The attacks on the 21st of September at the Westgate mall in Kenya shocked the world. Amongst the many innocent lives that were lost that day was that of Ghana’s own beloved: Professor Kofi Awoonor-Williams.
Born on the 3rd of March 1953, Prof Kofi Awoonor was a Ghanaian poet, literary critic and author, whose work combined the culture and tradition of his native Ewe people, contemporary and religious symbolism. Prof Awoonor’s poetry was known for its adaptation of poetry by Ewe dirge singers. His poetry and other works also evaluated Africa during decolonization.
His famous works of literature include: Rediscovery (1964), Night of My Blood (1971), Guardians of the Sacred Word (1974) This Earth, My Brother: An Allegorical Tale of Africa (1970) Ride Me, Memory (1973), The House by the Sea (1978) and The Breast of the Earth (1975).
Prof Awoonor was a known scholar. He studied literature at the University of London, and while in England, wrote several radio plays for the BBC. In his academic life, he obtained a BA from University College of Ghana, an MA from University College London and a PhD in comparative literature from SUNY Stony Brook.
In the early 1970s, he served as chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature at SUNY Stony Book. He returned to Ghana in 1975 to teach at University College of Cape Coast and African literature at the University of Ghana.
Aside his academic recognitions, Prof Awoonor was the Director of the Ghana Film Corporation in 1967 and also founded the Ghana Play House. He wrote about his time in jail in ‘The House by the Sea’ on release from prison for an alleged connection with an attempted coup. He resumed teaching after his sentence and became the Professor of English at Cape Coast in 1976.
As a man of many talents and skills, Prof Awoonor also played a part in Diplomacy. In the 1980s, he was the Ghanaian ambassador to Brazil and Cuba and served as ambassador to the United Nations from 1990 to 1994. Under the United Nations, he headed the committee against apartheid and in 1990, published ‘Ghana: A Political History from Pre-European to Modern Times’ – an informative best seller.
Prof Awoonor lived a purposeful and fruitful life. His purpose was still being lived as he was invited to participate at the Storymoja Hay Festival in Kenya, when he met his unfortunate end.
We would always remember Prof Kofi Awoonor Williams as the legend, academic and diplomat that he was. Even in death, his story and works lives on to inspire subsequent generations to come.
Ghana mourns a great man. GUBA on behalf of Ghanaians in the Diaspora and in Ghana, send our most heartfelt condolences and prayers to Prof Awoonor’s family at this time of grief. Our prayers and well wishes are also extended to all the families and friends who lost loved ones during the attack.