Funso Aiyejina

Writer and scholar Funso Aiyejina has passed away

Nigerian-born Trinidad and Tobago-based poet, short story writer, playwright, and academic Funso Aiyejina passed away on Monday, July 1, 2024.

Funso Aiyejina was born in Edo State, Nigeria in 1949 and attended the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria. He also attended Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in Canada, and the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, Trinidad. He was the author of poetry, short stories, plays, and essays and edited several collections of nonfiction. While born in Nigeria, he moved to and naturalised to Trinidad and Tobago where he was once dean of Humanities and Education and Professor Emeritus at the University of West Indies.

His play was The Character Who Walked Out On His Author (2020), and his poetry collections included A Letter to Lynda and Other Poems (1988) (Association of Nigerian Authors Prize, 1989), The Supreme and Other Poems, (2004), and The Errors of the Rendering (2020). Some of the collections he edited were Earl Lovelace: Growing in the Dark (Selected Essays) (2003), Self-Portrait: Interviews with Ten West Indian Writers and Two Critics (2003), A Place in the World: Essays and Tributes in Honour of Earl Lovelace (2008), Thicker Than Water (New Writing from the Caribbean) (2018). He also wrote the biography Earl Lovelace (Caribbean Biography Series) (2017). His short fiction collection The Legend of the Rockhills and Other Stories won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Africa). In 2022, he and Merle Hodge won the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters.

He was a founding board member and deputy festival director of the Bocas Lit Fest and the festival shared the following statement on his demise;

The sudden and unexpected death of Funso Aiyejina — writer, scholar, Emeritus Professor at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and founding board member and former Deputy Festival Director of the Bocas Lit Fest — is devastating news for the Bocas team and for many in Trinidad and Tobago’s and the Caribbean’s literary community.

Funso was a loyal friend and steadfast partner, tireless in his contributions to our work and his many other interventions to promote literature in our region. Himself a prizewinning writer, Funso was also a beloved teacher, a scholarly authority on the work of Earl Lovelace, former Dean of Humanities and Education and founder of the MFA in creative writing at UWI, St. Augustine, and for over two decades the co-facilitator of the Cropper Foundation’s residential workshops that trained so many leading contemporary Caribbean writers. In 2022, after his formal retirement from the Bocas Lit Fest, it was a pleasure and an honour for us to recognise him, alongside his friend and literary colleague Merle Hodge, with the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters.

Strong in his opinions, meticulous in his reasoning, always warm and ready to crack a joke, Funso was a bridge between the literary and scholarly worlds of Nigeria, where he was born and grew up, and T&T, where he spent most of his life and career. It was always a pleasure to be in his company, and we will miss him terribly. The Bocas team send their condolences to his wife and sons, his many friends, and all who were lucky to consider him a colleague and mentor.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Funso Aiyejina; may he rest in peace.

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