Christopher Okigbo – On The Lookout Again At His Shorter-lived Lifetime And Taking Inventory Of His Poetic Legacy

Christopher Okigbo - On The Lookout Again At His Shorter-lived Lifetime And Taking Inventory Of His Poetic Legacy

Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo on the list of earliest Nigerian poets, who within his quick life time, for he died battling for that independence of Biafra, set up himself as being a central figure in the event of recent African poetry,has remained certainly one of The key African poets to write down in English. Commonly acknowledged like a learn poet Despite a complexity drawn from obscure allusions and symbolism, he has even been named Africa’s very best poet and on the list of key modernist writers in the twentieth century. “For though other poets wrote excellent poems,” Chinua Achebe observed.”Okigbo conjured up for us an awesome, haunting poetic firmament of the wild and violent attractiveness..”

His birth and early existence

Okigbo was born on August sixteen, 1932, in the city of Ojolo, about ten miles from the city of Onitsha in Anambra State, to a father who was a teacher in Catholic missionary universities for the duration of the peak of British colonial rule in Nigeria, Okigbo expended his early a long time transferring from station to station in addition to his father. Even though his father was a devout Christian, Okigbo felt a Exclusive affinity to his maternal grandfather, Ijejiofor in the Oto family members, who may have normally provided the priesthood towards the shrine on the deity Idoto personified during the river Idoto that flowed by way of his village. Afterwards in life, Okigbo came to believe that his grandfather’s soul was reincarnated in him.

His Educatiiobn at Umuahia and Ibadan

Okigbo graduated from Govt Faculty Umuahia two a long time once the noted Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, owning gained himself a reputation like a voracious reader and a flexible athlete. The next yr, he entered the College of Ibadan to review Medicine, but switching to Classics in his 2nd yr.. He also earned himself a standing being a gifted pianist, accompanying Wole Soyinka in his 1st community visual appearance for a singer. It is believed that he wrote initial songs at that time, although none has survived.

His initial literary do the job and art

After graduating in 1956, he held a succession of jobs through the entire place. He labored at the Nigerian Tobacco Company, United Africa Firm, the Fiditi Grammar University (where by he taught Latin), and was Assistant Librarian within the College of Nigeria in Nsukka, exactly where he helped found the African Authors Affiliation.

In 1958 his life came to your turning stage as he sought to grasp himself much better.He commenced publishing his will work in different journals, notably Black Orpheus a literary journal that was bringing alongside one another the best will work of African and African American writers. When his poetry was in part a strong expression of African nationalism, he was adamantly opposed to Negritude, which he denounced like a romantic pursuit from the “mystique of blackness” for its personal sake. He also turned down the conception of a commonality of encounter among Africans and black People, While it contravened the editorial plan of Black Orpheus. For Okigbo, poetry was a very own endeavor. While he embraced African lifestyle he turned down the literary thought of Negritude, for he thinks he was only a poet.” A poet writes poetry and at the time a work is printed it gets community assets. It’s still left to whoever reads it to make a decision irrespective of whether It can be African poetry or English.” He as a result said that there was not any these kinds of factor for a poet trying to express African ness as such a matter does not exist. A poet just merely expresses himself. On exactly these grounds he rejected the main prize in African poetry awarded to him with the 1965 Competition of Negro Arts in Dakar.

