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Foremost literary scholar, Isidore Okpewho, dies at 74

A foremost scholar of Oral Literature and award-winning novelist, Prof. Isidore Okpewho, has died at 74.

IsidoreHe was a prolific author, co-author and editor of about 14 books, dozens of articles and a seminal booklet, A Portrait of the Artist as a Scholar.

Prof. Okpewho died peacefully at a hospital in Binghamton, a town in Upstate New York where he had lived and taught since 1991.

His teaching career spanned University of New York at Buffalo (1974-76), University of Ibadan (1976-90), Harvard University (1990-91), and State University of New York at Binghamton.

According to Canada-based professor in Carleton University, Nduka Otiono, quoting family sources, the distinguished Professor at State University of New York, Binghamton, passed away on September 4, 2016, surrounded by family members.”

Although he battled illness recently, the scholar and humanist demonstrated exceptional capacity in dealing with his challenging health conditions.

Indeed, only two years ago, his last book to which he had long committed his intellectual resources, Blood on the Tides: The Ozidi Saga and Oral Epic Narratology, were published by University of Rochester Press.

Born on November 9, 1941 in Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria, Okpewho grew up in Asaba, his maternal hometown, where he attended St. Patrick’s College, Asaba.

He proceeded to the University College, Ibadan, for his university education. He graduated with a First Class Honours in Classics, and moved on to launch a glorious career, first in publishing at Longman Publishers, and then as an academic after obtaining his Ph.D from the University of Denver, USA. He crowned his certification with a D.Litt from University of London.

Prof. Okpewho also served as President of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA).

For his creative writing work, Okpewho won the 1976 African Arts Prize for Literature and 1993 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Africa. His four novels,  The Victims,  The Last Duty, Tides,and  Call me by my Rightful Name  are widely studied in Africa and other parts of the world, with some of them translated into major world languages.

Reacting to the demise of the literary titan, G.G. Darah, Professor of English at Delta State University, Abraka, and President of Nigeria Oral Literature Association (NOLA) quipped: “Ah, that is a library destroyed by the fire of death.”

Prof. Okpewho is survived by his wife, Mrs. Obiageli Okpewho; his children: Ediru, Ugo, Afigo, and Onome, as well as members of his extended family.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family in the coming days.


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