Efuru @50 celebration holds in four cities

The golden anniversary of the novel published in 1966 by Heinemann will hold in four cities, rounding off a celebration which began in the United States of America and United Kingdom in March.

FIFTY years after its publication, the late Flora Nwapa’s debut novel, ‘Efuru’, is set to be loudly celebrated by writers, academics, children and other people of goodwill in four Nigerian cities.

The celebration, which is being coordinated by a National Organising Committee (NOC) headed by former President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Wale Okediran, will run from November 29 through December 11. It has ‘Efuru@50: A Celebration of Flora Nwapa and African Women Literature’ as its theme.

Published in 1966 as number 26 in Heinemann’s African Writer Series, ‘Efuru’ is the first published book by an African woman writer and has earlier been celebrated this year in the West. In March, the UN’s Commission for Women celebrated ‘Efuru’ and Flora Nwapa in New York; three panels on the book were held at the African Literature Association conference in Atlanta in April while there were also presentations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London also in April.

At a news briefing he jointly addressed with representative of the Flora Nwapa Foundation, Uzoma Nwakuche, Prince Paschal Mebuge-Obaa and ANA Lagos chair, Femi Onileagbon, at the premises of Literamed Publishers, Oregun, Lagos on Tuesday, Dr. Okediran unveiled plans for the Nigerian leg of the celebration. Some of the activities he rolled out include symposia, children’s carnival, drama sketches from ‘Efuru’ and a grand finale with a night of tributes.

Okediran disclosed that the events will be held in Lagos, Abuja, Maiduguri and Oguta/Enugu. The ex- ANA president added that though he heads the National Organising Committee also comprising Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi, Salamatu Sule, the poet Ikeogu Oke and Isaac Ogezi, local organising committees (LOCs) will handle affairs at each venue.

Head, Department of English, University of Lagos, Professor Hope Eghagha is head of the Lagos LOC while Prof Vicky Sylvester of the University of Abuja will oversee events in the Federal Capital Territory. Writer and academic, Dr. Razinat Mohammed of the University of Maiduguri is head of the LOC in Borno while Mebuge-Obaa, will coordinate the grand finale in Enugu/Oguta.  The founder of the Ebedi International Writers’ Residency, Iseyin, Oyo State further disclosed that ANA chairs and members in the states will work with the LOC chairpersons.

On the choice of the University of Maiduguri, Okediran disclosed that Nwapa was a visiting professor at the institution before her death in 1993. The literary competition for secondary school students, Okediran said, will see organisers providing copies of ‘Efuru’ to participating schools to prepare ahead for the quiz, reading comprehension and one act drama excerpt.

The Lagos event will happen on Tuesday, November 29; Maiduguri on Thursday, December 1; Abuja on Saturday, December 3 at the NTA Arena and a one-week grand finale in Enugu/Oguta from December 4 to 11.

The national organising committee chair, who admitted that funding is still a major issue, also announced a call for papers on the theme of the event, ‘Efuru@50: A Celebration of Flora Nwapa and African Women Literature’.

He invited abstracts not exceeding 200 words on sub-themes including ‘The dialectics and symbolism of Efuru’; ‘Flora Nwapa and feminism in Efuru’; ‘Efuru and the role of women in national discourse’; ‘Flora Nwapa and the role of women in African culture’; ‘African Literature and the role of women writers’; ‘Women, work, writing and the marketplace’ and ‘The interface between writing and feminism’ amongst others. Deadline for the submission of abstracts which should be sent to info@efuru50.com and copied to waleokediran@yahoo.co.uk, he disclosed, is September 30. Full paper submission deadline is October 30.

Nwakuche, Nwapa’s  only son noted that celebrating his mum’s debut novel 23 years after her passing is well worth it. He said: “My mother is a lady of firsts; first African female writer; first Nigeria female commissioner of East Central State and first African female publisher.  We urge the Federal and State Governments, especially in former East Central State to acknowledge and join us to celebrate this great African woman who has served her country and pioneered modern day African Women Literature in her relatively short but extremely productive and memorable life.”

He added that the foundation will promote Nwapa’s legacy; “promote African Women Literature; encourage young aspiring female writers and promote the essence of Flora Nwapa’s work – the dignity and economic independence of women whose role in traditional society are sometimes threatened or unappreciated.”

On the significance of Enugu in the celebration, Mebuge-Obaa said: “Flora Nwapa taught English and Geography at Queens School, Enugu in the 1960s as a career civil servant; she nurtured her God-given talents as a novelist and publisher in Enugu before moving to Lagos; she was thrice appointed commissioner in quick succession at Enugu, the capital of the then East Central States and she founded her publishing companies at Enugu. In fact, Flora Nwapa lived, worked and died in Enugu.”

Born on January, 13, 1931 in Oguta, Imo State, the late Nwapa attended the University of Ibadan, graduating with a BA in 1957 before proceeding to the University of Edinburg, Scotland the following year to obtain a diploma in education. She was Assistant Registrar (Public Relations) at the University of Lagos from 1962 to 1964 and published ‘Efuru’, the first of her 12 works in 1966.