“But when was the master
ever seduced from power?
When was a system ever broken
when will the BOSS hand you power with love?
At Jo’Burg, at Cancun or the U.N?
– Molara Ogundipe
In an interview at the 2010 Ghana International Book Fair, Molara Ogundipe introduced herself with the words: “...I’m a Nigerian. I’ve lived possibly all over the world except for the Soviet Union and China.”
Across the different continents and countries, Professor Ogundipe taught comparative literature, writing, gender, and English studies using literature as a vehicle for social transformation and re-thinking gender relations.
A feminist thinker, writer, editor, social critic, poet, and activist Molara Ogundipe succeeded in combining theoretical work with creativity and practical action. She is considered to be one of the leading critical voices on African feminism(s), gender studies and literary theory.
Molara famously coined the concept of “stiwanism’ from the acronym STIWA – Social Transformations in Africa Including Women recognizing the need to move “away from defining feminism and feminisms in relation to Euro-America or elsewhere, and from declaiming loyalties or disloyalties.”
In her seminal work ‘Re-creating Ourselves’ in 1994, Molara Ogundipe (published under Molara Ogundipe-Leslie) left behind an immense body of knowledge that decolonized feminist discourse and “re-centered African women in their full, complex narratives...guided by an exploration of economic, political and social liberation of African women and restoration of female agency across different cultures in Africa.”
In speaking about the challenges she faced as a young academic she said:
”When I began talking and writing feminism in the late sixties and seventies, I was seen as a good and admirable girl who had gone astray, a woman whose head has been spoilt by too much learning".
Molara Ogundipe stood out for her leadership in combining activism and academia; in 1977 she was among the founding members of AAWORD, the Association of Women in Research and Development. In 1982 she founded WIN (Women In Nigeria) to advocate for full “economic, social and political rights” for Nigerian women. She then went on to establish and direct the Foundation for International Education and Monitoring and spent many years on the editorial board of The Guardian.
Growing up with the Yoruba people, their traditions, culture, and language she once said :
“I think the celebration of life, of people who pass away after an achieved life is one of the beautiful aspects of Yoruba culture.”
Molara’s Yoruba ‘Oiki’ praise name was Ayike. She was born on 27 December 1940 and at the age of 78, Molara passed away on 18 June 2019 in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, Nigeria.