Teju Cole on the Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor who was killed in Nairobi’s Westgate mall by terrorists.
The most resonant moment of the evening was the least anticipated: someone had made an audio recording from the master class that Awoonor had given at the Festival on Friday. And so, in the silence of the auditorium, we listened to about a minute of his final lecture. And there he was, speaking to us in his own voice (how startling its clarity), as though nothing had changed: “And I have written about death also, particularly at this old age now. At seventy-nine, you must know—unless you’re an idiot—that very soon, you should be moving on.” Then he added, with both levity and seriousness, “An ancient poet from my tradition said, ‘I have something to say. I will say it before death comes. And if I don’t say it, let no one say it for me. I will be the one who will say it.’”