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SONA 2019: Akufo-Addo Celebrates Atukwei Okai, Others

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The President, Nana Akufo-Addo has paid tribute to poet Professor Atukwei Okai and other statesmen who passed away last year.

Delivering his State of the Nation Address Thursday in Parliament, President Akufo-Addo made special mention of some departed statesmen who contributed in diverse ways to the building of the nation.

He paid tribute to Professor Atukwei Okai, JH Mensah, VCRARC Crabbe, Former Vice President Amissah Arthur and KB Asante, all of who passed away in 2018.

”The House should also take note of the passing last year of some distinguished citizens of our country – Vice President, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur; UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan; Senior Minister, J.H Mensah; Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice V.C.R.A.C Crabbe; PNDC Secretary, K.B Asante, and the Poet Laureate, Prof. Atukwei Okai.

”May their souls rest and abide in the bosom of the Almighty until the last day of the Resurrection when we shall all meet again. Amen! ” – he said.

More about Prof Atukwei Okai

Prof Atukwei Okai was born in 1941. In his young days, he published his work under the name John Okai. His work has been described as “politically radical and socially conscious, one of his greatest concerns being Pan-Africanism.“

He earned his M.A (Litt) from the Gorky Literary Institute in 1967. In 1971, he took up a post-graduate scholarship from the University of Ghana to earn his Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) in 1971 from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London.

He started lecturing at the University of Ghana in 1971, and became Senior Research Fellow in African Literature at the Institute of African Studies.

He was elected as the first Secretary General of the Pan-African Writers’ Association (PAWA) and held that position till he died.

Prof Okai was survived by a wife and five daughters.

Career

In 1971, Prof. Okai served as a lecturer in Russian Literature in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Ghana until 1984 when he joined the Institute of African Studies as a Research Fellow and was appointed Senior Research Fellow in 1985.

At age 16, he became the youngest member of the Ghana Society of Writers (GAW), a precursor to the current Ghana Association of Writers in 1957.

He became Secretary-General of the Pan-African Writers Organisation at age 16 in 1957 and the Secretary to GAW in June 1961. He left for further studies in the Soviet Union the same year until his return in 1971 to become the President of the association.

He took up the role of Secretary-General of the Pan-African Writers Organisation in 1989.

Publications, performances and awards

Under the pen name John Okai, Prof. Okai was generally recognised to be the first real performance poet to emerge from Africa. Performing globally on major international radio and television and poet platforms worldwide, his major publications were translated into several languages.

The publications  included “The Oath of the Fontomfrom and Other poems”,  “Freedom Symphony: selected and new leave poems”,  “Mandela the Spear and other poems”,  “The Ant Hill in the Sea”, “Slim Queen in a Palanquin” and “Pawpaw on a Mango Tree.”

His thirst for excellence in his endeavours won him 13 national and international awards, including “The President of the Republic of Ghana’s Special Prize of 1960” and the “Member of the Order of the Volta.”

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