Who was Flora Nwapa? Gender and Power in World Literature
Paula Uimonen (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
Flora Nwapa was the first internationally published woman writer in Africa, yet she is not as well-known as male writers like Chinua Achebe. This paper explores women-centered storytelling and literary worldmaking from the perspective of gendered power relations in world literary canonization.
Paper long abstract:
In 1966, Flora Nwapa's novel Efuru made literary history as the first internationally published novel by an African woman writer. Published as number 26 in the Heinemann African Writers Series, it pioneered novels by women writers in a series that shaped the African literary canon. Through the publication of Efuru, Flora Nwapa paved the way for African female writers in a male-dominated world of African and world literature. In the 1970s, Flora Nwapa established TANA Press, making her the first female publisher in post-independence African publishing. In 2016, Efuru@50 was celebrated in Nigeria, a five-city national celebration that attracted hundreds of participants in each location. The event revived Flora Nwapa's literary legacy, which had somehow fallen into oblivion, despite her pioneering role. By comparison, in 2018 the diamond jubilee of Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is celebrated in seven cities across Nigeria, in ten different African countries as well as in North America and Europe. The novel was published as number one in the African Writers Series and is considered one of Africa's greatest literary classics. While Chinua Achebe is well recognised in African and world literature canons, Flora Nwapa remains relatively unknown. Drawing on ethnographic research at Efuru@50, this paper explores gender and power in world literature. Probing the location and orientation of women writers in Nigeria, it discusses women-centered storytelling and literary worldmaking from the perspective of gendered power relations in world literary canonization.
Aesthetic encounters: the politics of moving and (un)settling visual arts, design and literature