In 1963 he became West African Consultant of Cambridge University Push at Ibadan, a placement which enabled hiim to journey often to the United Kingdom, where he captivated more interest. At Ibadan, he became an Energetic member with the Mbari literary club.For he was Amongst the several youthful artists who were seeking a System to exchange their sights and share their different abilities. He and Soyinka, have been also musicians, executing in jazz golf equipment. Therefore in 1961 the Mbari Writers and Artists Club was born in Ibadan Launched from the German author and critic Ulli Beier. who invited Okigbo being among the original Mbari committee associates together with: Georgina Beier, Wole Soyinka, J. P.Clark, Chinua Achebe, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Amos Tutuola, D. O. Fagunwa, Dennis Williams, Demas Nwoko, Uche Okeke, Frances Ademola and Janheinz Jahn, the ethnologist. The Mbari Club incooperated different routines as Visible arts exhibitions, theatre, creative workshops plus a publishing house.by which Okigbo finally grew to become an editor. It played a decisive function while in the beginning of recent African literature,. publishing don’t just the writings of its customers and adherents but All those from the South African writers Dennis Brutus and Alex La Guma. For the Visible arts, it offered the pioneers, including the painters Uche Okeke and Yusuf Grillo, the sculptor and painter Demas Nwoko, and also the silk screen artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya. The Mbari Club promoted the development of a real movement of present day African artists, who have been poised to crank out a completely new artistic lifestyle reconciling the continent’s cultural traditions along with the complex language imposition.

Okigbo released his first poems in the scholar literary journal Horn, edited by J.P. Clark. although his will work also appeared in the more major literary magazine Black Orpheus. In exactly the same yr he also revealed as a pamphlet, Heavensgate, and an extended poem from the Ugandan cultural magazine Transition, printed in Kampala.. Okigbo’s early poems mirrored the divided cultural heritage of his nation, although it had influences from Virgil, Ovid, Eliot, and Pound which seem to be stronger than the oral literature in the Igbo.

He concluded, and published the works of his experienced years, including Limitations (1964), Silences (1962 65), Lament of your Masks (commemorating the centenary with the beginning of W. B. Yeats in the shape of the Yoruba praise poem, 1964), “Dance from the Painted Maidens” (commemorating the 1964 start of his daughter, Obiageli or Ibrahimat, whom he considered a reincarnation of his mom) and his final really prophetic sequence, “Route of Thunder” (1965 sixty seven), which was published posthumously in 1971 with, Labyrinths, which includes the poems from the sooner collections.

The Biafran War

The 1960s was a duration of terrific political upheavals in Nigeria with the region getting an independent republic in 1963 and four many years later the eastern Ibo tribal location aiming to secede.In 1966 the Nigerian disaster came to a head pursuing the massacre of 1000s of Igbo from the North. Okigbo, living in Ibadan at time, relocated to japanese Nigeria to await the end result of your turn of gatherings which culminated in the secession with the predominantly Igbo eastern location which finally declared alone being an independent Biafra republic on Could thirty, 1967. .

Despite the fact that Okigbo followed the social and political functions in his nation keenly, his early poems moved on a private and mythical degree. Route of Thunder (1968) showed a whole new route its assault on bloodthirsty politicians (“POLITICIANS are back in big concealed ways of howitzers, / of detonators”) and neocolonial exploitation (“THE ROBBERS descend on us to strip us our laughter, of our / thunder”) reflective from the increase of radical movements within the late sixties.

Within the outbreak from the war Okigbo was Functioning for an Italian enterprise Business, Wartrade. Living in Enugu, he worked together with Achebe to establish a new but compact publishing property, Citadel Push. Nonetheless, the situations in his place created him modify his ideas, and abandon his occupation. He immediately joined The brand new condition’s military as being a volunteer, a industry commissioned main. He turned achieved as a soldier, but was killed in action in September 1967 during An important attack from Nsukka, the College city the place he observed his voice like a poet, and which he had vowed to protect together with his lifestyle.refusing safer positions guiding the frontline.. Posthumously, he was decorated Using the National Order of Advantage of Biafra. Before, in July, his hilltop house at Enugu, exactly where several of his unpublished writings ended up was wrecked in the bombing. Also wrecked was Pointed Arches, a poetic autobiography that is as an account from the activities of lifetime and letters which conspired to sharpen his Imaginative creativity.


