May be buried in a fortnight
By John Eche
Tributes have continued to pour in for the scholar and literary icon, Professor Isidore Okpewho who died recently in a Binghamton Hospital, in Upstate New York where he had lived and taught since 1991.
An acclaimed pioneer in the field of African Oral Literature studies, Okpewho had before then taught at the University of New York, Buffalo (1974-76), University of Ibadan (1976-90), Harvard University (1990-91), and State University of New York at Binghamton.
Born on November 9, 1941 in Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria; he grew up in Asaba, his maternal hometown, where he attended St Patrick’s College, Asaba.
He graduated with a First Class Honours in Classics at the University College Ibadan, and moved on to launch a career: first in publishing at Longman Publishers, and then as an academic after obtaining his PhD from the University of Denver, USA. He crowned his certification with a D.Litt from University of London.
Professor Okpewho won the 1976 African Arts Prize for Literature and 1993 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Africa. His four novels, The Victims, The Last Duty, Tides, and Call me by my Rightful Name are widely studied in Africa and other parts of the world, with some of them translated into major world languages.
He is survived by his wife, Mrs Obiageli Okpewho; his children: Ediru, Ugo, Afigo, and Onome, as well as members of his extended family.
In his reaction, the scholar and author of the award-winning novel, Roots in the Sky, Akin Adesokan stated: ‘Isidore Okpewho was a fine teacher and mentor to many, including me. Equally at ease as critic and creative writer. Rest well, Prof.’
On his part, G.G. Darah, Professor of English at Delta State University, Abraka, and President of Nigeria Oral Literature Association (NOLA) exclaimed: “Ah, that is a library destroyed by the fire of death.”
For the Lagos-based social commentator, Teslim K. Shitta-Bey, the moral of Okpewho’s rich creative oeuvre must not be missed. In a Facebook tribute, he remarked: ‘Adieu to a quintessential African writer, a wordsmith whose pen has shockingly run dry not for lack of colourful insight but for want of further tether to this fickle thing called life. May Isidore delight the hosts in heaven with craftsmanship unusual but delightful.’
Family sources say Okpewho may be buried in a fortnight.