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This Day in History: Poet, Christopher Okigbo was born in Ojoto, 1932

Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo was a Nigerian poet, one of the major founding fathers that shaped the development of Nigerian Literature, and African Literature in general, in the 20th century.

He was born in Eastern Nigeria, in the town of Ojoto, in Anambra State, on the 16th of August, 1932, to Chief James Okoye Okigbo and Mrs Anna Onugwalobi Okigbo.

He attended the Government College, Umuahia and the University of Ibadan, where he started out his career in Medicine, but later switched to study Classics, a course which majors mostly in historical Greek and Roman cultures.

Christopher Okigbo also held a versatile résumé. Before he became the Assistant Librarian at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he co-founded the African Authors Association, he worked at Nigerian Tobacco Company, and United African Company, then, as a private secretary to the Federal Minister of Information and a teacher in Fiditi Grammar School in Oyo State. Mr Okigbo was also the West African representative for the Cambridge University Press at Ibadan.

Christopher Okigbo. Chinua Achebe. Alex Ajayi

L-R, Christopher Okigbo, Chinua Achebe and Alex Ajayi, Principal, Fiditi Grammar School

At the founding of the Mbari Club in Ibadan in 1961 by German writer Ulli Beier, Christopher Okigbo together with other writers- Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, J.P. Clark and Mabel Segun, and visual artists Uche Okeke, Demas Nwoko and Bruce Onobrakpeya, and other artists were pioneers. The club was an association of writers, artists, musicians and actors and served as a cultural centre which attracted artists from all over Africa and beyond.

In the break of Nigeria’s civil war in May 1967, he relocated to Enugu where he set up a publishing company, Citadel Press, together with Chinua Achebe. He enrolled in the Biafran army but was killed in the battle in August 1967.

Labyrinths. Christopher Okigbo

His works were written in both Igbo and English and featured in various journals. Though some works were lost during the war, and some others published after his death, during his lifetime, Christopher Okigbo published three volumes of poetry: Heavensgate (1962), Limits (1964), Distances (1964) and Silences (1965). A compendium of his works was published posthumously in 1971 under the title, Labyrinth and includes Paths of Thunder which was written between 1965 and 1957.

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Nnenna is an editor and writer at Connect Nigeria. She loves fine art, books and places.

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