The Ghana Writers’ Association (GAW) yesterday opened a book of condolence for the late literary giant, Professor Atukwei Okai, with a call for the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA) House in Accra to be renamed after him.
The association observed that renaming the building after him would leave lasting memories about the pivotal role the poet, cultural activist and great writer played in the development of the literary industry.
Prof. Okai, who was the Secretary General of PAWA, died last Friday, leaving a huge void to be filled by writers across the continent.
He was one of the youngest members of PAWA when it was first formed in 1957 and became the President of GAW in 1971, a position that saw him blaze the trail and put literary work on a higher pedestal.
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At the PAWA House to sign the book of condolence were the President of GAW, Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng; the association’s Vice-President, Mr Francis Gbormittah; and the Public Relations Advisor, Nii Addokwei Moffat.
In separate statements, the GAW leaders described the late literary icon as one of the greatest on the continent and inspirer of thousands of writers across the world.
They eulogised him with messages such as: “On behalf of GAW, we will always cherish you,” “Prof., you are gone but not forgotten; your good works and humanity will always be remembered,” and “Prof., you will always be remembered because you set the pace and we will follow you; Rest in Peace.”
Honouring Prof. Okai
Addressing the media after signing the book of condolence, Nana Gyan-Apenteng said the best way to honour Prof. Okai for his great contribution to humanity was for PAWA House to be named after him.
“GAW will organise commemorative events to honour him and this will soon be announced to the public.
We will recommend to PAWA, Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and the African Union (AU) to rename PAWA House as Atukwei Okai PAWA House.
He added that GAW would organise an emergency general meeting at which it would recommend the immediate institution of an Atukwei Memorial Lecture as an annual event to honour him.
About Prof. Okai
Prof. Okai was born in Accra on March 15, 1941 and died on July 13, 2018 at age 77.
He had his elementary education at Gambaga in the Northern Region where his father worked as a school headmaster and continued to the Methodist Middle Boys’ School and Accra High School, both in Accra.
In 1961, he got a scholarship to study in Moscow where he earned his Master of Arts (M.A) in Literature from the Gorky Literary Institute in 1967.
Prof. Okai took up a postgraduate scholarship from the University of Ghana for further studies in the United Kingdom (U.K), earning a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) degree in 1971 from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London.
He began teaching at the University of Ghana, Legon in 1971 as a lecturer in Russian Literature at the Department of Modern Languages.
In 1984, he became a Senior Research Fellow in African Literature at the Institute of African Studies.
He was also the Head of the Ga Dangbe Department of Education at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.
In 1989, he was elected the first Secretary-General of PAWA, a position he held till his death.
His pioneering role at PAWA was recognised by the Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana (ECRAG), who in 1991 presented him with their highest award, the Flagstar, making him the first writer to receive the award.