Our Words Are Seeds

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ICORN 2016

The following are Jude Dibia’s remarks to the ICORN assembly in Paris on March 31, 2016.

Bonjour ladies and gentlemen, my fellow ICORN guest writers and artists, the ICORN board and the good people of Paris. I am honored to be here and grateful for the opportunity to address you all.

  1. Jude Dibia
  2. Jude Dibia is a Nigerian author and human rights activist. In 2005 he published his debut novel, Walking with Shadows, recognized as the first Nigerian book with a gay protagonist. Since homosexuality is a taboo subject in Nigeria, bookstores refused to stock Walking with Shadows until they were swayed by popular demand. Dibia’s subsequent novels have twice been shortlisted for the Nigeria Literature Prize, and he is the recipient of the Ken Saro Wiwa Prose Prize. In 2014, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was instated, criminalizing homosexual relationships. Due to the increasingly threatening environment, Jude Dibia left Nigeria. He is the current ICORN writer-in-residence of the Malmö City of Refuge in Sweden.

When I was first told to prepare a small speech for this event centered on my journey in becoming an ICORN ambassador and settling in Sweden, it struck me that having to rehash that story over and over again only takes me back to a period when I was most vulnerable. In other words, the repeated retelling of that story only serves to put me in the shoe of a victim. I refuse to be a victim. I don’t believe my story is any more devastating or heartbreaking than any of the other ICORN guest writers and artists. I believe we all share very similar and yet unique stories and our journeys have all been fraught by challenges. But these challenges do not necessarily define who we are. So in preparing my speech for today, I decided not to focus on my journey, my past, and the journey out of my home country to where I am today. I decided instead to focus on the present and on what the future holds, not just for me but also for all of us guest writers and artists.

It is important for all us to look forward and focus on the future and how our work and art is still very important. There is a reason why we are here or why the art we create has made us targets. For that alone we must keep doing what it is that we do: writing, drawing, critiquing, performing and provoking critical thinking and overall human rights. Our writings, music, art, voices are like seeds, little seeds that once planted grow to become big trees bearing fruit, fruit for people who hunger for knowledge.

I am grateful for the opportunity I have to continue with my writing. Malmö, my new home, has been very good to me. This is possible because of the wonderful team of people I have around me; the ICORN team, the Malmöstad team and several others. As ICORN grows, not just in years but also in the number of cities, we can only hope that the important work they do in protecting and relocating writers and artists in imminent danger continues to get more support from the different cities, government and civil societies that recognizes the importance of protecting writers and artists.

Once again, I would like to thank the city of Paris and the Mayor for hosting the ICORN General Assembly, and to thank you all for this opportunity to address you today. Merci beaucoup.

Read remarks by ICORN writer Felix Kaputu.

Read remarks by ICORN writer Sonali Samarasinghe.

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