Christopher Nixton Ifekandu Okigbo was born in 1932, when the British ruled Nigeria as a colony. Although Okigbo received a colonial education and was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, he also followed many Igbo traditions in his childhood. These traditions included the familial worship of the goddess Idoto. Okigbo’s grandfather was a priest at the Idoto shrine, which is associated with the river that flows through Ojoto. Much of Okigbo’s poetry speaks directly to Idoto, the river goddess, or prominently features or references her.
Okigbo was educated at the University of Ibadan, where he began his studies as a medical student. He switched to a concentration on Greek and Latin classics and graduated in 1956. Okigbo married an Igbira princess, Judith Sefi Attah, daughter of the Attah of Igbiraland. Together, they had a daughter, Obiageli Ibrahmat Okigbo, born in 1964.
Okigbo held a number of jobs in business, politics, publishing, and academia. He served in significant roles, including manager of Cambridge University Press for West Africa and organizer for the Mbari Club, a group of musicians, artists, and writers (including Wole Soyinka). Okigbo, also an accomplished pianist, played with Soyinka on stage. With Chinua Achebe, Okigbo created the publishing house Citadel Press. He eventually dedicated himself full-time to his poetry, until the onset of the civil war in Nigeria.
The war, which was based on ethnic tensions, saw...
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