Christopher Okigbo – Looking back at his short life and taking stock of his poetic legacy

Christopher Okigbo Ifekandu one of the first Nigerian poets who established for the short time in his life, he died fighting for the independence of Biafra, as a central figure in the development of modern African poetry, is one of the most important African poets remained at English writing. Generally recognized as a master poet is drawn despite the complexity of obscure allusions and symbolism, he also named Africa's finest poets and one of the most important modernistWriters of the twentieth century. "While other poets good poetry," wrote Chinua Achebe observed. "Okigbo conjured up for us an amazing poetic, haunting firmament of a wild and violent beauty .."

His birth and early life

Okigbo was on 16 Born August 1932, spent in the community Ojolo, about ten miles from the city of Onitsha in Anambra State, was a father, a teacher in Catholic missionary schools at the height of British colonial rule in Nigeria, Okigbo's earlyYears moving from station to station along with his father. Despite the fact that his father was a devout Christian, Okigbo felt a special affinity for his maternal grandfather, Ijejiofor of Oto family who always provided the priesthood to the shrine of the deity Idoto personified in the river flowed Idoto that through his village . Later in life, Okigbo came to believe that his grandfather's soul was reborn in him.

His Educatiiobn at Ibadan and Umuahia

Okigbofrom the Government College Umuahia graduated two years after the famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, that earned a reputation as a passionate reader and a versatile athlete. The following year he entered the University of Ibadan to study medicine, but the transition to Classics in his second year .. He earned a reputation as a gifted pianist, accompanied Wole Soyinka, in his first public appearance as a singer. It is believed that he wrote original music at that time,but none has survived.

His first literary work and art

After graduating in 1956 he had a series of jobs throughout the country. He worked at the Nigerian Tobacco Company, United Africa Company, the Fiditi Grammar School (where he teaches Latin), and was a librarian at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, where he helped the African Authors Association.

In 1958 his life came to a turning point, as he wanted to know, began to better.HePublication of his works in various journals, especially Black Orpheus, a literary magazine, was the bringing together the best works of African and African American writers. While his poetry was in part a major symbol of African nationalism, he was adamantly opposed to Negritude, which he denounced as compared to a romantic pursuit of the "mystique of blackness" for their own sake. He also rejected the idea of a commonality of experience between Africans and black Americans, even if itbreach the editorial policy of Black Orpheus. For Okigbo, poetry was a highly personal endeavor. Although he embraced the African culture, he rejects the concept of Negritude literary, because he thinks he was just a poet. "A poet writes poems, and once a work is published in the public domain. It is to whoever reads to decide whether to leave it in Africa or English poetry." Therefore, he said it did not try something like a poet African-ness as a way to express something. there A poet who simply expresses itself. In exactly those reasons, he declined the first prize in the African-American poetry awarded him the 1965 Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar.

In 1963 he became the West African representative of the Cambridge University Press in Ibadan, a position that activate hiim so you frequently to the United Kingdom, where he drew further attention to travel. In Ibadan, he became an active member of the literary Mbari club.For he was among the many young artists whosearched for a platform to share their opinions and their various talents. He and Soyinka, were also musicians in jazz clubs. Consequently, in 1961, the Mbari Writers and Artists Club was born in Ibadan was founded by the German writer and critic Ulli Beier. Okigbo invited to be one of the original members of the committee together with Mbari: Georgina Beier, Wole Soyinka, JPClark, Chinua Achebe, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Amos Tutuola, DO Fagunwa, Dennis Williams, Demas Nwoko, UcheOkeke, Frances Ademola and Janheinz Jahn, the ethnologist. The Mbari Club incooperated various activities such as exhibitions of visual art, theater, creative workshops and a publishing Okigbo was eventually an editor. It played a crucial role in the emergence of modern African literature. Publication not only the writings of their members and supporters, but also the South African writer Dennis Brutus and Alex La Guma. For the visual arts, she presented the pioneers, such as thePainters Uche Okeke and Yusuf Grillo, Demas Nwoko sculptor and painter and silk-screen artist Bruce Onobrakpeya. The Mbari Club promoted the creation of a genuine movement of contemporary African artists who are ready to create a new artistic culture of the compatibility of the continent's cultural traditions and the introduction of technical language.

