I do not know which god sent me,
to fall in the river
and fall in the fire.
These have failed.
I move into the gates
demanding which war it is;
Which war it is?
The Ghana Association of Writers has learnt with profound shock and sorrow the death of Professor Kofi Awoonor, which occurred tragically in the attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
It is sickening that Professor Awoonor and scores of other innocent people should die in an attack that is related to one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest political crises. By his death, Africa has lost a literary giant.
Professor Awoonor, who wrote seven books, was a founder member of the Ghana Association of Writers and belonged to the generation of Independence-era writers whose literary output gave a voice to Africa’s developing nations and helped define their cultural identity and agenda.
His influence on Ghanaian and African writing is apparent in the number of writers, especially poets who he empowered to apply their own authentic experiences to their work. It is no wonder that he was appointed at an early age to be the first director of the Ghana Film Industry Corporation, which had been charged by the first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, to harness the country’s creative resources for its literary and filmic heritage.
Professor Awoonor, lecturer and teacher of five decades, influenced thousands of students and in his later years, returned to teaching creative writing at the English Department of the University of Ghana. It is significant that Professor Awoonor died in the service of Literature at the Storymoja Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, where African writing is nurtured and displayed.
The Ghana literary and creative arts community has lost a stalwart defender of culture, and to the association, his passing is an irreplaceable loss. At the last congress at which he delivered the keynote address, he paid glowing tribute to his departed writer colleagues and remarked poignantly that he wished to be similarly remembered at his death.
The association sends its condolences to the family of our departed friend, advisor and mentor. Our hearts go out to the bereaved families and we wish speedy recovery to those injured in this senseless and tragic act. We also express our solidarity with the Kenya nation and pray that Kenya and the region will soon overcome this adversity.
As we remember Prof.Awoonor on this sad occasion, we recall his own words in which he described himself and his mission as a writer:
“I have gone through the trauma of growth, anger, love, and the innocence and nostalgia of my personal dreams. These are beyond me now. Not anger, or love, but the sensibility that shaped and saw them as communal acts of which I am only the articulator.
Now I write out my renewed anguish about the crippling distresses of my country and my people, of death by guns, of death by disease and malnutrition, of the death of friends whose lives held so much promise, of the chicanery of politics and the men who indulge in them, of the misery of the poor in the midst of plenty.”