Poet Christopher Nixton Ifekandu Okigbo was born in Ojoto, Nigeria, in 1932 to a Catholic family. The son of a schoolteacher, he attended the Government College Umuahia and the University of Ibadan, studying medicine before concentrating on Greek and Latin. A Modernist, postcolonial, African poet, he drew on a diverse set of influences: Modernist English poetry, the classics, myths, and his African heritage. Okigbo published his work in the journal Black Orpheus; his collections include Heavensgate (1962) and the posthumous collections Labyrinths with Path of Thunder (1971) and Collected Poems (1986). In 1966, he was awarded the Langston Hughes Award for African Poetry at the Festival of Black African Arts in Dakar—an award he refused on the grounds that poetry should not be judged by race.
Okigbo was an active member of the community of writers and artists in Nigeria. As assistant librarian at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he founded the African Authors Association. Along with the writers Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, Okigbo belonged to the Mbari Writers and Artists Club in Ibadan, an organization for writers and visual and theater artists that maintained a publishing house. Okigbo served as a manager for Cambridge University Press of West Africa and, with Chinua Achebe, founded Citadel Press.
When the Nigeria-Biafra war broke out, Okigbo joined as a major and was killed in combat in 1967. He was awarded the National Order of Merit of Biafra after his death.
Okigbo was the subject of the Christopher Okigbo International Conference held in 2007 at Boston University. The Christopher Okigbo Foundation furthers his name and influence.