In late 2016, the Nigerian poets Romeo Oriogun and Chibuihe Achimba began discussing the possibility of creating a platform for queer writers. Both writers had no clout then, no precedent to model their idea on, and were driven only by years of receiving rejection emails from African magazine editors who repeatedly emphasized that they did not publish “poetry promoting homosexuality.” This was months after Praxis magazine published Oriogun’s poetry chapbook Burnt Men, the first such collection focusing on queer men in Nigeria, and the author had endured homophobic trolls and threats. The two had found little institutional support for writing about queerness, which meant that their work circulated in the same platforms: Praxis magazine; Expound magazine, where Achimba was on the editorial team; Brittle Paper, where most of Oriogun’s poems have appeared.
Things changed for them in 2017, for better and for worse. In May, Oriogun won the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, launching him to continental stardom. Days later, he was assaulted in the town he lived for depicting homosexual males in his poems, a development followed by intense online bullying by a circle of Nigerian writers. On May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, partly in response to the assault on Oriogun, Achimba wrote a widely-shared essay, “We’re Queer, We’re Here,” which probes the absence of the queer body in Nigerian literature. Within weeks, he was kidnapped. Their situations were even more jarring given the curious silence of specific Nigerian literary organisations part of whose job it should be to look out for writers in the way of harm. What happened was proof that, in the Nigerian literary community, the queer writer’s enemy was institutional. What their experiences did was quicken their plans for a space for queer voices, and so Kabaka: A Magazine of Arts and Literature came into being.
Source: Brittle Paper