A number of of his unpublished papers, even so, survived the war. His daughter, Obiageli, d his literary heir, set up the Christopher Okigbo Basis in 2020 to perpetuate his legacy. The papers have been catalogued in January 2020 by Chukwuma Azuonye, Professor of African Literature at the College of Massachusetts, Boston, who assisted the inspiration in nominating them for the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Azuonye’s preliminary experiments on the papers suggest that, in addition to new poems in English, together with drafts of an Anthem for Biafra, Okigbo’s unpublished papers include things like poems composed in Igbo. The latter are interesting in opening up new vistas in the examine of Okigbo’s poetry, countering the views of, In particular Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jemie and Ihechukwu Madubuike , that he sacrificed his indigenous African sensibility in pursuit of an obscure euro modernism.

“Elegy for Alto”, the final poem in Path of Thunder, is currently widely read through as the poet’s “previous testament” embodying a prophecy of his own death for a sacrificial lamb for human independence’

Earth, unbind me; let me be the prodigal; Enable this be

the ram’s supreme prayer towards the tether…

AN OLD STAR departs, leaves us below around the shore

Gazing heavenward for any new star approaching;

The brand new star appears, foreshadows its going

Before a heading and coming that goes on eternally….

The two collections of verse that appeared for the duration of Okigbo’s life span founded him as an revolutionary and controversial poet.

Options of Okigbo’s poetry

His tricky but suggestive and prophetic poems demonstrate the impact of modernist European and American poetry, African tribal mythology, and Nigerian tunes and rhythms. “Prophetic, menacing, terrorist, violent, protesting his poetry was all of these,” S.O. Anozie wrote in Christopher Okigbo: Inventive Rhetoric (1972).

In “Distances” (1964) he celebrates his ultimate aesthetic and psychic return to his indigenous spiritual roots:

I am the only real witness to my homecoming.

Okigbo’s poetry helps make consistent and repeated references to mother Idoto. the “drinking water goddess” especially so in Heavensgate (1962) opening With all the compelling strains:

Prior to deciding to, mother Idoto,

bare I stand,

Such a reference seems central to your this means with the poem. “Idoto” is In point of fact a river goddess, an essence in African cosmology which Okigbo in truth takes advantage of as a personal image, elevating it into a saviour Consequently emerging being a power representing the security of indigenous cultures and religions from westernization. Heavensgate thus marked his return to the African Section of his heritage and self renewal throughout the goddess in the earth:

Before you, Mother Idoto, bare I stand right before your watery presence a prodigal

leaning on an oilbean lost in your legend…

An invocation on the Idoto spirit essence opens the ritualistic sample from the poem to and that is additional the oilbean, the tortoise, the python along with the rainbow..This previous a single could complete prophetic purpose as Sunday Anozie suggests. It could also be noticed like a snake effective at both major and devouring the poet.

Other god heads or prophetic essences may be viewed in Okigbo’s poetry. In Limitations viii the prophetic part is invested on a vital symbol the sunbird representing the mourning conscience from the poet as being the cohesive spirit on the persons is inevitably desecrated by the imperialists. Below way too totems with the ritualistic worship ‘A fleet of eagles,/around the oilbeam shadows/ ‘ ‘holding the square under curse in their breath’,’ a blind Puppy known for electric power of prophecy, howling’,’ the tortoise and also the python who’re classed as the dual gods in the forest,’ ‘shrinehouse bamboo towers’, ‘egg shells, tiger mask and nude spear.,’dumb bells’ and ‘rectangular headed lioness’ abound.

The two collections Heavensgate (1962) and Boundaries (1964) reveal a personal, introspective poetry educated by a familiarity with Western myths crammed with wealthy, startling illustrations or photos. Labeled obscure by some critics, his poetry is demanding and allusive drawing as freely from contemporary poets, for instance T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, because it does with the Roman Catholic faith of his spouse and children in Ojoto. Okigbo maintained that his poetry need to be considered as an organic and natural whole mainly because it expressed his coming of age for a poet.

