Bernard Dadié, Côte d’Ivoire’s best known writer and former Minister of Culture, has passed on at age 103, on 9 March 2019. His novels, plays and poetry—which have been described as attempting to connect the contemporary world, as shaped by colonialism, to messages in traditional African folktales—were inspiration for the Negritude movement, with his poem “Je Vous Remercie Mon Dieu” considered one of the black nationalist movement’s greatest anthems.
In 2016, aged 100, Dadié was unanimously voted winner of the inaugural, UNESCO-sponsored $50,000 Jamie Torres Bodet Award, for his contribution “to the development of knowledge and society through art, teaching and research in social sciences and humanities,” and later that year, he won the Grand Prix des Mécènes of the Grand Prix of Literary Associations.
Born on 10 January 1916 in Assinie, Côte d’Ivoire, Dadié went to school in Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, and at the famous Ecole William Ponty in Senegal. In 1947, he joined Côte d’Ivoire’s independence movement. In 1953, he co-founded, with Germain Coffi Gadeau and F. J. Amon d’Aby, the Cercle Culturel et Folklorique de la Côte d’Ivoire (CCFCI). Before independence was realised in 1960, he suffered a 16-month detention by the French colonial government. In 1977, he became the country’s Minister of Culture, a position he held until 1986.
Dadié’s work became the subject of renewed interest when the choral text of his poem, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” (“Sèche Tes Pleurs“), a poem about returning to the continent, was used for a song of the same name in the the American composer John Williams’ music score for Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film Amistad.
Dadié’s books, as listed on his Wikipedia page, include Afrique debout (1950), Légendes africaines (1954), Le pagne noir (1955), La ronde des jours (1956), Climbié (1956), Un Nègre à Paris (1959), Patron de New York (1964), Hommes de tous les continents (1967), La ville où nul ne meurt (1969), Monsieur Thôgô-Gnini (1970), Les voix dans le vent (1970), Béatrice du Congo (1970), Îles de tempête (1973), Papassidi maître-escroc (1975), Mhoi cheul (1979), Opinions d’un nègre (1979), Les belles histoires de Kacou Ananzè, Commandant Taureault et ses nègres (1980), Les jambes du fils de Dieu (1980), Carnets de prison (1981), and Les contes de Koutou-as-Samala (1982).
There have been tributes on social media, including from Côte d’Ivoire president Alassane Ouattara and the Congolese novelist Alain Mabanckou.
Hommage à Bernard Dadié.
Je salue la mémoire de Bernard Dadié, grand écrivain et père de la littérature ivoirienne, qui vient de nous quitter. Son œuvre riche, enseignée dans les écoles et universités, aura marqué l’histoire de la littérature contemporaine. pic.twitter.com/jUgd0YE5Qs
— Alassane Ouattara (@AOuattara_PRCI) March 11, 2019
Bernard Dadié (Jan. 10, 1916 –March 9, 2019) was an eminent Ivory Coast novelist, playwright, poet, independence activist, and administrator. The choral text of Dadié’s poem, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” was used in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 movie “Amistad”. He died at age 103! pic.twitter.com/vf2GESS9qt
— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) March 23, 2019
RIP. Notre photo date de 7 ans. Le grand classique de la littérature africaine #BernardDadié vient de nous quitter à l’âge de 103 ans… Ici chez lui, à Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, le 2 décembre 2012, après un déjeuner très copieux : sauce arachide, attiéké, cuisses de poulet… pic.twitter.com/m59jgIq1TV
— Alain Mabanckou (@amabanckou) March 9, 2019
Bernard Dadie, the Ivorian writer, has rejoined his ancestors last Saturday. I will remember all the wisdom I got as a child, reading the fantastic & smart adventures of the supremely astute spider “Kakou Ananze” in his tale book “Le Pagne Noir”. A great story teller has gone. pic.twitter.com/mohf9k2Oo1
— Pol Palacios (@palacios_pol) March 19, 2019
Bernard #Dadié, the immense Ivorian writer poet & anti colonial militant just passed away at 103. He was a great friend of #Algeria. A fiercely anti colonial militant he spent years in jail (40s & early 50s). He was distinguished at Algiers PanAfrican festival 1969. #RIPDadié pic.twitter.com/5q3TFlXv5E
— Algeria to the UN (@AlgeriaUN) March 19, 2019
May he rest in peace.