The weekend of the 21 September 2013 is one that Nairobians will never forget. Everyone seems to have a tale to tell – of being there, of knowing someone who was there, of almost going there that day. The horror and the loss have impacted a wide swathe of Kenyan society, and with ripples felt as far away as Australia and Canada.
He was most noted for his poetry, inspired by the oral tradition of the Ewe people to which he belonged. One such poem is Rediscovery:
When our tears are dry on the shore
And the fishermen carry their nets home
And the seagulls return to Bird Island
And the laughter of the children recedes at night
There shall still linger here the communion we forget
The feast of oneness which we partook of
There shall still be the eternal gatemen
Who will close the cemetery door
And send the late mourners away
It cannot be music we heard that night
That still lingers in the chambers of memory
It is the new chorus of our forgotten comrades
And the halleluiahs of our second selves
The day before his murder, Awoonor was at a lunch where he “…was talking about… the borderlessness of the world,” fellow Ghanaian writer Nii Parkes recounts, “and all the miracles within it.” And while terrorism knows no borders, neither do compassion, prayers and the search for a just society.
Regardless of where we live, these attacks impact us. What gives me hope is how those living in Kenya have reacted. They rejected Fear – the real weapon of terrorists – when thousands lined up for hours at various emergency centres to donate blood to help the wounded.
The rejection of fear could be seen in the volunteers who brought food and water for the rescue workers, army, police and survivors. It can be heard in the promise by the Ghanaian High Commissioner when he told the Hay Festival organisers, “Next year, I will bring you more writers from my country. That is what Kofi Awoonor would have wanted.”
Storymoja’s Aleya Kassam summed up what many of us were feeling: “Just when we were feeling too overwhelmed to imagine continuing on this journey, it seems we must.”
Such sentiments are reinforced in the following quotations:
There is a saying in Tibetan:
‘Tragedy should be utilised as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is,
If we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.
Fear not, neither be dismayed, for your light shall penetrate the densest darkness.
What more befitting tribute can we give to the dead and wounded than this: to persevere, to hold up the light and keep hope alive? Please leave a comment and let me know how you’re going to shed some light.
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Vered Ehsani is a writer, an environmental consultant & a radio show host of Africa Creates. Africa Creates is an online radio show that provides a platform for African writers, musicians, filmmakers & other artists to be heard & promoted both locally & internationally.