Okigbo’s influences aren’t limited to Africa.likely to Gerard Manley Hopkins as well as a combination of European, Asian, and African influences. He borrows from various resources like African faith and also western religion. Romantic, pastoral and classical Greek and Latin influences like Vigil and Theocritus tend to be in proof coupled with allusions on the Bible in Okigbo’s poetry.

His borrowings, as Dan Izevbaye notes, commonly look limited to the elegance and utility on the phrase by itself.with the ‘meaning’ or ‘knowledge’ of your poem normally managed by its rapid context. When these types of borrowings or photos are thrust into new collocations or associations, his poetry gets to be startling and refreshing. This is likely to be imputed into the adaptation, summarization and conversion they endure ahead of staying absorbed.

The principle source of obscurity in Okigbo’s poetry is always that references drawn from A personal globe by way of personal symbols mainly by way of allusions to figures who have been A part of his childhood oblongs which include Kepkanly, Enki, Flannagan, Haragin, Jadun, Upandru, Anna from the Panel and Eunice and obscure locations like Rickland and rockpoint cable. This kind of references recur all too typically. They may without doubt have incredibly private significance for the poet to possess held referring to them. But this kind of importance is dropped on the reader who is totally ignorant of their background.

An identical reduction is suffered when the reader has no particular expertise of this kind of objects called: ‘introduction’, ‘dumb bells’,’rockpoint of cable’, ‘Rockland’, ‘fucking angels’,’rectangular headed lioness’ and ‘a blind Pet’ which all include up into the obscurity.

Since Okigbo is creating of sophisticated and hard subjects,his expression may well of requirement be unusual and challenging to understand. This problem is compounded by his possibly knowingly or unwittingly making a language of ritual to which the reader should be initiated, thus fitting beautifully into the ritualistic contents of his function. This impact is bolstered by numerous components of his procedures inclusive of his use of language. First of all You can find the damaged syntax and the use of several obscure words and strange collocations for example ‘orangery solitude’, ‘broken monody’and ‘sq. yields the moron’. The framework from the operate alone adds to this result by way of a type of syncretic musical sample labored in the direction of via distribution of pieces to standard Ibo musical devices. The incantatory and invocational qualities revealed throughout the rhythmn of your lines is yet another, a superb illustration of that’s in “Elegy for slit drum.”

In Okigbo’s earth the trendy and the normal are thrust right into a tense conflict Along with the profusion of images and symbols akin to western faith and civilization abounding with ‘John the Baptist’,’preaching the gambit’,’crucifix’,’pilgrims sure for shibboleth’ and ‘the censer.’ In certain poems Christian rites are so absolutely created that they develop into as dominant rites akin to classic African religion. The omni presence and destructive potentials from the western existence is observed via photos like: ‘Thunder of tanks of big ironsteps of detonation,”the distant seven cannons’, ‘cables on the open up air’. And ‘magic birds Along with the miracle of lightning flash on their own feathers’.

This conflict soars up to an explosive place as observed in the intensification and repetition of your thunder motif. The resulting particles is captured thus: ‘parliament has gone on leave’, ‘The cupboard has gone to hell’, ‘the voters are lying in wait’, and ‘the blare of sirened afternoons’. The confusion of values and chaotic condition may very well be captured in no far better way.

Thundering drums and cannons in palm grove: the spirit is in ascent. (from ‘Sacrifice’)

Generally recurring photographs in Okigbo’s poems are dance (“dance of death”, “iron dance of mortars”), thunder (“thunder of tanks”, “the thunder One of the clouds”), and audio of drums (“the drums of curfew”, “lament with the drums”). Slowly Okigbo began to see himself being a singer musician, who speaks with the ancient, pre literate language of drums: “I have fed out in the drum / I have drunk out of your cymbal…” In ‘Overture’ (1961) Okigbo was a “watchman for your watchword / at heavensgate” and in ‘Hurrah for Thunder’ a “city crier, along with my iron bell”

Okigbo shared with T.S.Eliot a eyesight of the spiritual quest, taking the poet towards the realm of ancient myths also to his spiritual self: “Before you decide to, mom Idoto, naked I stand…” typically using repetition, While using the rhythm in the poetry starting to be songlike, as well as words flowing melodiously, as If your poet were listening and interpreting distant Appears. From the four things Okigbo chooses water, the dwelling location of Idoto: “Below my feet float the waters: / tide blows them underneath.”.

