Kofi Awoonor

At the Poetry Foundation Ghana web site, Kwame Dawes pays tribute to Kofi Awooner, who was lost in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya:

Last night, I received news that Kofi Awoonor, the Ghanaian poet, diplomat and academic had been shot to death by terrorists in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. I got the news in my hotel, which is about five minutes from the mall. The news came through diplomatic channels in Ghana. “Barring a miracle, we have lost him. Get some sleep, we have a long wake ahead.” This was the note his protégé and fellow Ghanaian poet, Kofi Anyidoho, sent to me. The Ghanaian ambassador to Kenya and Awoonor’s son later went to identify the body.

I will travel to Ghana to be present at the burial of Kofi Awoonor. I will because he is a great Ghanaian poet. I will because he is a remarkable African thinker and mentor. I will because he traveled to Jamaica from Ghana to bury my father, his dear friend and mentor, in 1984. I will because he is my uncle, my mother’s cousin.

He remembers the poet:

Kofi Awoonor was born in Ghana 1935, and after his first book of poems in 1964, he would go on to publish several books of poems including, “The House by the Sea“ which chronicled his time in detention in Ghana on death row in the 1970s. He is often best known for his novel, “This Earth My Brother,” and for many, he is known as the other great African diplomat. Until very recently, he has never stopped holding a university post in Ghana or outside of Ghana. He is called affectionately, “Prof” by Ghanaian friends and writers.

Those who will carry the heaviness of loss will be his immediate family beginning with his son who was shot and wounded in the Mall and who had traveled to Kenya to be with his father and to support him. There are other siblings, other cousins, other extended families, thousands of past students, and a Ghanaian nation that will mourn his death deeply.

The post also tracks the ongoing conflict, which:

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the terrorist siege of the upscale mall in Kenya has claimed 59 lives so far and soldiers and police looking to corner the attackers.

To read more of the tribute click here.

Originally Published: September 23rd, 2013