It was Markus Zasak who wrote; “time will tell, I suppose, or at least these pages will”. Indeed, for Isidiore, his pages have told great stories which would not elude from our memories. I remember the time I studied pages from your book; ‘Oral Performance in Africa’, there was a connection and innuendo which each page resonated. The rhythms were beyond what my lips could carry and like Finnegan opined in her ‘An introduction to African Oral Literature’, I could feel a performance going on in my head.
You wrote those pages from a chain of words which would later touch , reach, preach, inspire, reawaken the literary giants in our hearts and create more literary converts. I think. Did I just say think? I meant know, pardon me. I know I am one of those who wished to meet you personally sometime in life and talk to your muse and not just the meetings we have had consistently on your pages and letters which the forest of letters would miss now that you are gone. Days ago, your death was announced and it shook the literary world. Even Osundare lamented, “a great tree has fallen in our forest of letters”. You therefore leave us with tender moments and reverberating sounds.
Your words and pages showed and proved that you were a literary titan and not merely a voice in African Literature and literary studies. In order for the younger generation to remember their ancestry, history, and rich indigenous traditions, he wrote and contributed immensely to literatures in African Oral Literature particularly placing emphasis on the oral loves and the nuances it leaves on our heartthrobs. Isidiore was a novelist, poet, literary scholar, folklorist, linguist, anthropologist amongst other titles my small words would not be able to capture. Indeed, he has performed his last duty, however, I want you to know that the tides were unfair to have taken you now. If only words could bring you back. Well, that may seem all impossible but possible in our heads and hearts and on the pages you wrote. Today, I call you by your rightful name, Isidiore Okpewho.
Someone wrote; ‘for the mind that knows is the mind that is free’. You knew and now you are free from the storms and sad songs of this season. The younger generation can only but rewrite the pages you wrote because it still lingers in our hearts. Our minds strole in your erudition and there is a place you left us all in. We will meet you in the forest of letters when it is time. But for now, let us get a gourd of palm wine, get a pen and rewrite the pages of Isidiore Okpewho and chant his praise in Osundare’s market place.
For Isidiore Okpewho (1941-2016)
He is survived by his wife, Obiageli, his children: Ediru, Ugo and Onome.
Finnegan, Ruth. Oral literature in Africa. Cambridge, UK: Open Book publishers, CIC Limited. 2012.
Osundare, Niyi. “Calling life its rightful name (For Isidiore Okpewho)”. Sahara Reporters. 4 Sept, 2016. Web. 4 Sept, 2016.
Isidiore, Okpewho. African Oral Literature: Background, character, and continuity. Bloomington, IN. Indiana University Press. 1992.