By Uduma Kalu http
GRADUALLY, and unexpectedly, a white body of a woman washed ashore. The crowd at the Labadi beach, Ghana, took a close look at it. It was the body of the poet, lecturer and former literary judge of the Association Nigerian Authors, (ANA), Lynn Chukura. She was teaching English at the University of Legon, Ghana.
Just recently, a member of a listserve had inquired about her. Lynn had also sent a poem, "Identity" for an anthology being edited by a Nigerian lady living in the United States of America. She was thinking of publishing her novel, "The Man", in the United States of America. Her earlier collection of poems, Archetyping, got an ANA honourable mention.
If there was any doubt among the onlookers at the beach that it was Lynn, the press statement that followed entitled" Obituary Notice: Re: Ms. Mary Lynn Olisa Chukura", wiped all that thinking away.
The statement, released by Kofi Anyidoho, Professor and Head of the English Department, University of Legon, Ghana remarked that "It is with deep regret that I write to announce the death of our colleague Ms. Mary Lynn Olisa Chukura, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English. Ms. Chukura drowned in the ocean at Labadi on Tuesday 21st November 2006.
"Ms. Chukura joined the English Department of University of Ghana as a Senior Lecturer on 17th February, 2003, from Nigeria, where she had had a long and active career at the University of Lagos. She has been a very dedicated and effective member of the faculty, with responsibility for a number of our core courses. Her death comes as a great loss to the department and the university.
"An American citizen from Lancaster in Pennsylvania, Ms. Chukura was born on 14th June, 1950, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with Kilheffer as her family name. She is survived by Mr. Udemezuo Onuora Nwuneli of Lagos, aged 32, and his two sisters Nkem and Nancy Nwuneli, currently living in the USA."
Arrangements for the funeral, he continued, showed that Lynn's body was laid in state last Saturday, December 9, from 7:00 - 9:45 am, at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon. Burial Mass was at the same day at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon, while the Final Funeral Rites held same day also, at The University Guest Centre, Legon. The Thanksgiving Mass was yesterday, Sunday, December 10, at 9:00 am. St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon.
Another press statement also appeared last week. Entitled, "Tears Drop..." the message came from Lookman Sanusi and Nike Adesuyi, For The Lynn Chukura Committee.
The duo while announcing "Ms. Lynn Chukura (Nee Kilheffer) writer, literary critic and university teacher, mother, grandmother, sister and aunty, who passed away on Tuesday 21st November 2006 in Legon Ghana," went on to say that Lynn served for several years on the selection panel for Association of Nigerian Authors Literature Prizes where she contributed in no small measure in advancing the cause and course of Modern Nigerian writing.
"A Thanksgiving Mass will hold in her honour in Lagos Nigeria, on Tuesday, 12th December at St Dominic Catholic Church, Yaba Lagos. All friends, well wishers, former students, colleagues , most especially the Lagos/Ibadan literary community are enjoined to attend and pay their final respect to this great woman who gave so much of herself and her endowments towards the development of literature in Nigeria."
Lynn was a good swimmer and would often boast about it. She preferred to swim in the open sea because she felt natural waters have spiritual effect.
Since these announcements, writers, the world over, as expected, have been paying tributes to her. Some of the tributes remember the assistance she rendered to the writers and their associations. One in particular mentioned her political activism. Lynn resigned her appointment at the University of Lagos because her branch of Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), betrayed the struggle of the union in 1996.
Also Dr. Wumi Raji was sacked along with his colleagues by the University of Ilorin in 2001, Lynn tried her best to get Raji placed at the University of Lagos.
The bulk of the tributes to Lynn emphasise her literary contributions and achievements. She reviewed Maik Nwosu's Alpha Song at the French Cultural Centre, at the presentation some years back. ANA former scribe, Nduka Otiono, remembered "that Lynn just wasn't one of the most reliable judges ANA ever had, she lived a life of sacrifice for others, and was always ready to help. As Gen Sec of ANA, I sought and received her co-operation to prepare that comprehensive Guidelines for ANA Prizes on ANA website, which was adapted for the NLNG Prize and other prizes. And when she relocated to Ghana while her tenure as Judge was still valid, she accepted to complete her term if I could ship entries for the year's ANA Prizes to her in Accra.
"Clearly, she deserves an honour from ANA and WRITA for her selfless contributions to new Nigerian writing--as Judge, teacher, mentor, thoroughbred Editor, exemplary membership, etc, " he wrote.
Lynn was a regular presence at most literary activities. She was an executive member at the Women Writers of Nigeria (WRITA) and Lagos branch of ANA. Some of the national conventions she attended are also remembered by some of the writers. The writers expressed her commitment to literature, literary meetings in Benin City, Jos, Asaba, Kaduna, since 1994, and her editorial helps and as MUSON judge. Lynn shared some of her writings too, one of them said. One of the works was "The Man".
Those that were teachers also said they read and taught Lynn's story at the University of Jos, adding that Lynn would be remembered for her feminist vision in Nigerian literature.
- Culled from The Guardian, Lagos - Monday 11 December, 2006.