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Mandela The Spear and Other Poems
Neither the poems, nor Okai himself, need my voice – the poet has long established himself as one of the towering figures in the field of modern African poetry in English.
Readers will find that all the familiar elements of the Okai signature are present – the declamatory posture of the poet – persona; the tactical deployment of assonances, the mobilization of memory; and remembrance; the constant mingling of customary codes and the violent conjoining of names from diverse epochs – all these and more are patently in evidence here.
It is this burning desire to celebrate the black experience and culture through the iconic figures who symbolize our struggles and triumphs, that governs the collection. We encounter names like Mandela, Cabral, Lumumba, Nkrumah.
— Femi Osofisan – Ibadan, Nigeria.
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. Professor Okai currently teaches at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.
Okai’s poems have been translated into several languages and have appeared in anthologies and several prominent international journals.
He is very much a performance poet, and his poems are rooted in the oral tradition, virtually inseparable from traditional African music and dance. The poems are also politically radical and socially conscious, one of his great concerns being Pan-Africanism. Among his collections of verse are Flowerfall (1969), Oath of the Fonton-from and Other Poems (1971), and Logorligi Logarithms (1974). The last title juxtaposes the Ga and English words for the same mathematical concept, thus indicating Okai's parallel traditional and modern consciousness as a poet.