Today, we shall lay to rest a man who wrote fifteen novels, bore three sons and a daughter, and waited to see tens of grandchildren. After 95 years, we finally mark the sweet leap to yonder of my mentor, the man who build a global media company from scratch, and shook the literary stage with a simple quake of his pen.
Death is a function of nature that must activate itself at some point. We have no sadness or pain or regret in allowing the African Bull safe passage into that controversial realm – the other life. But we’re joyous to look back and see what I call the Kingdom of Sweat, the palace of pain, and the era of making the impossible emphatically possible.
By all means I am proud that my grandmother accepted this man. I pray a simple thanksgiving to the gods who kill great men during birth for allowing this man a safe passage to this world. To the guests that stand by this fresh mound of soil, I am sure you knew him. You don’t know him as a thief, or a trickster, or a pickpocket, or a womanizer, or a vagabond, but…
Let us be honest. He could have been all those. However, he chose to work his hands and his brain and to stretch his creativity. At some point in his life, he lived as a fox and ate as a bird. Life pressured him so much he almost gave up.
Last week, I was announced the overall winner in Creative Africa. This man who has cotton in his mouth and morphine in his expired system played a role. I used to see him as a man who has made it easy until two weeks ago. I drove him to one of his ranches where we retreat to catch up, flex our creativity, and spur our literary ingenuity.
He told me: To make it in this world, my good man, you must get scratched. You must flop. You must be in dire need. You grew up with butter on your bread and went to school seated in your dad’s spare car. That is bliss, my good man. I grew up differently; rain and wetness accompanied me to school. Darkness and dawn whispered to me and my shadow trailed me in my youth.
When my first manuscript was returned with a regret, I sobbed in my email to him. I was in Oxford then. He wrote back a simple line to me: Whereas there is no joy in a king getting into his palace aboard his chariot, there is joy in a camel going through the eye of the needle, my good man.
I reworked that novel and sent it to another publisher who wrote a short regret: Sorry, but your style of writing sucks. I forwarded him that email. He replied with even a shorter line: The truth shall set you free, my good man. He later called me that night. I have spoken to his peers who knew him as a very loud man who laughed without reservation. That day he laughed rancorously on phone.
Men prove mortal in death, but great men like my grandfather have immortalized themselves by way of dreams they sat on as a hen sits on her eggs until they mature and crack. They believed that a line starts with a dot. He is also the man who taught my father that love is like a spirit that guides the soul – that when love calls you wake up and blindly follow his dictates. That is why people ask whether I am Chinese, Philipino, or Japanese.
I believe I am a resultant – a son and a grandson of – of big minds that believed in the actual sizes of their capabilities.
Without boring you, I want to tell my father’s employees (both present here and those around the world hearing this through teleconference), his business associates, his friends, and is beloved family that here goes the jewel, that a story has left us, but the conversation continues.
God willing, I will be done with his autobiography, of which I am the ghostwriter. Therein lies a documentary just as fast paced as a movie yet as warm as a love story. His reflections on life will spur you and encourage you. You will know that he is not a genius that everybody called him but that he followed the general rule of nature and the whispers of the gut.
He was a man bitten by the cold of the evening and haunted by nightmares. He was a man who woke up to the singing of birds and the wetness of the morning dew. It was a soul warmed by the mid-morning sun and lulled by love.
Importantly, he refused to quit the race even though his peers were way ahead of him. He also learnt that there is wisdom in the lagging tortoise. Many people remember him as a hero but my grandmother is the heroin. Because when other women ran after the blooming plant, she watered the seed.
As Koa the III, I am happy to have known Koa the Great.
Fare thee well, my good man.