Yoruba names are lessons in magical realism. Like many African names they connote some meaning; usually they symbolize some circumstance surrounding the birth of that child. Babatunde, for instance, is a name given by the Yoruba people to a child whose birth is preceded by the death of a father or grandfather means ‘father has returned.’ Iyabo is its female equivalent. These names are indications of a belief in reincarnation. I find the semblance between Amiri Baraka and Ben Okri, maybe not so uncanny, but remarkable in some way. Amiri Baraka is 79 and still kicking while Ben Okri is 54. The fact that both are alive signifies that the younger can’t possibly the older’s incarnate.
Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones October 7, 1934), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka,is an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He is the author of numerous books of poetry and has taught at a number of universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN Open Book Award formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone…read more
Ben Okri OBE FRSL (born 15 March 1959) is a Nigerian poet and novelist. Okri is considered one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonialist traditions and has been compared favorably with authors such as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez…read more
What look writer look alikes intrigue you? I’d love to know.
- Ben Okri: ‘Are you ready for African food?’ (theguardian.com)
- Baraka’s ‘Dutchman’ to Be Staged in a Bathhouse (nytimes.com)
- Poetry Reflections: Amiri Baraka’s ‘Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note’ (nuratiqahmohdisa.wordpress.com)