Okigbo published his first poems in the student literary magazine Horn, JP Clark will be processed. although his work also appeared in the moreimportant literary journal Black Orpheus. In the same year he was also as a pamphlet Heavensgate and a long poem in the Ugandan culture magazine Transition, in Kampala .. Okigbo published since early poems reflect the shared cultural heritage of his country, although it had influences from Virgil, Ovid, Eliot, and Pound, which to be stronger than the oral literature of the Igbo seem.

He finished and published the works of his mature years, including limits (1964), silence(1962-65), Lament of the Masks (to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats in the form of a Yoruba praise poem, 1964), "Dance of the Painted Girls" (1964 to commemorate the birth of his daughter, Obiageli or Ibrahimat , whom he regarded as a reincarnation of his mother) and his latest highly prophetic sequence, "Path of Thunder" (1965-67), which was published posthumously in 1971, the labyrinth, which includes poems from previous collections.

The Biafra –Was

The 1960s was a time of great political upheavals in Nigeria with the country an independent republic in 1963 and four years later, the eastern Ibo tribal area experiment, 1966 secede.In of Nigeria's crisis came to a head following the massacre of thousands of Igbo in North. Okigbo, lives in Ibadan at the time moved to eastern Nigeria to expect the outcome of the turn of events in the secession of the predominantly Igbo-eastern region, culminatingeventually declared itself as an independent Republic of Biafra on 30 May 1967. .

Although Okigbo followed the sharp social and political events in his country, shifting his early poems on a personal and mythical level. Path of Thunder (1968) showed a new direction – the bloodthirsty attack on politicians ( "The politicians are back in giant hidden steps of howitzers, about the detonator") and neo-colonial exploitation ( "The robbers down upon us to strip us of our laughter that our / thunder ") reflectingthe rise of radical movements in the late 1960s.

At the outbreak of war Okigbo was working for an Italian business organization, Wartrade. Living in Enugu, he worked with Achebe to create a new but small publisher, Citadel Press. However, the events in his country made him change his plans and to give up his job. Then he went to the new military government as a volunteer, a field commissioned major. He has been reached as a soldier, but was killed in battlein September 1967 during a major offensive against Nsukka, the university town, where he found his voice as a poet, and what he had promised to defend his life.refusing safe position behind the front .. He was posthumously decorated with the National Order of Merit of Biafra. Back in July, destroyed his home hill in Enugu, where some of his unpublished writings have been in a bomb attack. Also destroyed was pointed arches, a poetic autobiography, as an accountfrom the experiences of life and letters, which conspired to sharpen his creative imagination.


Several of his papers, but survived the war. His daughter, Obiageli, d has its literary heritage, to perpetuate the Christopher Okigbo Foundation in 2005 to his heritage. The papers were assigned in January 2006 by Chukwuma Azuonye, professor of African literature at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, which supports the basis for the appointment of themshow for the UNESCO Memory of the World ". Azuonye preliminary studies on the documents that, apart from new poems in English, including drafts of an anthem written for Biafra, Okigbo legacy of poems in Igbo. The latter are in the development of new perspectives in the study of poetry Okigbo is fascinating, the views of the interventions, particularly Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jemi Ihechukwu Madubuike and that he sacrificed his only begotten African sensibility in pursuit of an obscureEuro-modernism.

"Elegy for Alto" is the last poem in the Path of Thunder, now widely regarded as "the poet's testament" embodied a prophecy of his own death in sacrifice for human freedom to read "

Earth, unbind me, let me be the prodigal, let it

Aries last prayer on the leash …

AN OLD STAR moves, makes us here at the coast

Looked at the sky for a new star approaching;

The new star appears, no one would know its going

Before a round -qualifying goes on forever ….

The two collections of poems, published in his lifetime Okigbo established him as an innovative and controversial poets.

Properties of Okigbo's poetry

Its difficult but impressive and prophetic poems show the influence of modernist European and American poetry, African tribal mythology, and Nigerian music and rhythms. "Prophetic, menacing, terrorist, violent, protest – his poetry was this," wrote SE Anozie inChristopher Okigbo: Creative Rhetoric (1972).

In "Distance" (1964), he celebrates his latest aesthetic and emotional return to his indigenous religious roots:

I am the only witness to my homecoming.

