Prof Kofi Awoonor killed in Westgate Terror Attack
Ghana is in shock after it was announced the poet and author Professor Kofi Awonoor was among those shot dead by terrorists in the Westgate Mall siege in Kenya on Saturday. Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama said in a statement: “I am shocked to hear the death of Professor Kofi Awoonor in the Nairobi mall terrorist attack. Such a sad twist of fate.”
Awoonor, 78, was killed and his son wounded at the Westgate mall, Ghana’s Deputy Information Minister Felix Kwakye Ofosu later confirmed that Awoonor’s son has been discharged from the hospital. Awoonor had been due to appear at the Storymoja Hay literary festival in Nairobi on Saturday.
His work combined the poetic traditions of his native Ewe people and contemporary and religious symbolism to depict Africa during decolonization. He started writing under the name George Awoonor-Williams. He went on to teach African literature at the University of Ghana. While at the University of Ghana he wrote his first poetry book, Rediscovery, published in 1964. Like the rest of his work, Rediscovery is based on African oral poetry. In Ghana he managed the Ghana Film Corporation and founded the Ghana Play House. His early works were inspired by the singing and verse of his native Ewe people. He then studied literature at the University of London, and while in England he wrote several radio plays for the BBC. He spent the early 1970s in the United States, studying and teaching at universities. While in the USA he wrote This Earth, My Brother, and My Blood. Awoonor returned to Ghana in 1975 as head of the English department at the University of Cape Coast.
Awoonor served as Ghana’s ambassador to Brazil and Cuba in the 1980s, and was Ghana’s representative to the United Nations under the presidency of Jerry Rawlings from 1990 to 1994.He was also president of the Council of State, an advisory body to the president, but stepped down from that role earlier this year. A distinguished diplomat and revered statesman Awoonor was highly respected in Ghanaian and wider African circles.
This was a view that was endorsed by his cousin Kwame Dawes who said; ” Kofi Awoonor is easily one of the great poets of Africa and has been for many years,”there’s a great deal of respect for him and admiration of his work. This has been a big blow and a major loss.”
NPP leader Nana Akufo-Addo was quoted as saying; “I shall forever remember him with fondness for his wit and courtesy. The Ghanaian nation has lost a distinguished son”.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Kofi Awoonor’s family and all the other victims of the Westgate attack at this sad time.
Ben JK Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)