Nigerian Poet, Critic, Editor, Feminist and Activist
Prof. Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie (27 December 1940 – 18 June 2019) also known as Molara Ogundipe, was a Nigerian poet, critic, editor, feminist and activist. Considered one of the foremost writers on African feminism, gender studies and literary theory, she was a social critic who came to be recognized as a viable authority on African women among black feminists and feminists in general.
She contributed the piece “Not Spinning on the Axis of Maleness” to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan. She is most celebrated for coining the term STIWA or Social Transformation in Africa Including Women.
Prof. Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie was born in Lagos, to a family of educators and clergy. she graduated (BA English Honours) as the first Nigerian with a first-class degree from the University of London. She later earned a doctorate in Narratology (the theory of narrative) from Leiden University, one of the oldest universities in Europe. She taught English Studies, Writing, Comparative Literature and Gender from the perspectives of cultural studies and development at universities in several continents, and was also a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria. She rose to prominence early in her career in the midst of a male-dominated artistic field concerned about the problems afflicting African men and women.
Prof. Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie was in the leadership of feminist activism and gender studies in Africa for decades. She was the Founder and Director of the Foundation for International Education and Monitoring, which is dedicated to teaching young women the doctrine and virtues of feminist theories and gender equality.
Prof. Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie was a Nigerian scholar, critic, educator and activist who was recognized as one of the foremost writers on African women and feminism. She argued for an African-centred feminism that she termed “Stiwanism” (Social Transformation in Africa Including Women) in her book Recreating Ourselves. A distinguished scholar and literary theorist, she published numerous works of poetry and literary criticism in addition to her works cited below.
Prof. Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie earlier in her career had posited that a true feminist writer had to understand or describe effectively a woman’s viewpoint and how to tell the story about a woman. She strongly believed that rediscovering the role of women in Nigeria’s social and political institutions may be the best way to improve those institutions. She was known as a writer whose works capture most vividly the complexities of African life. In Re-Creating Ourselves: African Women and Critical Transformations, she wrote brilliantly about the dilemma of writing in her traditional language and men’s resistance to gender equality.
Through the vast literary experiences and many gender-related writings, Molara Ogundipe provided “intricate oeuvre” which enable African feminists engage in bringing meaningful changes in issues related to gender, family and society that can drive national and continental development.
She lived and worked in West Africa, where she setted up writing centres at universities, in addition to her work on literature, gender and film, in contribution to her commitment to inter-generational education and mentoring.
She died at the age of 78 in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, Nigeria, on June 18, 2019.