s.

In her evocative essay to mark the 50th anniversary of the popular novel, Efuru, Language teacher and essayist, Ainehi Edoro recalled how Flora Nwapa, in the early 1960s, announced her arrival on the global literary scene via a mail she sent to Chinua Achebe, along with a manuscript.

Edoro wrote, in her essay Flora Nwapa and the Letter that Changed Nigerian Literature Forever, wrote: “She probably didn’t imagine that much would come out of it. Unlike most writers of her time, becoming a writer did not start out as a life’s goal.

“There was nothing in me when I was in school that made me feel I was going to be a writer. It was one of those things that just happened. I didn’t have the ambition to say, “Oh, Flora, you are going to be a writer, so work towards it.”

“She was 27 at the time and had just returned from Scotland. An Edinburgh University diploma in hand, she got a job teaching at Queens College in Enugu. Teaching at QC was great for a first job, but it also meant a lot of down time. Drafting stories became something she did to ward off boredom.

“So you can imagine how delighted she was when she not only received a reply from Achebe, but also found a little surprise gift in the mail. Achebe had just been appointed an advisory editor for the African Writers Series.  In the letter he wrote to Nwapa telling her how much he loved the manuscript, he included one guinea—the postage fee to have the manuscript sent to London.

“Thanks to Achebe’s one guinea, Nwapa’s manuscript arrived in London. A few years later, in 1966, Efuru was published and became one of earliest novels written by an African woman and, certainly, the first written by a Nigerian woman.”

After Efuru, she wrote novels Idu (1967), Never Again (1975), One is Enough (1981) and Women Are Different (1986). She published two collections of stories — This Is Lagos (1971) and Wives at War (1980) — and the volume of poems Cassava Song and Rice Song (1986). She was also the author of several books for children.

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Born in Oguta, the eldest of the six children of Christopher Ijeoma (an agent with the United Africa Company) and Martha Nwapa, a teacher of drama, Flora Nwapa attended school in Oguta, Port Harcourt and Lagos. She went on to earn a BA degree from University College, Ibadan in 1957. She then went to Scotland, where she earned a Diploma in Education from Edinburgh University in 1958.

After the civil war, Nwapa accepted cabinet office as Minister of Health and Social Welfare in East Central State (1970–71), and subsequently as Minister of Lands, Survey and Urban Development (1971–74)