The family of Africa’s foremost scholar of Oral Literature and award-winning novelist Prof. Isidore Okpewho who died on September 4 has announced arrangements for his final rite of passage.
The prolific author of over a dozen books and scores of academic articles will be buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover, New Jersey, United States of America on September 17.
The internment will be preceded by Visitation/Viewing and a funeral mass on September 16 at St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament Church, 465 Clubhouse Road, Vestal, in Upstate New York.
Mr. Okpewho who retired not long ago as a Distinguished Professor from State University of New York, Binghamton, lived with his wife and four children in the U.S for about 25 years. He will be remembered for his robust and seminal contribution to the understanding of the oral performance in Africa, his experimental fiction, and his numerous outstanding mentees across the world.
News of his passing has sparked reactions from the literati, as well as a broad range of friends, associates, admirers, and public officials in Nigeria and abroad. Amongst these have been President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of his home state, Delta State. Tributes to the eminent literary figure have poured in across multiple media spaces and professional listserves that include the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA) of which he had served as President, and USAAfricaDialogue.
Amid the moving tributes is one by another pioneer and prodigious scholar of Oral Literature, Ruth Finnegan. “There is a beautiful ancient Greek poem, beautifully translated too, which I have found comforting – and true. I share it with you,” writes Mr. Finnegan, emeritus professor at The Open University, U.K:
“They told me Heraclitus, they told me you were dead
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed
I wept as I remembered how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
And now that you are lying my dear old Carian guest
A handful of dry ashes long long ago at rest
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales awake
For death he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.”