Renowned Nigerian poet, Gabriel Okara, dies at 97

Gabriel Okara (Photo Credit: Vanguard Newspaper)
Gabriel Okara (Photo Credit: Vanguard Newspaper)

Renowned Nigerian poet and novelist, Gabriel Okara, has died.

He was 97.

The literary icon passed died on Sunday at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, four weeks before his 98th birthday.

Born in 1921 in Boumandi in present day Bayelsa State, Mr Okara was part of the golden set of pioneer African writers.

He was the first renowned English language black poet and also the first modernist writer on the African continent.

The Nigerian negritudist, as he was fondly called, began his writing career in Government College Umuahia.

By 1960, he became the first African to be published in the prestigious literary journal, Black Orpheus. That same year he also became part of its editorial board.

In 1953, his poem ‘Call of the river nun’ won the best prize in literature in Nigeria’s festival of arts.


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In 1979, his collection ‘Fishermans invocation’ won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize.

In 2005, he bagged the highest literary honour in Nigeria, the NLNG prize.

In addition to his poetry and fiction, he also wrote plays and features for broadcasting.

Many of his unpublished manuscripts were destroyed during the Nigerian Civil War.

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