Ghanaian Poet Kofi Awoonor Among Those Slain In Nairobi Attack

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In a distinguished career that spanned politics, diplomacy and teaching, Kofi Awoonor is best known as one of Africa's most accomplished poets. The 78-year-old Ghanaian was killed in Saturday's attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.


Now, we pause to pay tribute to one of the victims of the attack in Nairobi - Kofi Awoonor, who was born in Ghana in 1935. In a distinguished career that spanned politics, diplomacy and teaching, Awoonor is best-known as one of Africa's most accomplished poets.


He was in Nairobi for the weekend, invited to speak at a popular literary festival. On the day before the attack, Awoonor spoke at the Nairobi National Museum about the unique perspective of the modern African writer. Thirty-three-year-old Julie Muriuki, an aspiring writer, was there.

JULIE MURIUKI: He was so passionate. His eyes were dancing. He was alive. He literally poured himself out 24 hours before he died.

BLOCK: Muriuki says Awoonor encouraged the young writers in his audience to listen to the past for inspiration.

MURIUKI: He told us: When you want to write, look back at how your ancestors used to speak. Go back and listen to the stories of your people, and then you will know what to write about.

SIEGEL: Kofi Awoonor went to the Westgate Mall on Saturday with his son, who was also shot in the attack but has since been discharged from the hospital. A new collection of poems by Awoonor is scheduled to be published next year. It's called "Promise of Hope."

BLOCK: Here's an excerpt from his poem titled "Across a New Dawn."

(Reading) But who says our time is up, that the box maker and the digger are in conference, or that the preachers have aired their robes and the choir and the drummers are in rehearsal? No. Where the worm eats, a grain grows. The consultant deities have measured the time with long-winded arguments of eternity. And Death, when he comes to the door with his own, inimitable calling card, shall find a homestead resurrected with laughter and dance, and the festival of the meat of the young lamb and the red porridge of the new corn.

SIEGEL: The words of Kofi Awoonor. The 78-year-old Ghanaian poet was killed in Saturday's attack at Nairobi's Westgate Mall.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from