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The Afro-Saxon girl: A tribute to Dr Joanna Skelt

27 February 2018 at 12:12 | 5427 views

Dr Joanna (Jo) Skelt: 1968-2018
( Friend of Sierra Leone)

The English-born poet, scholar and community activist Joanna Skelt, died on January 31st, in Birmingham, U.K., and was buried there on February 23rd. Joanna was deeply enamoured of Sierra Leone and wrote her dissertation on The Social Function of Literature in Post-War Sierra Leone, for The University of Birmingham, U.K. She even gave her only child a Sierra Leonean name: Konya. Tributes have been paid to her by her friends and associates in various parts of the world. In this homage, the poet and novelist Syl Cheney-Coker recalls a deeply treasured friend.

The Afro-Saxon girl
for Joanna Skelt

I had written about her ,long ago, when I first encounterted her.
Even though she had grown up with only a touch of sunlight-
which did not prepare her for life’s daring ventures -
she came like golden radiance to a place
where the sun was enchanting, and the ocean roared like thunder.

Bold incandescence, she did not hesitate to test new landscapes,
whether of East or South, but darted often, and put
new wines to her lips; then danced marvellously
to rhythmic sounds, before nestling under famed baobab ,
while others, seemingly more adventurous than she,
were timid, and only buried their toes in safe tourist sands.

Replanted from an English soil, she was our crowned local.
But we loved her enough to share her with that cold breath
of northern season, even after we had changed her from primrose to brilliant jacaranda!
Golden hybrid of light; it was hard to tell whether she was more of
the north than of the south. But it did not matter! She was Jo-Anna:
a modern Joan of Arc who loved all humanity!

Now the numinous gods, generous with love but seldom explicit
in other deeds, have called her to a dance greater than the wide Atlantic’s rhythms.
Under a benevolent moon, may they guide her as she enters,
with firm steps, into that labyrinth where they keep the good alive always!

- Syl Cheney-Coker

Photo credit: Library of Birmingham