Biography

Author Picture

Chinyere Grace Okafor

Poet, playwright and fiction writer, Chinyere G. Okafor, is a Professor of English and Women's Studies; Chair, Department of Women's Studies; Director, Center for Women's Studies, Wichita State University (WSU), Wichita, Kansas, USA; and Vice President, Association of African Women Scholars (AAWS).

Former Chair of Women In Need Industries (WINI), former Board Member of Global Learning Center, and the African Center, she is an alumnus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University College (Cardiff, UK), and University of Sussex (Brighton, UK). She did postdoctoral work on gender politics of African Masking at Cornell University (Ithaca). She has taught at the University of Port Harcourt and University of Benin (Nigeria); University of Swaziland, Kwaluseni (eSwatini); Montgomery College, Rockville, MD, and the University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME.

Okafor speaks and writes about the challenges of ordinary people. Issues of war, suppression, politics, greed, poverty and disease feature alongside love, bonding, creativity and strength that support the engagement of hostility. She has won a number of local, national and international awards for research, creative writing, and teaching including the 2009 Phenomenal Woman Award; 2004 Global Learning Most Outstanding Department Award; two Rockefeller Humanist-in-Residence Fellowships in 1991 (Hunter College and Cornell University); Writer-in-residence Award, the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio (Italy), 1998; Bertram’s Literature of Africa (South Africa), 1996; and four Association of Nigerian Authors’ awards and honors in 1994 for drama, poetry, and short story.

Her research is interdisciplinary, centering on gender as the organizing principle intersecting with literature, African and cultural studies, feminist theory and anthropology. She has designed and taught courses on multicultural gender, world literature, feminist theory, issues of diversity, African mask performance and communication, intersectionality and multiple inequalities. She has worked as a consultant for several academic and community-based groups working on projects in which tales, dramatic skits, poetry and histories are used to engage social issues. Examples include workshops on gender, race, and media literacy. In 2019, she consulted for SWA-Beasley in writing the poem that is the center piece a park in the city of Wichita. Lived experiences in Africa, America, and Europe add to her use of technology to promote global learning classrooms. Her department won the Global Learning Most Outstanding Department Award in 2004.

Okafor has published in the area of African literature, African mask performance, and creative writing. Her published creative works include The New Toyi Toyi (a play), New Toyi Toyi (Nigerian Ed.), It Grows In Winter and Other Poems, He Wants to Marry Me Again and other Stories, The Lion and The Iroko (a play), From Earth’s Bed Chamber (poems), Campus Palavar and Other Plays, as well as others in collections, journals and magazines. Her recent scholarly book, Ikeji Festival Theater of the Aro and Diaspora: Gender, Mask and Communication has been seen as a monumental work that compares with the Cambridge Hellenists in its straddling of “history, myth, anthropology, drama, theater, religion and literature” (Charles Nnolim) as it “unravels the inner works of patriarchal power in the construction of masculinity and femininity...unveiling of gender politics” (Obioma Nnaemeka). Some of her works have been translated to French and Italian.

Her recent unpublished plays include Scramble for Africa 2 that engages the looting of African treasure by some Africans and foreigner, Mayor’s Beauty Contest written for youths at the Griots Enrichment Camp to facilitate their learning about moral character, and Much Ado about Women’s Hair which engages corruption through the issue of gender discrimination in the church. The nonfiction story of Much Ado was narrated and discussed with students at the University of Lagos, Nigeria in 2012. The first draft of Scramble was performed by members of the African Students Association at WSU’s Miller Concert Hall, Wichita, Kansas on October 30, 2009. Her poem, Sunflower Exclusive, was installed at Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita, Kansas, in 2020.