Okigbo poetry makes constant and repeated references to the mother Idoto. the "water goddess", notably in Heavensgate (1962) with a compelling opening lines:

Before you, mother Idoto,

naked I stand;

Such a link seems to be of central importance to the meaning of the poem."Idoto is" actually used a river goddess, a being in African cosmology, Okigbo, in fact, as a personal symbol, elevating it to a savior so increasingly as a force that the protection of indigenous cultures and religions from Westernization. Heavensgate marked his return to the African part of his heritage and self-renewal by the goddess of the earth:

Before you, mother Idoto, naked I stand before the watery presence a prodigal

was based on a oilbean lost inTheir legend …

A complaint to the Idoto spirit opens the ritual pattern of the poem on which the oilbean, the tortoise, the python and the Rainbow .. This last one could run a prophetic role as Sunday Anozie suggests. It could also serve as a snake capable of leading and devouring the poet to be seen.

Other god-heads, or prophetic essences could be seen in the poetry of Okigbo. Viii limits in the prophetic role is an important symbol of investing – the sunbirdRepresentatives of the sadness of the poet as the conscience of cohesive spirit of man is ultimately violated by the imperialists. Here, too, totem worship rituals "A fleet of eagles / over the shadows oilbeam / '" operating under a curse of the place of her breath, "" a blind dog to the power of prophecy known to howl', 'the tortoise and the python, which classified as a double-gods of the forest "," shrinehouse bamboo towers ',' egg shells, tiger mask and spear nude. "Dumbbells" and "elongatedLioness-headed "abound.

The two collections, Heavensgate (1962) and Frontiers (1964)-show a personal, introspective poetry through a familiarity with the Western myths with a rich, surprising images filled informed. Obscure is labeled by some critics, his poetry and allusions sophisticated drawing, free from modern poets like TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, as recognized by the Roman Catholic religion of his family in Ojoto. Okigbo said that his poetry regarded as an organic whole, as it should beExpression of his coming of age as a poet.

Okigbo's influence is not limited Africa.going Gerard Manley Hopkins, and a mixture of European, Asian and African influences. He borrows from various sources, such as African religion and Western religion. Romantic, pastoral and classical Greek and Latin influences, such as Vigil and Theocritus are very much in evidence, together with allusions to the Bible in Okigbo's poetry.

Its bonds, as Dan Izevbaye down, usually on an apparentlyBeauty and utility of the expression itself.with the "importance" or "experience" of the poem is often controlled by their immediate context. If such bonds or images in new collocations and associations are thrust, his poetry is surprising and fresh. This could be attributed to him, to be subject to adjustment, compression and conversion, before they absorbed.

The main source of darkness in the poetry of Okigbo is that references held by private symbols from a private world, notably byAllusions to characters who were part of his childhood as oblongs Kepkanly, Enki, Flannagan, Haragin, Ja'dun, Upandru, Anna of the panel and Eunice and dark places such as land and Rick Rock Point cable. Such references to repeat too often. You could no doubt a very personal meaning for the poet, who kept referring to them. But such an importance to the reader, completely ignorant of their origin is lost.

Suffered a similar loss when the reader has no personalExperience with such objects known as "Advent", "dumbbells", "Rock Point Cable ',' country rock ',' fucking angels ',' oval-headed lioness" and "a blind dog," which add up to all the darkness.

Okigbo Since the writing of complex and difficult issues is the need may be facial expression is rare and difficult to understand. This difficulty is of his either knowingly or unknowingly creating a language of ritual, to which the reader has to be initiated, so perfectly composed in theritual content of his work. This effect is enhanced by various aspects of his techniques, including its use of language. On the one hand it takes a broken syntax and usage of various obscure words and unusual collocations like "orangery solitude, broken monody'and" 'square gives the moron. The structure of the work itself to this end by a kind of syncretic musical patterns worked direction through the distribution of parts of the traditional Ibo musical instruments. Theinvocational and evocative qualities shown by the Rhythmn of lines is another good example of what in "Elegy for slit-drum."

In the world of Okigbo is the modern and the traditional approach in a tense conflict with the wealth of images and symbols are used Western religion and culture, rich with shibboleth of John the Baptist, "" preaching the gambit ',' cross ',' pilgrim bound 'and' the censer. In some poems, Christian rites so advanced that theyas dominant rituals are related to traditional African religion. The Omni-presence and destructive potential of the Western presence is seen through pictures such as "Thunder ironsteps huge tanks of the blast,''the distant seven guns', 'cable' open air '. And' magic birds with the miracle of lightning on their feathers.

This conflict rises to an explosive point as in the depression and repetition of the thunder motif. The resulting residue is thus covered:"Parliament has to wait for vacation," "The cabinet has gone to hell," "lie in the voters gone" and "the sound of sirened afternoon. The confusion of values and chaotic state could be captured any better way.

