Arts, Culture & Media

Kofi Awoonor: Ghanaian Diplomat and Poet Dies in Terrorist Attack


Kofi Awoonor



We want to take a moment to remember a poet.

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Kofi Awoonor was from Ghana.

He was 78-years-old, and was one of those killed on Saturday in that terrorist attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.

Awoonor was in Nairobi, taking part in a four-day writing and storytelling festival, StoryMoja Hay.

He was supposed to speak on Saturday evening.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, a tribute will be held in his honor tonight.

One of Kofi Awoonor’s most famous poems was “The Cathedral.”


On this dirty patch

A tree once stood

Shedding incense on the infant corn:

Its bough stretched across a heaven

Brightened by the last fires of a tribe.

They brought surveyors and builders

Who cut that tree

Planting in its place

A huge senseless cathedral of doom


Kofi Awoonor studied literature at the University of London.

He also spent time in the early 1970s teaching at universities here in the US.

In 1975, Awoonor moved back to Ghana, and became head of the English Department at the University of Cape Coast.

Awoonor served as Ghana’s Ambassador to the United Nations in the 1990s.

So it’s a sad irony that Awoonor was killed just as leaders and ambassadors from around the globe gathered for the UN’s General Assembly this week.

Kofi Awoonor was 78-years-old.