RIP Prof Kofi Awoonor

I had never attended lectures on any Friday back in my undergrad days on the University of Ghana, Legon campus until I got to my final year. There were these two very distinguished professors who managed to convince me to attend lectures on Fridays. Fridays after 3pm was reserved for basketball and there was nothing that I would compromise for my three hours at least on the court.

One of the lectures I couldn’t miss by virtue of his having the same set eyes and nose that I had (Professor Kofi Awoonor) and the other, oh! He hated the time of the lectures as much as I did (5.30pm when I should be playing basketball) so didn’t show up often.

Now it’s pretty sad to say that both are of blessed memory one still yet to be put into the ground as at the time of writing this article. Professor K. Fynn was a genius of history and reveled us with tales of the history of Ghana. He not only taught it but he had lived it. The man was so old that he was almost considered a historical artifact himself. His anecdotes of the historical personalities he taught us about left us wanting to have our own life experiences to tell our colleagues and students someday. Oh yes! He made us want to teach the subject.

Then I heard the unthinkable had happened in Kenya. Muslim insurgents had gone into a West Gate Shopping Mall in Kenya and just started shooting. Hey! Honestly I did not give a thought to it until news started trickling in that it was likely that a Ghanaian statesman and his son had been a victim of the shooting at the mall. My first thought was ‘what the frigging fuck was he doing in the Mall? Probably buying some duty free whiskey and trying to while away the time.’

Guess that was just me reacting to my loss!

Prof Kofi Awoonor’s name preceded him in my choosing of the course Creative Writing in my final undergrad year at the University of Ghana. I had read This Earth My Brother when I was not even a teenager and read his political history as a textbook in high school.

I had heard the man was an eccentric and he selected his own students. Loving the oddities in life only few people chose the course especially when they heard that the course time was on Friday at 5.30am.  For those who know me, that is my bed time. How could I be preparing for an early morning lecture just about an hour after my bedtime?

Obviously I would go to his lecture half asleep every Friday morning. Me! who hadn’t done lectures on Fridays for the past three years now had to succumb to an early morning lecture. That will have to be an uphill task indeed. But suffice it to say it was one of the best lectures I have chosen to attend or I was chosen to attend in the University of Ghana campus.

From the very moment he walked into the classroom, it was obvious this is a man who will take no prisoners. It was obvious he was an early riser and he told us creativity was what you used to crankshaft your brain to boost it into the coming day. The first assignment every morning was in the form of an anagram or any word play assignments where he had us forming first paragraphs of sentences based on his one liners.

By the time the course was over, we were writing whole short stories from these one liners.

One time he called me unawares to the front of the class to read my submission on one such assignment and I hesitated when I stood in front of the class. He went further to make me a mocking example of what a lazy student in his class looked like because I was always half sleepy in his class. Imagine his surprise when I told him that I had four different scenarios from the same one liner he had given as an example.

It was in Professor Awoonor’s class that I realized that my brain malfunction moments, which usually happen in the wee hours of the early mornings, actually produce genius moments.

The proud man went on to tell me that he recognized that I had the gift and the talent to write beautiful stories that could and would change the world, but then I was too lazy to even realize that I could and would be changing the world. I even remember his thick Ewe accent and guffaw after he said it.

*tears in my eyes

I have never given this much thought until now that I hear he is dead. Sad indeed!

His classes were too insightful and left us each time wanting more. Even though our senses were jarred into serious thinking that early in the morning, most of us didn’t have classes the rest of the day and so could take Professor Awoonor to bed as he jokingly teased the girls in the class.

Oh Yes!

The man was an African man to the core. Loving his Ewe traditions and origins to a fault and loving his women well rounded (read the first page of This Earth My Brother).

There was one time when the Students Representative Council organized a demonstration against ‘indecent dressing’ of the campus girls and he decried the action berating the girls in his class for not dressing ‘indecently’ so he could have a firsthand experience.

Professor Awoonor was always an elder statesman and went as far as being Ghana’s 8th permanent representative to the United Nations. His mission on earth was to promote African Arts and Culture and it was in his quest for this mission that he was attending the Storymoja Hay Festival, a four day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling.

Yes!

Story telling the African way.

This has been the backbone of transmitting African history through oral traditions.

We are Rediscovering Africa through your legacy, this Night they shed your Blood, The House By The Sea is in mourning, This Earth My Brother is a wicked one, for you’re A Voyager At Last to the land of the ancestors.

May you rest peacefully in The Breast of The Earth as you will be buried in a Ghana which has survived from Pre-European to Modern Times.

Condolences to Prof’s family.

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2 Responses to “RIP Prof Kofi Awoonor”

  1. Salomey Abraham Says:

    Still a very powerful piece………….should get to the fam to be read at his burial or something.

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