It’s been six years since Ghana lost one of its most prolific and outstanding literary voices.
On Saturday, September 21, 2013, Kofi Awoonor died at Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall after gunmen attacked and killed over 60 people, leaving close to 100 more severely injured.
Awoonor was in Nairobi, Kenya for the annual Storymoja Literary Festival, a celebration of writing and storytelling. He was due to perform that Saturday evening as part of a pan-African poetry showcase.
Born on March 13, 1935, of mixed Togolese and Sierra Leonean ancestry in Wheta, in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), he was originally named George Awoonor Williams but he dropped his English name, George, to honour his African and Ghanaian identity.
Awoonor stood firmly for the African identity and its portrayal and he demonstrated his through his literary works where he used oral literature and tradition and mixed his native language into his works.
Awoonor always believed that every human being should represent themselves as a true product of their immediate society.
He produced many literary works, was an editor for several literary magazines, managed the Ghana Film Corporation and helped establish the Ghana Playhouse, which developed the theatre scene in Ghana.
His first collection, Rediscovery and Other Poems, was published in 1964. He followed this with three collections and a prose poem between then and 1971.
Having attended Achimota College, Awoonor travelled for further studies in the USA and returned to serve his country.
Awoonor became Ghana’s ambassador to Brazil in 1984 and to Cuba in 1988 and was Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations before becoming the chairman of the main advisory body to the president of Ghana from 2009 to 2013.
However, in 1975, Awoonor was arrested after he was accused of attempting to overthrow the military government but was released a year later. After his incarceration, he wrote mainly non-fiction.
Since his passing in the dreadful incident in Kenya, many have continued to celebrate him for his dedication to the literary and political scene in Ghana and beyond. He is also remembered for being one of Africa’s greatest voices who will forever remain a beacon of knowledge and strength and hope.
As Africa and the rest of the world mourn his passing, Face2Face Africa shares with you five of his famous quotes: