Kofi Awoonor in 2008. Photo by Chidi Anthony Opara. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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Kofi N. Awoonor

In office
President Jerry Rawlings
Preceded by Victor Gbeho
Succeeded by George Lamptey
Personal details
Born 13 1935(1935-Template:MONTHNUMBER-13)
Wheta, Gold Coast
Died 21 2013(2013-Template:MONTHNUMBER-21) (aged 78)
Nairobi, Kenya
Nationality Ghanaian
Alma mater
Occupation Poet, author, academic and diplomat

Kofi Awoonor (13 March 1935 – 21 September 2013) was a Ghanaian poet and author whose work combined the poetic traditions of his native Ewe people and contemporary and religious symbolism to depict Africa during decolonization.


Awoonor was born in Wheta, Ghana, when the country was still called the Gold Coast. He went to university, and went on to teach African literature, at the University of Ghana. While at the University of Ghana he wrote his first poetry book; Rediscovery. Like the rest of his work, Rediscovery was based on African oral poetry. In Ghana he managed the Ghana Film Corporation and founded the Ghana Play House.

He then studied literature at the University of London, and while in England wrote several radio plays for the BBC. He spent the early 1970s in the United States, studying and teaching at universities. While in the U.S. he wrote This Earth, My Brother, and My Blood.

Awoonor returned to Ghana in 1975 as head of the English department at the University of Cape Coast. Within months he was arrested for helping a soldier accused of trying to overthrow the military government and was imprisoned without trial. After ten months he was found guilty and released. The house by the Sea is about his time in jail. After imprisonment Awoonor became politically active, and has written mostly nonfiction.[1] From 1990 to 1994 Awoonor was Ghana's Ambassador to the United Nations[2] where he headed the committee against apartheid.[3]

Professor Awoonor was among those who were killed in the September 2013 attack at Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.[4][5][6] He was in Kenya as a participant in the Storymoja Hay Festival, a four-day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling at which he was due to perform on the evening of his death. The Ghanaian government confirmed his death the next day. His son was also shot, but was later discharged from hospital.[5]



  • Rediscovery and other poems. Ibadan, Nigeria: Mbari, 1964.
  • Messages: Poems from Ghana. London: Heinemann, 1971 [1970]
  • Night of My Blood (with introduction by Ezekiel Mphahiele). Garden City, NY: Doubleday (Anchor), 1971.
  • Ride Me, Memory. Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review Press, 1973.
  • The House By the Sea. Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review Press, 1978.
  • Until the Morning After: Selected poems, 1963-1985. Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review Press, 1987.
  • The Promise of Hope: New and selected poems, 1964-2013 (edited by Kofi Anyidoho & Kwame Senu Neville Dawes). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2014.


  • This Earth, My Brother. London: Heinemann, 1971. (a cross between a novel and a poem)
    • (with introduction by Ezekiel Mphahiele). Garden City, NY: Doubleday (Anchor), 1971.
  • Comes the Voyager at Last: A tale of return to Africa. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1992.


  • The Breast of the Earth: A survey of the history, culture, and literature of Africa south of the Sahara. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1975.
  • Come back, Ghana : a brief political analysis of Ghana's current problems and suggestions on how they can be solved. [Ghana?]: [1976?]
  • The Ghana Revolution: Background account from a personal perspective. Bronx NY: Oases Publishers, 1984.
  • Ghana: A political history from pre-European to modern times. Accra: Sedco / Woeli, 1990.
  • Africa: The marginalized continent. Accra: Woeli, 1994.
  • The African Predicament: Selected essays. Accra: Sub-Saharan Press, 2006.


  • Latin American and Caribbean Notebook. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1992.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]

See alsoEdit


  • Robert Fraser, West African Poetry: A Critical History, Cambridge University Press (1986), ISBN 0-521-31223-X
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Basic Civitas Books (1999), ISBN 0-465-00071-1 - p. 153
  • Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology, edited by Lauret E. Savoy, Eldridge M. Moores, and Judith E. Moores (Trinity University Press, 2006)


External linksEdit

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