More on Kofi Awoonor, killed in the Nairobi mall massacre


Kofi Awoonor

More on Kofi Awoonor, widely considered Ghana’s greatest contemporary poet.  According to an article by Teju Cole, writing in the New Yorker, he was was a member of the literary generation that came of age in the 1950s and 1960s: “Many of these writers were published in the Heinemann African Writers Series, the tan and orange spines of which could be seen on the bookshelves of homes across the continent. The series, under the editorship of Chinua Achebe, was the first flowering of African literature in English. Awoonor shared with many of his illustrious contemporaries an intense engagement with both African tradition and African modernity. The influence of T. S. Eliot was strong, and Awoonor’s poems are often dense and mysterious. But, like Achebe, he also gave voice to a culture under rapid and destructive change from colonial influences, and he expressed a disillusionment with the violence that marred the post-colonial project.”

The photo I picked for my earlier post showed him wearing the traditional Ghanaian batakari and kufi. But I also like this photo, which I found over at Ron Silliman‘s blog here, which makes him look like an avant-garde film director in Paris.

More from Cole:

An impromptu memorial had been organized for Awoonor. Kwame Dawes, the Ghanaian-Jamaican poet, spoke warmly about the man he considered an uncle. On Friday, Dawes had shown me the first volume in a new series on African poetry. That book (which Dawes edited, and which will be published by the University of Nebraska Press early next year) was an orange-colored, handsomely designed hardcover of Awoonor’s The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems.

“It’s got to be good,” Dawes had said of the design. “It’s got to be good because it’s intended to last.” His pride in the finished project was justified. Now, at the memorial, I asked Dawes if Awoonor had seen the volume he showed me.

“I showed it to him for the first time here in Nairobi. I told him, ‘This is it.’”

“And what did he say?”

Dawes smiled. “He said, ‘This is good.’ That’s what he said. ‘This is good.’”

Read the whole thing here.

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