Shock as Nigerian scholar, Harry Garuba, dies in South Africa


Shock and sadness are sweeping through the Nigerian literary community as acclaimed writer, critic and scholar, Professor Harry Garuba, is dead.
Garuba passed away in his South African base on Friday, February 28.
He died of leukemia at the age of 61.
Garuba passed on about three months after Nigeria lost another major scholar in the Diaspora, Professor Tejumola Olaniyan, with the death of firebrand Professor Pius Adesanmi, a year ago, still fresh in people’s memory.

A thoroughbred thinker and arguer, Garuba was one of the Nigerian eggheads who left the country in the heat of the brain drain sparked during the military era.
Among other works, a Garuba-edited anthology, which captured the dreams and potential of young Nigerian poets some decades back, remains one of his most significant contributions to the growth of Nigerian literature.
As one of his profiles indicates, his first collection of poems, ”Shadow & Dream and Other Poems”, was published by Abiola Irele’s New Horn Press when he was barely 24 and already a lecturer in English at the University of Ibadan.

His second collection of poems, ”Animist Chants and Memorials” was published in 2017 by Steve Shaba’s Kraft Books Limited. As an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town, he held a joint appointment in African Studies and the English Department. He had taught at the University of Zululand, South Africa.

As a student at the University of Ibadan, he founded The Poetry Club which met every Thursday. It was at this Club that the creative flowers of poets like Afam Akeh, Remi Raji, Onookome Okome, Chiedu Ezeanah, Bose Shabah, Sanya Osha, Niyi Okunoye first bloomed.

As a student in Government College, Ughelli, and Edo College, Benin City, where he did his A-Levels, Garba wrote poetry and plays. His one-act play, ”Pantomime for Saint Apartheid’s Day”, was published in FESTAC Anthology of Nigerian New Writing in 1977.

In a story, ‘PM NEWS’ notes that he was the editor of ”Voices From the Fringe”, the Association of Nigerian Authors’s anthology of New Nigerian poetry.

Before he left Nigeria for South Africa, he had served as Assistant General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors. He was also the Managing Editor of ANA REVIEW, the journal of the Association of Nigerian Authors.

Professor Harry Garba was also on the Editorial Board of a defunct Lagos-based daily, The Post Express.

In his many academic essays, he showed that he was an insightful critic and a clear original thinker. He was survived by his mother, wife, children and other relations

‘Mail & Guardian’, in an earlier story also notes that, born in Akure, southwestern Nigeria, in 1958, at age 17, Garuba gained admission to the Department of English at the University of Ibadan. The budding young scholar drew on his academic and intellectual formation at Ibadan to graduate with a BA honours and later with a master’s degree:.

From there he obtained his PhD in 1988 and composed a work of scholarship, Mask and Meaning in Black Drama: Africa and the Diaspora, illustrating his groundbreaking thesis on genre and technique in African, Afro-Caribbean and African-American drama with a comparative study of the plays of Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka, St Lucian Derek Walcott and the American Amiri Baraka.

From 1981, he taught at Ibadan for more than 15 years before migrating to South Africa in 1998, first teaching English at the University of Zululand and, from 2001, teaching English and African studies at the University of Cape Town.

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