Nigerian Literary Icon Gabriel Okara Has Passed Away
The famous writer is regarded as the first "Modernist Poet of Anglophone Africa."
Nigerian literary giant, Gabirel Okara, known as the first English language African writer, passed away in his sleep in Port Harcourt on Monday. He was two months shy of his 98th birthday.
Okara, referred to as the "Nigerian Negritudist," for his involvement in the Francophone-led intellectual movement, rose to prominence in 1964, following the release of his celebrated debut novel, The Voice, an experimental book in which he translated his native language of Ijaw into English. He was also a poet, playwright and a scriptwriter for national broadcasts. According to The Sun, many of Okara's manuscripts were lost during the Nigerian Civil War.
The writer was born on April 24 1922 in the present-day Bayelsa State of Nigeria, He went on to study journalism at Northwestern University in 1949, before discovering his talent for poetry in 1953 when he won an award at the Nigerian Festival of Arts for his poem The Call of the River Nun, according to BBC Africa.
Amongst his most celebrated poems are Piano and Drums, You Laughed and Laughed and Laughed, and The Fisherman's Invocation.
His death is a major loss to the African literary world, and the second this month following the passing of the prolific Ivorian writer Bernard Dadié, a leader in the negritude movement.
Tributes from fans and readers, including Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, have been pouring out in remembrance of the renowned writer all morning. Many are sharing personal memories of how his work has influenced them.
RIP Gabriel Okara. Your books added more colour to my childhood.— Sofieye (@Sofieye)1553610799.0
We are sad to learn of the death of Renowned Nigerian poet and novelist, Gabriel Okara, who died yesterday, at the… https://t.co/E20dpBYGkQ— AkeArts&BookFestival (@AkeArts&BookFestival)1553588914.0
“My river’s calling too! Its ceaseless flow impels my found’ring canoe down its inevitable course And each dying ye… https://t.co/67Ll5rKG4S— tolu ogunlesi (@tolu ogunlesi)1553535492.0
Sad to hear about the death of Gabriel Okara, but at the same time, we must celebrate a life well lived. A man of m… https://t.co/w9bIiSH4aY— Ben Murray-Bruce (@Ben Murray-Bruce)1553600910.0
Tribute to one of Nigeria's foremost poet, novelist and writer, Dr Gabriel Imomotimi Okara. The Voice(1964), The Fi… https://t.co/bqZej4AJlu— SAMMY WAREPAMOR 🇳🇬 (@SAMMY WAREPAMOR 🇳🇬)1553541689.0
RIP Pa Gabriel Okara. Niger Delta literature was epic because of you. I’ll always remember the first time I stood b… https://t.co/AfJkuBqVY1— @sista_aybee (@@sista_aybee)1553535322.0