Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

isidore-okpewhoIsidore Okpewho, the Nigerian fiction writer and literary scholar, died on Sunday, the 4th of September in a Binghamton hospital in Upstate New York. He was surrounded by his family and loved ones. He was 74.

Many readers know him as the author of The Victims-–a dark and twisted family thriller that explores the dynamics of polygamy. Others know him as a literary scholar extraordinaire whose work on oral literature in Africa is rich and expansive. His passing is an incalculable loss to the global literary community, but most especially to African readers and scholars.

While we mourn the loss of this literary icon, we also want to acknowledge the full and beautiful life he lived as a writer and a thinker.

He was born in Agbor but grew up in Asaba where he attended St Patrick’s College before moving on to University College in Ibadan. He graduated with First Class Honors in Classics. A doctorate from  the University of Denver and a DLitt from the  University of London prepared him for a life-long career in teaching. In 1974, he took up a teaching appointment at University of New York, Buffalo. Two years later he moved back to Nigeria and taught at the University of Ibadan. He also taught at Harvard University and later at the State University of New York, Binghamton, where he stayed until he passed on.

His research work on African literature earned him numerous fellowships, including a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars fellowship in 1982 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003.

To those outside the literary scholarly community, Okpewho was the bestselling author of The Victims (1970), a novel that continues to grip the imagination of readers the world over. But he wrote other novels: Call me by my Rightful Name (2004); Tides (1993); and The Last Duty (1976).  All his novels have been translated into the major world languages.

In celebration of his contributions to African literature, Okpewho was awarded the Nigerian National Order of Merit in Humanities.

His death brought a flood of condolences from every corner of the world. Those who read his novels looked back on his life and the gifts he gave the world through his literary works.

Okey Ndibe, a fellow novelist and literary critic, had this to say on Facebook:

“Isidore Okpewho, who died yesterday at 74, was a literary and academic star, regarded by many as the most consequential student of Africa’s oral tradition. And he was possessed of a deep humanity. For decades, this star dazzled us. Now that he’s gone to the realm of ancestors, I will long treasure my personal and intellectual interactions with him. May his soul rest in peace.”

Whether you physically sat in his classroom or read his novels at home or studied his scholarly writings, you were taught by Isidore Okpewho.

He was a poet, a folklorist, a scholar and a teacher and many will remember him. While he has passed on from this earth we are left with his works which will surely stand the test of time.

We hope that future generation continue to enjoy the rare gift of his vast and beautiful body of work.

 

Tags: , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “Isidore Okpewho, Nigeria’s Literary and Academic Star, Passes on” Subscribe

  1. obakanse lakanse 2016/09/12 at 16:34 #

    no doubt africa has lost one of her best scholars-one of her best writers of the english language.the man sabi yarn english no be small.i have always felt the prof is the most underrated novelist of the 20th century.he is not only among our best scholars,he is also among our best novelists,rest in peace,prof.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Pop Culture Website, Woke Africa, Is Looking for Contributors

IMG_20180405_181050_230

New pop culture Website WokeAfrica.com is seeking more contributors. Woke Africa was founded in December 2017, and despite being focused […]

To Betray the Nation, They Betrayed You First | Mukoma Wa Ngugi

winnie mandela

  (for Winnie Mandela) Because you were born Winnie Madikizela but died Winnie Mandela and you knew your real DOB […]

Bringing Achebe’s Masterpiece to Life | Highlights from the 60th Anniversary Reading of Things Fall Apart | Eddie Hewitt

southbank center chinua achebe 60 year anniversary

60 years on from the first publication of Things Fall Apart, I was excited to be in Queen Elizabeth Hall […]

Nnedi Okorafor, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Wole Talabi, Sibongile Fisher Lead 2018 Nommo Awards Shortlists

sibongile fisher

The 2018 shortlists for the four Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans have just been announced. Among the shortlisted […]

GoFundMe | Please Donate to Help Get Selves Nonfiction Anthology into Print

SELVES gofundme 1

The team behind the remarkable e-anthology, Selves: An Afro Anthology of Creative Nonfiction, led by its curator, Basit Jamiu, have […]

New Collection of Plays Shines Light on African Women Playwrights

Contemporary Plays by African Women

There are many literary projects making a difference in the way we read and talk about African literature. One of […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.