Cyprian Ekwensi

Novelist Cyprian Ekwensi
Cyprian Ekwensi. Photo: Watson Little

Ekwensi Cyprian; Novelist winner of Dag Hamtuarskjold International Merit Award. Ekwensi is one of Africa’s best short story writers of the 20th century. He is noted for his easy style of writing, and his creative works which spans a period of fifty years has been identified by the contemporaneous nature of its themes. Cyprian Ekwensi was influenced by the realist tradition and the fate of his characters a reflection of the society they find themselves in. Ekwensi developed a novel Jagua Nana during his frequent travels to Gold Coast now Ghana from the concept imbibed in the the country’s culture of Jagua in the 1950s, as the epitome of excellence, Jagua being a word used to describe anything beautiful.

Ekwensi used protagonist Jagua’s dreams, sinfulness and despair, in the book to explore various aspects of life, at that time, as symbolised by the over bustling Lagos. The book and its sequel, Jagua Nona’s Daughter, in spite of their popularity were not that financially successful, unlike some of his books read in schools such as The Passport of Malam Ria, The Drummer Boy, Trouble In Form Six and Loko Town. “Books used in schools have regular seasonal life of 30 years and are more financially successful[i].

Places of Growth

Ekwensi was born on September 26, 1921 in Minna now in Niger State.



Ekwensi was husband to Eunice and a father of five children.



Ekwensi received his secondary education at Government College, lbadan, and Achimota College, Ghana. He studied at Higher College, Yaba (now Yaba College of Technology), School of Forestry, Ibadan. He also went on to Chelsea School of Pharmacy, London, England, Achimota College, Ghana, and Chelsea School of Pharmacy, University of London.

As Journalist

Ekwensi worked as forestry officer, teacher, journalist, and broadcasting executive, among others. He was head of features at the Nigerian Broadcasting Company from 1957 to 1961, and from 1961 to 1967, Ekwensi was the Nigerian director of Information, Federal Ministry of Information and Director General of the defunct Broadcasting Corporation of Biafra. He was a former member of the Board of Governors, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and chairman, Anambra State Hospital Management Board. Cyprian Ekwensi is the inventor of the word, WAI, (War Against Indiscipline). He was also a pharmacist and Public Relations consultant.


Ekwensi published his novella, When Love Whispers, in 1948 and then a collection of short stories, People of the City, in 1954. Ekwensi was brought into the literary limelight nationally and internationally with his work which dwelled on the complexities of the urban society and the encounters of the rising middle class of urban Lagos in their struggles for survival. From Jagua Nana, 1961, to Jagua Nana’s Daughter, a 1980 sequel to the former, Ekwensi made a graphic exploration of the life of the ordinary folks and the complexities of their existence. The underlying conflict between the rural settings with the chaos of the more modern equivalent is the thematic preoccupation in many of his works.  Cypran Ekwensi’s other works include Burning Grass, 1961, Lokotown and Other Stories, 1966, Jska, 1966, Divided We Stand, 1988, King Forever, 1992, and Cash on Delivery, 2007[ii].



[i] Tell March 2000

[ii] Tell November 19, 2007

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer