Ever since independence of Nigeria, there were dominant male writers and they penned books with men as the protagonists. Gender issues were yet not taken up fully, until the publication of Efuru in 1966 by Flora Nwapa.
Flora Nwapa was born in 1931 in Oguta, Nigeria. She began her career as an author with the publication of Efuru. She followed with her second novel, Idu, in 1971. All through out her life, Nwapa remained as an educator teaching at colleges and universities around the world, including among others, New York University, Trinity College, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan and University of Ilorin. She died in 1993.
The protagonist is Efuru. Efuru like the contemporary woman wants both career and family. She was married to Adizua and Gilbert. Incapacity to have children destroys her attempts to get a family. She goes to the lake goddess Uhamiri to bless her with children. But, she remains unrewarded by the Mami Wata. Eneberi marries Nkoyeni.
The male writers in Nigeria did not give adequate space to the females. In the world of truth commissions today, Nwapa has her own way to enquire into the lives of Igbo female via her book. Flora Nwapa is considered the first women writer to represent the Igbo females.
The concept of the Igbo female is usually linked to the concept of community. As seen in Efuru, marriage and motherhood play most important role in the lives of the Igbo woman. The motive of marriage is to beget children from the wife. The expectations of the relatives, neighbours and friends too seem the same. Adizua’s family thought why he should not marry another woman since, according to them, two men do not live together. To them, Efuru was a man since she could not reproduce.
The novel also shows how Efuru has the freedom to choose her husbands by her own. Both Adizua and Gilbert are first agreed upon by Efuru herself.
Women are expected to earn among Igbos, unlike the western females, who have no such original practices. Efuru and Adizua traded in yams. Adizua’s mother confessed that Nwashike Ogene’s daughter Efuru brought luck to their family.
Ogea is nearly adopted to look after Efuru’s daughter, Ogonim. The other women folk remind that Ogea was girl, and as the latter has to marry one day, she should be brought up well and be taught cooking.
Efuru knew that her husband was seeing another woman. She was not objecting to his marrying a second wife, but “I do object to being relegated to the background. I want to keep my position as the first wife, for it is my right.” (53)
Efuru remembers that Adizua treated her “the way that only slaves are treated. God in heaven will judge us.” (58)
“If Adizua does not love me any more, I too will try to learn not to love him any more. It will be a difficult task but it is not impossible,” (58)
Adizua’s father too did similar to what he was doing to Efuru. For a long time, she heard nothing from him and they almost begged for food. Her sister, Ajanupu, and their mother gave her some money and she started a small trade in fish. Azidua’s father came after some months after contracting a disease. She took him to the dibia and found that he annoyed the ancestors. Soon he died. His brother wanted to marry her. She refused to marry and lived in the same house. Efuru, unlike her mother-in-law decides to go back to her father.
Marriage to the Igbo female is like picking a parcel from numerous parcels. If one is lucky one picks up a valuable one. It is necessary evil for all. About motherhood, Efuru too did not want to be called the “male woman’’. The Igbo women commented upon Efuru and Gilbert that happy marriages without children cannot be eaten.
Truly speaking, every individual has its own way of defining the individual in relation to the community. We are products of our own community. In Igbo society too, community is at the core. It is bond of the human heart. Adizua’s mother Ajanupu gets the camwood, iziziani ufie awusa on Nkwo day for Efuru. Camwood was used in dyeing her cloth. She rubbed it all over her body and the iziziani was used for her face. Camwood made her smooth body smoother. Ossai, another woman reminds that snail might not be good for pregnant Efuru as the baby will have plenty of saliva. When Efuru went away, Ajanupu had become very sorrowful. She also had consoled Efuru that Adizua will come back to her. As men are like that, after all wanderings they return back. Ajanupu comes to Efuru’s rescue when the latter was alleged adulterous in the second marriage.