“Africa Kills Her Sun”: Awoonor Passes On

Cowardly gunmen attacked the West Gate Mall, a high end shopping mall in Kenya. At the moment, the dead are about 60 while the injured are getting to 200. One can only hope that no more people lose their lives due to the actions of these wicked souls. One also hopes that the perpetrators are found and made to suffer many times over the undue hardship they have brought to the victims and people who are connected to the victims.

Unfortunately, one of those who lost their lives in the attack was Kofi Awoonor. The poet, scholar, professor, statesman, ambassador – he wore many distinguished hats – was attending a conference in Nairobi, and apparently passed by the West Gate Mall to read poetry. While doing what he loved, perpetrators did what he hated. He detested violence more than anything. In this instance however, hate overcame love albeit temporarily.

Prof. Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor was killed this weekend in Kenya.

People like Awoonor are the reason why we celebrate modern African literature. The fact that we can take African literature for granted demonstrates the extent to which he and others achieved excellence for our continent. His poetry was resplendent with traditional African vibes and he was proud of his roots. He wasn’t afraid to take creative risks and at a time when some of his contemporaries were happily (and lazily) aping Western models of creative writing, he would draw from what he knew – his work was therefore original.

He always spoke his mind regardless of audience or subject; this trait gained him admirers and also made enemies for him. Nevertheless, he received critical acclaim for his poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

I knew the man personally, so this death is more jarring than Achebe’s. He taught me Oral Literature and Introduction to African Literature at the University of Ghana. Since he knew the authors he was teaching (he was personal friends with most, if not all of them), his classes were insightful on a different level. His personal anecdotes for instance made some of the literature we studied under him come to life in a unique way. He was witty, intelligent and had a great sense of humor.

In one of our class sessions he was talking about literature and power when he recalled the murder of the Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa was a personal friend to Awoonor, and he detested the fact that Abacha had abused his power to kill someone who was simply passionate about his people receiving their fair share of resources from their own land. He went on a short tirade, calling Abacha a “devilish demon” before talking about the power of literature to overcome brute force.

Saro-Wiwa himself was a literary artist, and in one of his short stories entitled “Africa Kills Her Sun”, a prisoner writes a letter, agonizing over the problems that occur with using force over democratic processes. The story was prophetic, as the author himself was murdered in similar circumstances. It is ironic that Awoonor would also be killed in such a dastardly manner. Using force to make a point renders the point valueless, especially when innocent people are involved. As I write this, news just in has it that Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, and they have done more harm than good to whatever cause they think they believe in.

May the good Prof rest in peace, and may his values live on. Condolences to family, friends, and loved ones of other victims of this incident. Evil never wins. The sun always rises.

About Kwabena

Career Student
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16 Responses to “Africa Kills Her Sun”: Awoonor Passes On

  1. Reblogged this on Nana A Damoah and commented:
    So aptly expressed. Rest in peace Efo Kofi and may the callous activities of those who continue to ravage “this earth my brother” be curtailed!

  2. Aptly expressed, Kwabena. I am so distraught.

  3. Eric Pwamang says:

    Sleep well you good son of Africa, may the good Lord have you in his bosom! True son of Africa! Sleep well until we meet!

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Using force to make a point renders the point valueless, especially when innocent people are involved”…I couldn’t agree with you more.This kind of news is sickening!

  5. Eddy Ongili says:

    So sad. Was waiting for his session at Storymoja which was never to be. May he rest in peace

  6. Kola says:

    owe my non existent writing skills to this hero of Africa. I sat in church crying like a baby when I read this.
    why oh why! This Earth My Brother! and he shed his blood promoting Arts and Culture, which the conference was about.
    *tears in my eyes

  7. ghanapronet says:

    May he rest in perfect and eternal peace. Our hearts are broken.

  8. Pingback: “Africa Kills Her Sun”: Awoonor Passes On | GhanaProNet News

  9. ghanapronet says:

    Reblogged this on GhanaProNet News and commented:
    A great expression of the depth of our loss as a nation and as a continent. Prof. Kofi Awoonor will forever be remembered for what he stood for: a literary star who undressed himself of all western impositions (including his name) and re-clothed himself in originality. Professor Kofi Awoonor, gone but never forgotten.

  10. Pingback: Kofi Awoonor: Dearly loved & missed. Tributes and more | African Writers Trust

  11. Anonymous says:

    What can we say, God knows best. R. I. P Prof. Awoonor

  12. Ernest Addo says:

    We owe it to him to keep his light shining. We need to keep stoking the fire of his vision, and forge and shape this vision on the anvil of creativity. Good job bro. Man is capable of being the paragon of creation, yet the scum of the earth also.

  13. May his soul rest in peace. He was someone that I sincerely admired and his death shook me to the marrow!

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