Thundering drums and cannons in palm grove, the spirit is in the ascendant. (from "Sacrifice")

Recurrent images in Okigbo's poems are dance ( "Dance of Death," "Dance of the iron-mortar"), thunder (thunder of tanks, "" Thunder in the Clouds "), and the sound of drums (" theDrums of the curfew, "" action of the drums). Okigbo started gradually as singers and musicians to see who is talking with the old, pre-literate language of the drums: "I have fed from the drum / I have drunk from the Cymbals … "In 'Overture' (1961) Okigbo a" watchman was on Parole / at Heavensgate "and" Hooray for the Thunder, "Urban Crier, together with my iron bell"

Okigbo, together with TS Eliot's vision of a spiritual quest, where the poet in the area of the old myths andhis spiritual self, "Before you, mother Idoto, naked I stand …" songlike often with repetition, with the rhythm of poetry and the words flowing melody, as if the poet were listening to and interpreting the distant sounds. Elect from the four elements of water Okigbo, float housing Idoto: "Under my feet the water / flood them with blows.".

Many of his poetry is the sound should be read (or even sing) – culminating in the application of the drums, and thenThe Path of Thunder (which begins as follows: "Fanfare of drums, bells made of wood). The mix of both African and external influences. When he worked at Heavensgate says Okigbo himself, he was working under the spell of the impressionist composers Debussy, Caesar Franck, Ravel …

To convince the sound and keep hitting, although it can sometimes obscure the meaning. Okigbo poetry is full of ellipses, not marked with scarcely a poem by sentences left to the drop-off in three points:

Andthere is

the errors of representation …

The pieces of the poems are striking frequency vibrations. "Gods grow / Exit" in fragments from the deluge, a sequence that ends: "and this is completed destroyed."

The poems – cut, split, just to impress in their fields – from line to line. The lines are repeated and some of the many poem-sequences. The Lament of the Silent Sisters, for example the question: "How does one say NO in Thunder" is of central importance- And the thunder appeared elsewhere. (The "NO, Thunder" is a "dominant motive" in Lament of the Silent Sisters. Okigbo Here also proposes:

Silence are melodies

Heard in retrospect

The final sequence, Paths of Thunder is a series of poems, prophesies war. and let the conflict between art and life, and the charged political climate of the day, bubble above. This could ironically serve forecasts of subsequent abandonment of the art Okigbo to the cause of Biafra, in the deathBattle. It was not his words, brought him into trouble, but also in Paths of Thunder, he makes a rare appearance, warning itself:

If I did not learn, I'll close my mouth now in hell,

I, Okigbo, town-crier, together with my iron bell.

Okigbo poems also seem to leap from the page.for his poetry, it was not possible congestion and he has not only remain a successful form and style. Although Okigbo exaggerated or sometimes misses the mark in the poemswhose importance the reader, he could still miss his interest. Although remarkably few words with Okigbo sometimes offer enormous complexity of his poems is certainly worth reading.In despite his many influences, he is endowed with a distinctive and interesting voice

Further reading:

• Sunday Anozie, Christopher Okigbo: Creative Rhetoric. London: Evan Brothers Ltd. and New York: Holmes and Meier, Inc., 1972.

• Uzoma Esonwanne, ed. 2000th Critical Essays onChristopher Okigbo. New York: GK Hall & Co.

• Donatus Ibe Nwoga, Critical Perspectives on Christopher Okigbo, three Continents Press, 1984.

• • Donatus Ibe Nwoga, Critical Perspectives on Christopher Okigbo, three Continents Press, 1984.

• DUBEM Okafor, Dance of Death: Nigerian History and Christopher Okigbo's Poetry. Trenton, NJ, and Asmara, Eritrea: African World Press, 1998.

• Udoeyop, Nyong J., three Nigerian Poets: A Critical Study of the Poetry ofSoyinka, Clark, and Okigbo. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, 1973.

• James Wieland, The Ensphering Mind: History, Myth and Fictions in the Poetry of Allen Curnow, Nissim Ezekiel. AD Hope, AM Klein, Christopher Okigbo and Derek Walcott. Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1988.

Izevbaye Dan S. "The State of Criticism in African literature." African Literature Today. Ed. Eldred Durosimi Jones. Vol 7th London: Heinemann, 1979. 1-19.


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: