Gabriel Imomotimi Okara (born 24 April 1921) is a Nigerian poet and novelist who was born in Bumoundi in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. The first Modernist poet of Anglophone Africa, he is best known for his early experimental novel, The Voice (1964), and his award-winning poetry, published in The Fisherman's Invocation (1978) and The Dreamer, His Vision (2005).
In both his poems and his prose, Okara draws on African thought, religion, folklore and imagery, and he has been called "the Nigerian Negritudist".According to Brenda Marie Osbey, editor of his Collected Poems, "It is with publication of Gabriel Okara's first poem that Nigerian literature in English and modern African poetry in this language can be said truly to have begun."
Gabriel Imomotimi Gbaingbain Okara, the son of an Ijọ chief, was born in Bomoundi in the Niger Delta in 1921. He was educated at Government College Umuahia, and later at Yaba Higher College. During World War II, he attempted to enlist in the British Royal Air Force but did not complete pilot training, instead he worked for a time for the British Overseas Airway Corporation (later British Airways).
In 1945 Okara found work as a printer and bookbinder for colonial Nigeria’s government-owned publishing company. He remained in that post for nine years, during which he began to write. At first he translated poetry from Ijaw into English and wrote scripts for government radio.
He studied journalism at Northwestern University in 1949, and before the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70) worked as Information Officer for the Eastern Nigerian Government Service. Together with Chinua Achebe, Okara was roving ambassador for Biafra's cause during part of 1969. From 1972 to 1980 he was director of the Rivers State Publishing House in Port Harcourt.