BEN OKRI Address
By: Percy Mabandu

Visiting Nigerian author, Ben Okri delivered a key note address to celebrate the launch of the 2015 Africa Month at University of South Africa. Instead of observing the customary annual May 25 as Africa day, thanks to the Department of Arts and Culture, the whole month of May will be used to mark an annual celebration and revival focused on deepening the African agenda both in South Africa and across the continent. Okri’s visit is part of the launch of the campaign which has been dubbed We Are Africa.

His speech was titled, “Summoning The African Renaissance – a vision for the individual.” It focused on re-articulating a vision of renewal for the continent and its people. The speech was marked by an allegorical touch that has won him a special place in the hearts readers the world over.

Okri is a respected author of books such as The Famished Road which won the Booker Prize in 1991. His collection of poems, Mental Fight confirmed him as a formidable poet and not just a master of prose. His literary has often been compared with that of William Blake voice has been. Okri is considered one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions.

In his talk, the 56 year old scholar went to length to tease out a definition of the idea of Renaissance: “A renaissance is a revelation of previously unsuspected potentialities that have been hurried into light by the catalysed by a new or renewing vision and ideals… it is always prepared for by striving by pressing forth even in unpromising times.

“A renaissance is nothing more than a people long secrete willing of themselves into a higher germination. It is not just a question of leadership. Though, no true renaissance can happen without inspired leadership. In fact, leadership of this kind then becomes the external form of the secrete dream of the people; their hope for freedom, and contentment, and beauty; their dreams of an almost spiritual tranquillity which in out times is translated into justice, into a good life, into an upward progress in both civic and economic life.”

Okri implored the audience to look towards nature for lessons of renewal: “The battle of Waterloo and the Rwanda are now grown over with grass and poppies and yellow flowers. The corpses, some devoured by the sun and wind have replanted their grieving cells into the earth and have into the force that make the plants grow. The earth turns dark death into flowers, as we must turn failure into stars. ”

While acknowledging the ravages wrought by years of conflict and war. He sought to see this as conditions that should help to inspire a new necessary hope and effort towards a batter day.

“It is only when death and chaos and corruption have devoured generations and made their homes part of the landscape, do a people ask if there’s nothing else that this earth has to yield them. There is no life so miserable that it cannot dream of rebirth,” he said.

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