A special ceremony was held yesterday at the National Theatre in Accra to celebrate the life of Professor Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor who was killed in a terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya last month.
The ceremony, attended by many dignitaries, including President John Dramani Mahama and former President J.J. Rawlings, was interspersed with poetry recitals, traditional music and dances from the various ethnic groups in the country.
The celebration at the National Theatre began with a procession of wailing Akpalu Singers from Wheta in the Volta Region, the hometown of the deceased.
Clad in red and black cloth, the wailers, with walking sticks in their hands, carried lamps and sang dirges, depicting the feeling of loss exhibited by loved ones — mainly dressed in black, red and white — who had gathered in the auditorium.
A former Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Koku Anyidoho, who led the wailers in a dirge, expressed sorrow at the loss of the literary icon and statesman who was killed in a terrorist attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall, Nairobi, Kenya on September 21, 2013.
"Death left you in a strange land. Let the story be told that once there was a great baobab and that baobab is no more," he said.
Mr Anyidoho described Prof. Awoonor as a scholar, poet, composer, singer, statesman and "a father from whose fountain of knowledge many drank".
Music and dance
The event, dubbed "Celebrating a True Ghanaian," was also graced by the Chief of Staff, Mr Prosper Douglas Bani, the Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Kwabena Adjei, and some members of the opposition parties as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
A dance sketch of one of Prof Awoonor's poems titled: Lamentation for Freedom Fighters was performed by young dancers.
The Ghana Dance Ensemble and the National Dance Company thrilled the audience with the Takai music and dance from the north.
The excellent performance of Agbaza dance of the Volta Region by the same dance groups attracted several people to the stage.
The Kete dance from the Ashanti Region and the Gome dance of the people of the Greater Accra Region also moved the gathering.
Prof. Atukwei Okai of the Ghana Association of Writers and the English Department of the University of Ghana delivered a poem entitled "The Accountants of Our Dream" in memory of Prof Awoonor.
The poem touched on the power of knowledge and by extension Prof Awoonor, a scholar ,whose contribution to the literary world lingered on even after his death.
Excerpts from Prof Awoonor's collection of poems were rendered by a number of local and foreign poets, including his friends in the academia as well as students.
In his own recorded dirge, which was shown at the event, Prof Awoonor spoke about the inevitability of death.
"Final night falls as it did to our parents...I must retire to Mother Earth," he said in the dirge.
Dr Gheyesika Agambila, who represented the Ghana Association of Writers, in a tribute, described Prof Awoonor as a literary scholar, who helped African nations with his rich knowledge in arts and culture.
He said the late Professor was a teacher who influenced thousands of students, and indicated that he died in the service of mankind.
"We have lost a stalwart defender of arts", Dr Agambila said and that Prof Awoonor's death was irreplaceable.
By Musah Yahaya Jafaru & Emelia Ennin Abbey/Daily Graphic/Ghana