Awoonor, Kofi


Awoonor, Kofi

▪ Ghanaian author
original name  George Kofi Awoonor Williams  
born March 13, 1935, Weta, Gold Coast [now Ghana]

      Ghanaian novelist and poet whose verse has been widely translated and anthologized.

      Awoonor studied at the University College of Ghana (B.A., 1960), University College, London (M.A., 1970), and the State University of New York at Stony Brook (Ph.D., 1972). He lectured in English and African literature at the University of Ghana, directed the Ghana Film Corporation, founded and directed the Ghana Playhouse, and served as an editor of the literary journal Okyeame and as an associate editor of Transition. In the early 1970s he served as chairman of the department of comparative literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He returned to Ghana in August 1975 to teach at the University College of Cape Coast, but that December he was arrested on charges of harbouring an army officer accused of initiating an attempt to overthrow the government. He was found guilty, but his sentence was remitted in October 1976, and he resumed teaching until 1982. He served as Ghana's ambassador to Brazil from 1984 to 1988 and as ambassador to Cuba from 1988.

      Awoonor sought to incorporate African vernacular traditions—notably the dirge song tradition of the Ewe people—into modern poetic form. His major themes—Christianity, exile, and death are important among them—are enlarged from poem to poem by repetition of key lines and phrases and by use of extended rhythms. Each poem in Rediscovery and Other Poems (1964), for example, records a single moment in a larger pattern of recognition and rediscovery. Awoonor's subsequent volumes of poetry include Night of My Blood (1971), Ride Me, Memory (1973), The House by the Sea (1978), and The Latin American and Caribbean Notebook (1992). His collected poems (through 1985) were published in Until the Morning After (1987).

      Awoonor also published a novel, This Earth, My Brother (1971), and two short plays. His The Breast of the Earth: A Survey of the History, Culture, and Literature of Africa South of the Sahara appeared in 1975, and Comes the Voyager at Last: A Tale of Return to Africa was published in 1992.

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Universalium. 2010.

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