February 28, 2024
How much do you know Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanaian critic, writer, etc?

Kofi Awoonor was a poet, novelist, translator, critic and activist. He was born to an Ewe family in 1935, in Wheta, Ghana as George Awoonor-Williams. Awoonor’s poetry is particularly known for its formal and stylistic allusions to Ewe folkloric and narrative tradition. He was a prolific writer from a young age. While he was a student at the University of Ghana, Awoonor published his first collection of poetry, Rediscovery and Other Poems, in 1964. Over the next decades, he would publish books including Night of My Blood (1971), Ride Me, Memory (1973), The House by the Sea (1978), and The Latin American and Caribbean Notebook (1992). His 1974 critical work Guardians of the Sacred Word and Ewe Poetry was noted for its inclusion of original translations of Ewe poetry.

While he was yet to complete these works, Awoonor worked in a variety of academic and artistic settings. After a stint directing theater, he founded the Ghana Playhouse. A coup in Ghana prompted him to relocate to the United Kingdom, where he earned a master’s degree in literature and wrote radio plays for the BBC. He later became a student, professor, and eventually chair of the comparative literature department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. After he returned to Ghana in 1975, Awoonor became the head of the English department at the University of the Cape Coast. However, he was arrested and imprisoned without a trial for suspected involvement in a coup; his experience in prison inspired his 1978 book The House by the Sea.

Shifting his focus towards politics, Awoonor continued teaching, but also served as Ghana’s ambassador to Cuba, Brazil, and the United Nations. He published several books, including Ghana: A Political History from Pre-European to Modern Times (1990) and a satirical novel entitled Comes the Voyager at Last (1992).

In 2013, Awoonor traveled to Kenya to participate in the Storymoja Hay Festival, a celebration of literature. While he was there, he was killed when members of the militant group Al-Shabaab attacked a Nairobi mall. One of his six children was also injured in the attack, but survived.

Reference: Gradesaver.com

Edited by: Favour.

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