The City of Windsor is proud to announce Chidera Ikewibe (she/her) as the next Youth Poet Laureate serving in the City’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program. Ikewibe will serve in the position from August 2023 to approximately August 2025.
Ikewibe is an Igbo Nigerian Canadian artist and poet whose work often combines her experiences and cultural identity. Her works often incorporate Nsibidi – an ideographic/pictographic writing system from the south-eastern region of Nigeria. She was the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) winner for the senior playwriting competition for 2018 for a play she wrote about the Nigerian Civil War. She has been published in poetry anthologies such as Voices # 1, published by Poetry in Voice, Island Shores Anthology; and in the anthologies Catch the Whispers and Passages of the Heart, published by the Poetry Institute of Canada. A recognized spoken-word artist in the Windsor community, Ikewibe has performed at CJAM’s open mic night, and was invited to create and recite poetry for the Substance Abuse Program for African Canadian and Caribbean Youth for their Black History Month celebration, and with Windsor Essex Local Immigration Partnership for their youth meeting. Ikewibe has also appeared on CJAM Radio as the host of University Redacted.
As an artist and community-builder, Chidera’s areas of interest are race and ethnicity, Anti-Black racism, institutional decolonization, poetry as performance, spoken-word radio, Black Diaspora, playwriting, mask making, and mixed media. She is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in psychology and BA in English and creative writing at the University of Windsor. Her creative work and professional experience have included roles as a collage poetry instructor with Art Windsor-Essex (AWE), radio show host with CJAM 99.1 FM, and as a poetry instructor with Youth Wellness Hub Windsor. Ikewibe’s extensive community engagement and volunteer roles include co-mural painter at Assumption College School (2019). She has been recognized with various honours and awards, including Best Script (NST Festival, 2019), Best Costume (NST Festival, 2019), and the award in the Equity, Diversity and Decolonization category (UWILL Discover Conference, 2022). She was featured in Arts Council Windsor & Region’s New Voices Exhibit initiative (2022), and she appeared as a featured guest of past Youth Poet Laureate Alexei Ungurenaşu during their First Impressions virtual reading series (2021).
As Windsor’s Youth Poet Laureate, Ikewibe looks forward to serving as an ambassador for the literary arts and artists by incorporating poetry and writing into spaces where they may not be expected – including radio. She plans to use her platform to host monthly radio interviews through CJAM with youth artists to help showcase the artists and their work to the broader artistic community. She has a goal of working with youth inside classrooms, newcomer centres and other settings to teach them about poetry and encourage their engagement with the creative and literary arts. Ikewibe sees this role as an opportunity to incorporate the youth from Windsor’s diverse and multicultural communities to fully engage newcomers, immigrants and marginalized youth with the literary arts community.
Ikewibe’s application to serve as Youth Poet Laureate came with support letters from Dr. Susan Holbrook, writer and professor with the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor; past Youth Poet Laureate Alexei Ungurenaşu; and spoken-word artist and storyteller Mbonisi Zikhali.
“I want to connect with our multicultural youth, and encourage them to explore themselves and their cultural identity through poetry, through workshops and programs and new opportunities," Ikewibe said. "I believe that poetry goes beyond the written word and can be accessed through drawing, painting and singing to engage fellow youths and allow them to see themselves in sectors they are often underrepresented.”
“The City’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program continues to help us record and share the stories that shape our city while teaching us the value of unique voices and new perspectives," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. "We continue to see how this program is a vehicle to increased inclusivity and a greater understanding and appreciation for our diverse, multicultural community. On behalf of City Council, I am pleased to welcome Chidera Ikewibe into her important new role as Windsor’s Youth Poet Laureate. I trust that she will help this program continue to positively impact our community, in Windsor and beyond our borders.”
The selection committee members tasked with choosing the new Youth Poet Laureate said:
“Chidera offers a strong and masterful presence, with a thoughtful approach to her words and to the world.”
“Chidera is a gifted artist and an incredible performer. Hands down, she exhibits a ‘wow’ factor.”
“Chidera will ignite passion.”
“I wanted to see more, and that’s a good thing. Chidera can be a key to bridge any gaps between youth and poetry and the program; she can spark someone’s imagination and creativity, and that is such a strength.”
“Chidera spoke about a desire to work with newcomer communities, which is extremely important.”
“Ten years from now, I will be saying, ‘I knew Chidera when...’”
Works shared during term