The Ghanaian poet and diplomat, Professor Kofi Awoonor, who died after sustaining injuries following weekend’s terrorist attack on WestGate Shopping Mall in Nairobi Kenya, was celebrated this morning in Nigeria as a great ancestor
In his tribute, Professor Ahmed Yerima, playwright and former Director General of the National Theatre, who was visibly shocked by Awoonor’s demise, said his death was a great loss to African literature.
“He was one of the first generation writers that guided the African literature. He inspired the next generation of writers, people like me. His works in the African writers series and his poems are what opened our consciousness towards the existence of African literature. He would be greatly missed,” Yerima said.
Professor Femi Osofisan, poet, playwright, essayist and former General Manager of the National Theatre, also said he was saddened by Awoonor’s death.
“It’s tooo sad for, as you know, he was already an old man deserving a dignified and glorious exit. But he was in Kenya for a literary event and we take that as a consolation that he fell in the line of action. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.
Adewale Maja-Pearce, who was at a loss about what to say, said Awoonor’s death was a big loss to the literary world.
“We are going to miss him,” he said.
Mr. Tunde Fagbenle, essayist and columnist for The Punch said the circumstances of the late writer’s death make it the demise of a big chunk of humanity.
“The poet sought a better world in his verses only to be so cruelly silenced,” he said.
Maxim Uzoatu, poet and essayist, said Awoonor can never be written about in the past tense.
“He is an ever present ancestor. His immortal poem, ”Songs of Sorrow” is a classic in excelsis. His novel, ”This Earth, My Brother”, is an existential tour de force. Not even death can kill Kofi Awoonor, let alone the moronic mullahs of terror,” he said.
Wale Okediran, novelist and former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, said he had met Awoonor through his works several years before he actually met him in person in 2008 during one of the Pan African Writers Asociation (PAWA) meeting in Acrra, Ghana.
“I was captivated by his literary dexterity and humility. For more than 30 minutes he held the audience spellbound with his elegant poetic rendition. That same year, we were to meet again at the Garden Literary Festival in Port Harcourt where he again gave a good account of himself. Now that he has left us even though in a very tragic circumstances, our solace is that his work wll continue to live after him,” said Okediran.
Professor Adebayo Lamikanra, essayist and poet, said in his tribute: “The violent death of one of Africa’s leading poets, Kofi Awoonor, brings to mind the saying that whilst a leper is not able to milk a cow, he retains the ability to make milk produced by another’s labour through a petulant kick at a vessel containing milk or simply by washing his stump in the milk.
“There is no doubt that the loss of Awoonor has engendered feelings of great silence, frustration and rage in the hearts of those who have had the privilege of partaking of the rich milk of poetry which flowed from the pen of this man of letters. Those responsible for his death must be regarded as lepers who, as was the case in antiquity, should be denied the fellowsip of other human beings. Awoonor is dead but his works live on in the hearts of all lovers of the word.”
In his tribute, Festus Iyayi, the author of ”Heroes” said: “It’s tragic and sad. The terrorists have crudely torn a most valuable and an illuminating page from Africa’s unfolding book of promise and disappointment. His cruel murder in the Kenyan tragedy is one more reminder about the danger of surrendering our independence to the new slave traders spawning the neo-liberal market of greed, profit, clash of civilisations and Africom among others. Kofi Awoonor stood against these base values in his life and his writings.
“ It is ironic that he and others should lose their lives to the authors and practitioners of these base values. His family has lost a son, a father, a brother, an uncle, a husband and will miss him sorely but Africa and her writers have lost as much, if not more. We will miss his warm and his re-assuring laughter.”
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka simply said, “Rage, rage, and rage is all I feel”. A very good friend of Awoonor, he could easily have been with Kofi at the time since he was also invited to the Storymoja Hay Festival by Peter Florence. Soyinka couldn’t go to Nairobi because he had to give a lecture in Tunis.
Awoonor was a poet whose works combine the poetic traditions of his native Ewe people and contemporary and religious symbolism to depict Africa during the process of decolonisation.