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Award-winning British-Nigerian poet, Gboyega Odubanjo, has passed on at the age of 27. According to the BBC, he was last seen at the Shambala music festival in Kelmarsh, England on August 26 where he was due to perform the next day, and his body was found on August 31.

Although we are still waiting on the coroner’s report on the cause of death, the police said they are not treating Odubanjo’s death as suspicious.

His passing is a great loss to the African and British poetry community. Odubanjo’s sister, Rose Odubanjo, shared similar sentiments in a statement, in which she describes Gboyega as “inimitable” and will always be remembered as “a brilliant poet, inspiring friend, son and brother.” British-Nigerian Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo shared on Instagram: “Very sad to hear that Gboyega Odubanjo is no longer with us. I never new him personally but many of the poets I did, and they are heartbroken.”

Odubabjo’s sister and family have set up a GoFundMe page to raise £70,000 to launch a foundation in his memory. The family plans to launch the Gboyega Odubanjo Foundation for low-income black writers with this money. Donate here.

Gboyega Odubanjo was a rising star in the British poetry scene at the young age of 27. He was a British-Nigerian writer born and raised in East London. He completed an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of East Anglia in 2018.

His pamphlet Aunty Uncle Poems won the 2020 Poetry Business New Poets’ Prize, the 2021 Eric Gregory Award, as well as the 2021 Michael Marks Award. His pamphlet, While I Yet Live, was published by Bad Betty Press in 2019. He was a Roundhouse Resident Artist from 2019-20. He was also an editor at Bad Betty Press and the poetry magazine Bath Magg, where he supported and mentored developing artists.

Odubanjo’s full-length debut collection of poetry, Adam, is forthcoming from Faber in Summer 2024. The collection is inspired by the unsolved murder of “Adam”, an unidentified male child whose body was found in the River Thames in 2001. Ironically, this collection explores structural inequality when it comes to searching for missing Black people in the UK.

At the time of his death, he had been studying for a PhD in creative writing at the University of Hertfordshire.

Bad Betty Press, where Odubanjo was an editor, described him in a Twitter statement as one of poetry’s shining lights and widely recognized as a voice of his generation.

As a co-editor of one of the issues of the Magma Poetry journal, Odubanjo went above and beyond in his role. In a statement, Magma Poetry remarked:

Not every great poet is necessarily a great editor, nor do they necessarily want to do the job, but Gboyega generously used his skills to encourage and mentor poets, and he went on to co-edit the ground-breaking Obsidian issue, Magma 82, in partnership with the Obsidian Foundation, focusing on Black poets.

We are deeply saddened by the news of Odubnjo’s passing. We extend our condolences to his family and friends and we celebrate his life as he joins the ancestors.

May his soul rest in peace.

Donate to the Gboyega Odubanjo Foundation here.



Image via Knowledge Quarter.