The least favourite way to discover a writer and poet is when they die. When they die in a senseless terrorist act the sadness deepens that there was not the opportunity to celebrate them in life. Here, together with poetry, is a moving tribute to Kofi Awoonor together with selected poetry, who was killed at the Westgate Mall along with many others.
Among the many who died in the al-Shabab attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last weekend was one of the great figures of African literature, the Ghanaian poet and novelist Kofi Awoonor. He had been visiting Nairobi to speak at the Storymoja Hay festival, a celebration of writing and storytelling.
Poet, novelist, playwright, actor, diplomat and statesman, Awoonor was born in 1935 in Wheta, in what was then the Gold Coast. His work was deeply rooted in the oral traditions of the Ewe people. His grandmother had been a traditional dirge-singer, and that influence is clear in his poetry. His first major writings were a translation from Ewe into English of the songs of the poet Akpaloo.
Like many African writers of his generation (one thinks, for instance, of the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, who died earlier this year) Awoonor was deeply shaped by Western cultures and traditions…
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