Ify Omalicha

I knew her for about a week at the Nigerian Academy of Letters creative writing workshop. We had breakfast and dinner in the PI Hostel’s dimly lit restaurant. Once we sat on the same dining table with the other workshop participants. A couple of times I sat across from her during lunch at the University of Ibadan staff restaurant. We never really spoke. Only greeted and exchanged compliments and opinions (actually, she’d said that ‘Why Women Won’t Go to Heaven’ was a loud title which overrated the book’s content. And she was right). Once, I told her she was a theatre queen. Not in those exact words. I wish I had used those exact words to describe her performances because she made poetry performance one of God’s most innovative inventions.

Omalicha lights up the stage with her smile, her unique hair-do and her authoritative voice: especially, when she says that her breasts nursed the greatest Egyptian kings; and her sneeze shook the earth to its foundations; and her catarrh formed the crude oil deposits.  She is a natural. When she swings her hips to the drumbeats and shakes the ichaka, our hearts beat and pound and shake rhythmically.

At the time, she was a post-graduate student of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan (She later rose to the position of Lecturer). I told her I admired her courage and her ability to follow her dreams; and for doing what she loved best. She smiled an enigmatic smile: like someone who knew a secret I might never discover. But that was what made Ify Omalicha the strong, independent woman that she was.
A few months after the workshop ended, she published her book. A collection of poems titled, ‘Now That Dreams AreBorn‘: a book she dedicated to her soon-to-be-born son. Then, just last week, she passed. Ify Omalicha, with all her talent, all her energy, all her beauty, died in an auto crash along the Abuja Expressway.
I remember the shock and horrification in Osemhen Akhibi’s voice as she told me about a certain facebook status – an elegy to Omalicha by Segun Adekoye – that she’d ‘liked’. And I remember thinking how the grave would swell, richer with one more genius in its belly. I wanted to hold my head, scream and grit my teeth. But I was so forlorn that I could only battle with guilt. All I thought about was how I’d kept procrastinating about calling her, procrastinating about sending her an email, procrastinating about buying her book… Procrastination is a terrible moral weakness. 
We will never see her dance or sing or recite poetry. She will be sorely missed. Her talent; her smile; her profundity; and her strength.

Her poems can be found in the first issue of Sentinel Magazine or click HERE

8 thoughts on “Omalicha

  • Mar 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I keep thinking about her son. I ache for him. Do you understand? He'll never know her like we do. He'll never see her dance, or read poetry. He won't know that part of her, we could tell him but he'll never know.

    If he was old enough, I'd tell him that watching his mother perform gave me goosebumps, and butterflies in my belly. That she stirred in me, incredible sadness and wonder. She was beautiful. She was so very beautiful. And I too am sorry that apart from a few tossed off compliments, I never told her how much I admired her talent.

  • Mar 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    This is part of the tragedy of our country, we lose our bright stars, but for death Ify would have shone brighter than any of the stars we know but she fell down like an asteroid. My heart aches; all her dreams, hopes and aspirations gone….just like that. However, I am consoled that her life was not a waste.

  • Mar 23, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Ify was the best poetry performer I had ever seen and although i always felt unparalleled at poetry, Ify was always there soaring above. Her words pick you up from the ground and lifts you up to that place of grace that she sees, she is. I am privileged to have met, related, laughed and had a close relationship with her. May her gentle soul rest in peace. She always dreamt of bringing her performance "Ije" to Lagos. Let's make it happen.

  • Mar 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Just saw this, and my heart is breaking. Of course I remember Ify. I remember her great performance, and I ache doubly because of the little one she left behind.
    The world has lost something great.

  • Apr 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Yes, Ify was my classmate at the M.A Class, we acted together, quarrelled over class projects, settled issues and way forward, laughed, hugged, joked, call eachother on phone, sent text text messages to eachother, as I write, I refuse to delete her number . Rest in Peace, my heart weeps for her son Olufela


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