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Gabriel Okara – a literary icon of our time @ 90

“This is the voice that first spoke Nigerian poetry in English”

It was in this manner that Seiyifa Koroye, a Professor of English Language at the University of Port Harcourt described Dr Gabriel Okara at a birthday / reading in his honour, jointly organized by the Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA), Rivers State Branch and the British Council in Port Harcourt on Saturday the 4th of June 2011.

Born in Bumodi on April 21st 1921 in present day Bayelsa State Gabriel Okara was said to have been highly influenced by colonial ways of doing things. He was at Government College, Umua- hia and later trained as a printer at Yaba College, Lagos. He served in the Eastern Nigeria Civil Service at Enugu and subsequently was part of the Executive Cabinet of the Old Rivers State as Commissioner for Information. Highly talented in the arts, his repertoire includes fine arts, music and literature.

“The Call of the River Nun”, his 1953 poem, which won the best award for literature at the Nigerian Festival of Arts brought back fond memories in young adults at the event having been exposed to the works of this literary mind 2 decades ago.

A largely self taught man, Pa Okara is acknowledged as a writer with the longest life and the longest career in creative writing spanning over half a century (1950s – 2000s) in Nigeria.