Literary Giant Edward Kamau Brathwaite Dies

Edward Kamau Brathwaite, was remembered as “easily one of the titans of post-colonial literature and the Arts”.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday February 5, 2020 – The late acclaimed Barbadian poet and historian, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, was remembered by the leader of the land of his birth as “easily one of the titans of post-colonial literature and the Arts”, following the news of his death yesterday.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s tribute came after Brathwaite passed away three months shy of his 90th birthday, which would have been May 11.

Among his most well-known works were his poetic trilogy The Arrivants – Rights of Passage, Masks and Islands; Rights of Passage, Masks, Islands, and Barabajan Poems.

And in her tribute to the cultural icon who for decades displayed exceptional literary craftsmanship, Prime Minister Mottley said “his chronicling of our past through his magnificent works, shone a powerful light on the realities of our present and in turn, guided our sense of self and national identity”.

“But his reach and influence were not limited to his beloved Barbados and the Caribbean. His tenure as an educator at institutions from Ghana to America allowed students of every ethnicity and background to experience his wizardry with words.

“Ultimately, however, Kamau’s legacy and timeless gift to us all is his powerfully poignant body of work. From Odale’s Choice and The Arrivants to Mother Poem and Born to Slow Horses, he leaves us priceless literary treasures that will delight and shape our minds for generations to come,” she added.

Brathwaite was formerly a professor of comparative literature at New York University and in 2006, won the Griffin Poetry Prize, for his book Born to Slow Horses. He held an honorary PhD from the University of Sussex and was the co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM).

He was an education officer in Ghana from 1955 to 1962 before he returned to the Caribbean to teach in St Lucia and later at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. He also lectured at New York University. 

Brathwaite was the recipient of both Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships in 1983 and won other awards, including: the 1994 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Bussa Award, the Casa de las Americas Prize for poetry and the 1999 Charity Randall Citation for Performance and Written Poetry from the International Poetry Forum.

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