Celebrating East African Writing!
First Published on Storymoja Festival Newswire
Written by Julie Muriuki
Afetsi Awoonor first came to Kenya for the Storymoja Festival in 2013. He came with his father, the famous poet, Professor Kofi Awooner. Terrorists struck at Westgate Shopping mall and took the life of his father.
This year, Afetsi returned to Kenya with a promise of hope. He came to deliver the 2nd Kofi Awoonor Memorial Address, which was the final event at the Storymoja Festival. Awoonor brought a message of solidarity both for Storymoja and for those who had lost loved ones in various terrorists attack.
The event, thick with emotion, featured music, poetry, various tributes from family, friends and other people who had interacted with the late Professor Awoonor in Nairobi. Each one gave a moving account of the final moments they spent with the departed poet.
Awoonor, in his emotional speech, eulogised his father for the very first time. He gave an account of his father’s final moments; from breakfast conversation that was filled with interesting conversation and words of instruction, which, in retrospect, was saying Prof Awoonor saying goodbye to the final parting at the Westgate Mall parking lot.
But the event was not all sadness. There was joyous applause when Afetsi Awoonor, Storymoja Festival founder Muthoni Garland and Festival patron Auma Obama announced that the Storymoja Festival would be going to Ghana in the very near future.
He also said that the Awoonor family, in collaboration with well wishers such as Chief Dele Momodu of Ovation International and the United Bank for Africa have set a scholastic award, called “The Awoonor Literary Prize” which is open to students of the University of Ghana with outstanding poetry and prose submissions, in the initial phase. This is a bi-annual prize with the first recipient to be awarded on September 21st 2016.
In addition, Afetsi and his siblings are in the process of establishing the ‘Kofi Awoonor Foundation’ which will focus on promoting literary arts and education through a scholarship program for underprivileged disadvantaged youth in the Wheta district (birthplace of Kofi Awoonor) for senior secondary school education. The foundation will also serve as a platform for organizing several activities. They have commenced plans to build a writers’ colony and resource center at Wheta to provide a sanctuary for writers from around the world. The aim of the Kofi Awoonor Foundation is to keep the Professor’s legacy alive, to see to it that, the principles that he stood for and the values he upheld are kept alive to edify, educate and elevate our people.
“I would like my father to be remembered, as he wanted. As Africans, and especially as African writers, we owe it to our fathers such as Kofi Awoonor, Chinua Achebe and so on to weave new ropes where they left off. Their life, works and words are our history and heritage, which we can draw inspiration from and make reference to in our lives, works and words.” Afetsi said.
The Storymoja Festival is definitely weaving new ropes and the thread left by the late Professor Awoonor will forever be a part of it.