We had an amazing time on the 3rd day of June 2018. We all gathered at Bogogbiri, Ikoyi, Lagos to discuss EFURU by FLORA NWAPA!
1) The really simple grammatical structures. A lot of us felt the sentences were really simple. Some said they felt as though it was written for kids in primary school. We figured it was that simple because of the time at which the book was written. Efuru wasn’t about beautiful prose and description. It was a straight to the point kind of story. It was a story that moved through dialogue, almost like one was reading a play/drama. And so if one reads Efuru waiting for flowery prose such person would be disappointed. We finally came to the conclusion that writing evolves but simplicity is still key. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said “Why purchase when you can buy?”
2) Can we be progressive while still obedient to cultural ideologies? Is that possible? People change culture. But Efuru wasn’t one to change culture. Yes, she was a strong woman and all but she didn’t believe she had to question her culture – which some of us found really disturbing.
We expected Efuru to protest her circumcision, to question such barbaric practice, yet she did not. Efuru at a point said “ONLY A BAD WOMAN KEEPS HER HUSBAND TO HERSELF”
Maybe it was also because of the struggle between Christianity and Traditional religion and practices.
3) Why are a lot of people uncomfortable with the label “feminist?” or “feminism?”. It’s like “I’m okay with the movement of empowering women but don’t call it feminism”. But Feminism shouldn’t be dark or associated with ugly. Feminism should be freedom. Possibilities. Endless Possibilities and Choices!
4) In our fight for equality, are we leaving the men behind? Do you think young girls and women are being more socially advanced and competent because of the attention given to them in the past century? Truth is we should all be feminists and once the men are left behind in this pursuit of equality then we have failed in advancing the equality goal.
5) We are products of our community, of toxic learning. And as progressives we need to unlearn some of these but at the same time hold firm to our integrity.
6) Everything boils down to choices and endless possibilities! And as individuals we should have those choices and should be able to make them on our own terms. But is that always the case? In the Nigerian marriage, you have external forces such as in-laws and so it’s really difficult for couple to do things on their own terms. The man may be tagged weak if his family should find out he is much of a progressive. Where do you draw the line between what you really want and external influences?
As a writer and a publisher, Nwapa was a trailblazer. At a time when no one had seen the value in African women as a book-buying demographic, Nwapa identified a gap in the market and had considerable success.
Today, the label ‘feminist’ remains as contentious as it had done when Nwapa wrote and published books. Though she may have been a reluctant feminist, she is undoubtedly the mother of modern African feminist literature – with sisterhood and women’s independence recurring as central themes in her novels – and a mentor to many writers.
For these reasons we must continue to honour her feminist legacy and, in so doing, reclaim the term for African women. Re-affirming both the novel and writer as feminist is a necessary reminder that feminism is not only for western women but can also legitimise other women’s experiences.
In conclusion, we are grateful to Flora Nwapa for writing this book. 51 years later, its themes are still very much valid for the woman of today and for the society as a whole.
We enjoyed reading it!