“I used to believe that writing was an escape when I was younger.
But now, I realize it is not so much an escape as it is an awareness of self.”
Jude Dibia is the author of three successful novels and a number of short stories, which have been featured in both local and international anthologies and magazines. A graduate of Modern European Languages with a major in German, his novels and short stories are known for their contemporary and controversial themes that address a number of issues from sexuality, gender roles, race and the stigma of HIV/AIDS in modern day Africa.
Dibia is a recipient of the Ken Saro-Wiwa Prose Prize for his second novel ‘Unbridled’ and has been short-listed twice consecutively for the Nigeria Literature Prize – prose category (2008, 2012) for his novels ‘Unbridled’ and ‘Blackbird’. Dibia’s short story ‘Somewhere’ received an honorable mention in the Commonwealth Short Story competition in 2010.
In 2005, when his debut novel, Walking with Shadows, was published, the rights and freedoms of LGBTI persons in his country was under extreme scrutiny with the Nigerian legislature pushing for harsher punishments and laws to proscribe homosexuals. The novel is said to be the first by a Nigerian writer to a have a gay protagonist. Dibia was bold in addressing the existence of homosexuals in Nigeria and some of the abuses they endure. He says that most gay people in his home country are forced to get married, against their better judgment, to someone of the opposite sex, just to conform to society.
With the passing of the Anti Same-Sex marriage law in Nigeria in January 2014, Jude made the decision to leave Nigeria before becoming a target for his writings and stand against the harsh law that criminalizes homosexuality.
Jude Dibia says about his authorship and life after the passing of the 2014 law criminalizing living as a gay in Nigeria:
«My name is Jude Dibia and, I am an African writer. This seems to be the easiest way to introduce myself to people who are not familiar with my name or my writing. I have been writing well over ten years with some modest accomplishments. My first novel “Walking with Shadows” was short-listed for the Ken Saro-Wiwa Prose prize and is the first novel by a Nigerian with a homosexual protagonist. It was a book that shed some insight about living as a homosexual in a hostile environment where one not only has to be invisible, but also has to navigate the slippery slope of becoming someone else and living a false life. Walking with Shadows was not a preachy novel; it was not a novel about gay sex. I like to think it was a book that allowed people examine their prejudices and see our society as it is.”
“When my book came out in 2005 almost all main stream press in the country would not review the book. But in a way it made a huge impact in the society, especially for LGBTI persons in Nigeria. My book was written in a time that Nigeria lawmakers were pushing for legislation to criminalize same-sex loving individuals. While pre-2014 there was no law protecting the rights of gay people in Nigeria, there also was no law criminalizing them—no law empowering people who hate gay people to attack them or threaten them. Sadly, all that changed in 2014 after the President signed into law legislation that took the rights away from millions of innocent people.
I have travelled the world based on the strength of my writing; talking about what it is to be gay and African. In March of 2013 I was in Durban, South Africa discussing “Africa Writing Queer Identity” with Graeme Reid.
During his period as a guest writer in Malmö, Dibia will use literature and his writing to contribute to a project to improve the lives of LGBTI people persecuted in developing countries. He would also like to finish his fourth novel and give creative writing workshops.
Walking with Shadows (BlackSands Books, 2005),