The smart professionals in three piece
Sweating away their humanity in dribblets
And wiping the blood from their brow
I was among the very first people who heard the news of his passing, I should suppose, because when I did, nobody on my twitter timeline had tweeted it. I waited for confirmation and watched a few government and official feeds but found nothing. Finally I read it again from one very trusted source and that was it. Kofi Awoonor was dead.
We have found a new land
This side of eternity
Where our blackness does not matter
And our songs are dying on our lips
Today, he would have been 79. I will be celebrating him in a series of tweets and posts along with Kinna of Kinnareads. The hashtag to use is #Awoonor79.
Standing at hell-gate you watch those who seek admission
Still the familiar faces that watched and gave you up
As the one who had let the side down,
“Come on, old boy, you cannot dress like that”
And tears well in my eyes for them
Those who want to be seen in the best company
Have abjured the magic of being themselves
And in the new land we have found
The water is drying from the towel
Our songs are dead and we sell them dead to the other side
He was a fighter who took on life in the most activist of ways. In this poem, Kofi Awoonor tells of a period when the African identity was gradually stolen. Those ‘smart professionals’ (line 1), the elite, gave up their tie and dye for ‘three piece’(line 1) suits, while wiping the blood of their essence from their brows (line 3). They copied the whiteness of their colonizers, in a usurped ploy ‘Where our blackness does not matter’ (line 6). He calls them candidates at ‘hell-gate’ (line 8) seeking passage to this death, while ridiculing the ‘magic of being themselves’ (line14). He cries for them (line 12).
But from line 15, Awoonor sympathizes with the guilty and now says, ‘the new land we have found’ (line 15). He makes himself a part of the redemption because he concludes:
Reaching for the Stars we stop at the house of the Moon
And pause to relearn the wisdom of our fathers.
In those two lines, Awoonor talks about Rediscovery of a true self that he joins his brothers to pursue, “relearn[ing] the wisdom” (line 19) of the generations that went before.
His death has been a great loss and we shall tell of his legacy till we ourselves are gone. Happy Birthday, Kofi.