Wole Soyinka, Teju Cole and Nii Parkes Pay Tribute to Kofi Awoonor

Tributes are still streaming in for Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor who tragically lost his life in the recent siege on Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Wole Soyinka, who was unable attend the Storymoja festival in Kenya for which reason Awoonor had been in the country, expressed his “rage, hate and contempt” at the terrorist attack that resulted in the death of the poet.

In a speech delivered at Freedom Park in Lagos, Soyinka passionately honoured Awoonor and denounced the actions of terrorists, saying: “Not since Apartheid has our humanity been so intensely and persistently challenged and stressed on this continent”. Soyinka remembered Awoonor as “a passionate African, that is, he gave primacy of place to values derived from his Ewe heritage”.


Awoonor was poet Nii Parkes’ uncle, but Parkes only met him for the first time on 18 September 2013 at the Storymoja festival. Parkes wrote a tribute to Awoonor in The Guardian reflecting on the profound feeling of personal loss he experienced at losing his uncle when he finally had the chance to get to know him. However, he takes comfort from the fact that Awoonor’s literary legacy will live on:


Teju Cole, who had participated in the Storymoja festival and had been excited to meet Awoonor, described in a tribute in the New Yorker his brief interactions with the great writer and the devastation of learning of his death.




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