Atukwei Is Still Here With Us – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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Attukwei Okai

All sorts of headlines of articles and writeups in tribute to famed performance poet and children’s literature author Prof. Atukwei Okai, who physically transitioned into eternity on July 13, or into “The Ages,” as former US President Barack H. Obama put it on the occasion of the seismic passing of Mr. Nelson R. Mandela, have been written and published. But the ones that I found to be rather quaintly pedestrian were those that mundanely suggested that, somehow, the great path-paving Word-Weaver had “gone home” or permanently departed from the rest of us who are still living right here on Earth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Which is that poets never really perish; I am hereby, of course, talking about great poets whose genius assured them of mnemonic immortality long before they took their final proverbial bow from this stage of our life.

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I have already partially dedicated a collection of poems that I published a decade ago with a title that was a takeoff from Prof. Prof. Okai’s poetry titled “Lorgorligi Logarithms,” so I do not intend to unnecessarily repeat myself here. The title of my book is “Dorkordicky Ponkorhythms,” and it is easily accessible from Amazon.com and any of the other major bookselling websites. I also wrote the longest chapter of my doctoral dissertation on the poetry of Prof. Okai exactly 20 years ago, and narrowly missed having an abbreviated version of the same chapter published in one of the leading journals in global African Studies called “Journal of Black Studies”; the editors could not locate one of the pages of my essay and curiously contacted me about the same when the entire issue of the journal in which my work on the Russian-trained Afrocentric Bard was scheduled to be published was already on the press with the printers. I have my own theory of what actually happened here, but I prefer not to delve into the same, as the purpose of this column is primarily to testify to the indelible significance of the great linguist and literary artist.

You see, great poets like John David Atukwei Okai, the names that he was reportedly given by his parents at birth – I knew about the pre-Pan-Africanist “John” part but not the “David” part – never really die because even as the ancient Akan philosophers rightly observed, “The Tongue Never Rots.” Of course, we all know that the physical human tongue is among the first organs of the body to decay and rot, once one has given up the proverbial ghost or exhaled for the last time as a living being. Rather, what these ancient Akan sages meant was that the memorable and cognitively distilled words of gifted poets and performance artists and formidable custodians of our moral and cultural values are not easily forgotten. Needless to say, Prof. Atukwei Okai was one such luminary. His mortal remains would definitely dissolve back into the very earth from which they had evolved and emerged. But, of course, his breath and spirit transcend the material confines of our Earth:

Just as he was

Tall and statuesque

In stature and

Bearing…

Atukwei shall forever live

Through the deft

Performance of his

Words…

In the beginning was

The Word

In primal screams

Of birth

And rebirth…

Just as he was

Let him forever be

Now and forever

More…

*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs