Kofi Awoonor will turn in his grave at how he has been remembered – and forgotten by many.
As a man who did not live for himself but for a cause greater than humanity as we know it, Awoonor will not be happy. Not only have we overlooked the legacy of this great pan-African hero, but we have also joined the West to recognize him only as a 'great poet.'
Awoonor was a Pan-African activist first, before any other attribute – including being a poet. It is disheartening that many Africans do not recognize Awoonor's actual call and purpose. In literature, he found a medium with which he could perfectly communicate his message and inculcate the pan-African identity in Africans – who were scattered across the globe like sheep without a shepherd.
After his sad demise, it was clear to see from the obituaries and eulogies that many did not truly understand the man – or the legend. Many Africans saw his death as the passing of a Ghanaian poet, and others overlooked it as one of the casualties of terrorism.
His legacy was left to be defined by poorly formulated literary connotations such as those from renowned poetry critic Robert Fraser, who referred to him as a "superbly flexible muse." Even former Ghanaian president, John Mahama, called him "a writer, politician, and traditionalist with great wit".
While it is true that Mr. Awoonor was these and more, one would have expected that he would be recognized as a pan-African activist first.
Kofi Awoonor's works represent African traditions symbolized through his native Ewe, through which he depicted pan-African realities. Although widely exposed, he was very conscious of his roots and used his works to draw Africans back to Africa.
He changed his name from George Awoonor-Williams, under which he published his first set of works, to Kofi Awoonor in rebellion against the Western identity.
His works reminded Africans that literature – and poetry, is not as western as many believe. Instead, it is the foundation on which communication was transported in ancient Africa. He communicated the need for Africans to accept our original identity through his works – which he crafted in the original African communication style.
A writer by call who identified his purpose early in life, he edited the literary magazine, Okyeame in the 1960s and was an associate editor of the pan-African journal, Transition.
This Earth, My Brother, his novel published in 1971, was a critical narration of the corruption and disillusion of contemporary Ghana after the early years of independence.
Awoonor's third volume of poetry, Ride Me, Memory (1973), featured what he called "American Profiles" and "African Memories." The former includes ripe invective in the tradition of African oral verse, sharply satirizing superficial and self-serving "revolutionaries":
Why then is Awoonor remembered only as a poet when his works were tools crafted to preach pan-Africanism? Why have all those who claim to be living pan-African activists failed to identify this great fighter as a hero of the pan-African cause?
Sadly, he died aged 78 in the terrorist attack by al-Shabaab militants at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. Awoonor was the most eminent of several African authors invited to participate in the Storymoja Hay festival – a celebration of writing and storytelling in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
It is safe to say the African legend lived and died for pan-Africanism, anything short of this could be termed hypocrisy – and rightly so.
What are your thoughts?