Renowned Nigerian poet and novelist Gabriel Okara dies at 97


The literary world is still mourning the death of Renowned Nigerian poet and novelist, Gabriel Okara who died just four weeks before his 98th birthday.

Gabriel Okara was famous for writing poems such as PAINO AND DRUMS and THE CALL OF THE RIVER NUN which won the ‘Best All-Round Entry In Poetry’ prize at the Nigeria Festival of Arts in 1953.

Born on April 24 1921, Gabriel was educated at the prestigious Government College, Umuahia, in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Gabriel Okara blazed the trail for other writers by becoming the first Nigerian writer to publish in Ulli Beier’s interventionst journal, Black Orpheus, eventually joining its editorial board shortly after.

His 1978 collection of poems, The Fisherman’s Invocation, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize the following year. The maturity of his lyrical vision, with an approach to language that remains deeply symbolic, while maintaining a rather swift succession of lines, flows into a stream of qualities that make his poetry gold standard in modernist scholarship anywhere in the world.

Consistent with a long-standing literary passion, Pa Okara, after several years, returned with the collection The Dreamer, His Vision in 2005: an instant success which became a joint winner, that same year, of Nigeria’s highest literary honour, The NLNG-endowed Nigeria Prize for Literature.

In 2009, he received an Honorary Membership Award from the Pan African Writers’ Association.

Mr. Gabriel Okara also had stint in public service. From 1972 to 1980 he was director of the Rivers State Publishing House in Port Harcourt.

His final call may not be a journey on the waters of the River Nun, but its course runs beyond the River of mortal life.



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