A great deal of his poetry is of sound, intended to be examine aloud (or maybe sung) culminating inside the Lament on the Drums, and then The trail of Thunder (which commences: “Fanfare of drums, picket bells”). All over again, the mix is equally of African and out of doors influences. When he was working on Heavensgate, Okigbo himself states he was Operating beneath the spell on the impressionist composers Debussy, Caesar Franck, Ravel …

The audio and beat constantly persuade; although the indicating can at times be obscure. Okigbo’s poetry is stuffed with ellipses, with barely a poem not marked by sentences still left to drop off from the three dots:

And there are actually below

the problems from the rendering …

The items of your poems are striking, typically jarring. “Gods increase out / Abandoned” in Fragments out of your Deluge, a sequence that finishes: ” the cancelling out is comprehensive.”

The poems Minimize up, divided, brief within their sections impress from line to line. Strains are repeated and assorted during several in the poem sequences. In Lament in the Silent Sisters, for example, the query of: “How does a single say NO in thunder” is central plus the thunder reappears somewhere else far too. (The “NO in thunder” is often a “dominant motif” in Lament of your Silent Sisters. Right here Okigbo also indicates:

Silences are melodies

Read on reflection

The ultimate sequence, Paths of Thunder, can be a series of Poems prophesying War. and allowing the conflict among art and lifestyle, plus the billed political climate of your day, bubble in excess of. This may be ironical predictions of Okigbo’s later on abandoning art to serve the Biafran cause, dying in fight. It was not his terms that received him into issues, but even in Paths of Thunder he makes a rare personalized visual appeal, warning himself:

If I do not discover how to shut my mouth I am going to before long check out hell,

I, Okigbo, city crier, together with my iron bell.

Okigbo’s poems seem to leap out even with the webpage.for his poetry did not make it possible for stasis and he did not simply keep on with one successful variety and elegance. Nevertheless Okigbo in some cases overreaches himself or misses the mark even in Those people poems whose that means might elude the reader he continue to maintains curiosity. However with deceptively several terms Okigbo provides occasionally overwhelming complexity, his poetry is unquestionably well worth reading.Despite his varied influences, He’s endowed with a distinctive and intriguing voice

Even more Reading through:

o Sunday Anozie, Christopher Okigbo: Creative Rhetoric. London: Evan Brothers Ltd., and Big apple: Holmes and Meier, Inc.,1972.

o Uzoma Esonwanne, ed. 2020. Essential Essays on Christopher Okigbo. New York: G. K. Corridor Co.

o Donatus Ibe Nwoga, Critical Perspectives on Christopher Okigbo, A few Continents Push, 1984.

oo Donatus Ibe Nwoga, Vital Perspectives on Christopher Okigbo, 3 Continents Press, 1984.

o Dubem Okafor, Dance of Loss of life: Nigerian Heritage and Christopher Okigbo’s Poetry. Trenton, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: African Environment Push, 2020.

o Udoeyop, Nyong J., A few Nigerian Poets: A Significant Examine of your Poetry of Soyinka, Clark, and Okigbo. Ibadan: Ibadan University Push, 1973.

o James Wieland, The Ensphering Brain: Background, Myth and Fictions while in the Poetry of Allen Curnow, Nissim Ezekiel. A. D. Hope, A. M. Klein, Christopher Okigbo and Derek Walcott. Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1988.

Izevbaye Dan S. “The Condition of Criticism in African Literature”. African Literature Today. Ed. Eldred Durosimi Jones. Vol. seven. London: Heinemann, 1979. one 19.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *