Saturday, July 28, 2012
David Mungoshi pays tribute to Omar Salem of Lybia
In one of his most evocatively epigrammatic lines, Goethe the revered German poet wrote ‘Wait awhile: soon you too will rest.’ Without doubt this line defines the existential human condition in its essence and totality. Perhaps Omar Salem had indeed waited awhile and indeed come to rest. Perhaps too he only rested in order to continue his journey into eternity and must soon bask in cosmic glory.
I met Omar Salem for the first time in November 2006 in Accra and although I could not have known it then our timely meeting was in fact a ‘hallo-goodbye’ phenomenon. He met me with his characteristically calm and warm smile at Accra’s Kotoka Airport as I arrived to fulfil an international task on behalf of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA). We were to spend the next week in peaceful camaraderie and artistic communion.
Whenever Atukwei Okai, the Secretary General of PAWA is asked where he comes from, without exception he always answers, ‘I come from Africa and I live in Ghana.’ This stance defines Pan Africanism in its truest sense and I have no doubt in mind that this was also Omar Salem’s abiding philosophy. How else could he have come up with such a felicitous collection of poems on Ghana?
Omar Salem loved Ghana unreservedly and wholly. Even a casual perusal of his anthology, ‘Ghana Reveals Her Secrets,’ will confirm this. He loved the people of Ghana and was fascinated by the faces that he encountered during his stay in the country. And because of his keen sense of undiluted history, Omar Salem’s understanding of and respect for Ghana’s founding father, Kwame Nkrumah, readily equals that of all other true African patriots. Not surprisingly, one of his most evocative and resonant lines come from a poem in which he pays tribute to Kwame Nkrumah. The poem, ‘STILL ALIVE IN EVERY STREET: To the Great Spirit- Kwame Nkrumah’ ends with the poignant affirmation and celebration of African womanhood:
The face of Mary is
My moon tonight
As I am intoxicated
By the rhythm of
The dance without legs.
My hope and prayer for the family and friends of Omar Salem as well as the people of the Great Arab Socialist Jamahiriya of Libya is that they can take comfort from knowing that his was a life well-lived and that he was well-loved and appreciated by those who knew him.
Friend, brother, poet and African patriot, Omar Salem, I shall always treasure the copy of your poetry anthology on Ghana that you so generously donated and autographed for me.
As we say here, in the part of Africa where I live, ‘FAMBA ZVAKANAKA- GO WELL.’
PAWA VICE PRESIDENT FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA