WEAVING NEW ROPES WHERE THE OLD ONES LEFT OFF” KOFI AWOONOR MEMORIAL LECTURE (WRITIVISM 2019) By: Afetsi Awoonor

The theme for this year’s Writivism activities is “UnBreakable Bonds”. We hope that we are not only defining the unbreakable bonds of our shared and varied Blackness across continents but also, the unbreakable bonds between fiction and nonfiction; the unbreakable bonds across generations of African thinkers; the unbreakable bonds between art forms: literature, photography; the unbreakable bonds between the rural and the urban, the unbreakable bonds in the presentation of art: books, exhibitions, podcasts; and what holds it all together: the will, the urge, the yearning to create and imagine worlds, possibilities or really to present it as it is.

Having to speak to an audience about a great man or woman is always a daunting prospect, but when that great man is your own father, it’s a whole other level of trepidation. How do I break down a colossus into soundbites? How do I distil the many lives he lived into a 30-minute speech? What part of his life do I speak about? The literary professor? The no nonsense statesman ambassador, minister and presidential advisor? The social justice warrior? Or the formidable and unrepentant respecter of tradition?

It is almost impossible, and the best way I know how is to do is by the use of superfluous adjectives, which I know he would have detested. Elegant, eloquent, savvy, a mentor, spiritual, traditional, loving brother, loyal friend, a teacher to many, a stickler for truth even when it was dangerous, a man who was never on speaking terms with falsehood, a fighter, protector of the clan, undisputed defender of the Awoonor family, a hero, conqueror, proud son of Africa, a true Ghanaian, passionate politician, socialist, an unapologetic Nkrumahist. No sufferer of fools, blunt and no mincer of words, for when we call a spade a spade, he would say it’s a bloody shovel. A deep thinker, polyglot, humanitarian, simple but refined, sensitive, principled, healthconscious, a constant morning walker, a roaring temper when provoked. Compassionate, forgiving, a beautiful mind, intellectually curious, humble, dignified, respectful and respected. The life of the party with a wicked sense of humour, who with each smile, each witty comment, would light up a thousand rooms, a lover of good food, good drink, good conversation and of course good women, lady killer. A strict principled disciplinarian with a very low threshold for stupidity and at the same time a fun-loving father and friend. A merciless tease with loud, eye watering, belly aching laughs, but wouldn’t spare you his bark when you were at fault. My father was many things and everything at the same time, but beyond all of that, he was one of the generations of those true Pan-African citizens. People who could write a verse of poetry in the morning and pick up a gun to fight for their people in the evening. Those great men and women who ousted colonizers and dictators, while creating art that lived long after they were gone.

Download/ Read The whole speech here.

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