Ghana’s iconic poet Prof. Atukwei Okai is dead

By: Gifty Owusu-Amoah
Prof. Atukwei Okai
The late Prof. Atukwei Okai was a prolific poet
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Celebrated Ghanaian poet and Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers Association of Ghana(PAWA), Prof. Atukwei Okai has died at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital on Friday, July 13 after a short illness.

A statement signed by Prof Akilakpa Sawyerr on behalf of the Odoi and Okai families of Asere, Ga Mashie in the Greater Accra Region, confirmed the death of the prolific writer who died at the age of 77.

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According to the statement, Prof. Atukwei Okai was a national icon, a former government minister and the Pan African Writers Association of Ghana(PAWA).

Prof. Atukwei Okai was surveyed by his wife Beatrice Okai and five daughters.

The late poet was noted for his excellent poetry recitation and is believed to be one of the first real poetry performers to have emerged in Africa.

Prof. Atukwei Okai's performances on radio and television include an acclaimed 1975 appearance at poetry international at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London where he shared the stage with US poets Stanley Kunitz and Robert Lowell, and Nicolas Guillen of Cuba.

He’s one of the gifted people who have put the country on the map with their contribution to African literature in general and poetry in particular.

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Prof. Atukwei Okai was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1941, he had his elementary education in Northern Ghana, then attended Methodist Middle Boys’ School (Accra) and the Accra High School, before going to Moscow in 1961, where he earned his M.A. (Lit.) in 1967.

He has taught at the University of Ghana, Legon, since 1971 as lecturer in Russian literature at the Department of Modern Languages and since 1984 as Senior Research Fellow in African Literature at the Institute of African Studies.

Until his demise, he was teaching at University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. Okai’s poems have been translated into several languages and have appeared in anthologies and several prominent international journals.

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One of his most popular poems is Rosimaya which talks about a woman who did not return his love for her but feigned interest and led him on.