Anambra mourns Professor JP Clark

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THE government of Anambra State has noted with sadness the passing of Emeritus Professor John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo, popularly known as JP Clark, who passed away in the early hours of Tuesday, October 13, at age 85.

A legendary poet, dramatist and folklorist, JP Clark was in his lifetime an endearing friend to Anambra State’s illustrious literary legends Professor Chinua Achebe and iconic poet Christopher Okigbo.

According to a statement in Awka by the Anambra State Commissioner for Information, C. Don Adinuba, Governor Willie Obiano has extended his condolences to the great Clark family of Kiagbodo in Delta State led by elder statesman Chief Edwin Clark.

Incidentally, a younger sibling of JP Clark, General Henry Clark, was married to Anambra’s celebrated scholar and public servant, Professor Marian Ikejiani-Clark, whose father, Dr Okechukwu Ikejiani, was one of Africa’s foremost medical scientists and chairman of the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) in its heyday and played a key role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence.

Born in Kiagbodo of present-day Delta State to an Ijaw father and an Urhobo mother, JP Clark was educated at the famous Government College, Ughelli before studying at the University College, Ibadan.

A precocious poet, Clark was among the prime-movers of the literary club, Mbari in Ibadan, alongside Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.

It was under the imprint of Mbari that he published his first collection of poems entitled Poems in 1961. Clark then forged ahead to publish other collections such as A Reed in the Tide, Casualties, A Decade of Tongues, State of the Union, Mandela and other Poems etc.

Clark’s much-anthologized poems like “Night Rain”, “Abiku”, “Streamside Exchange”, “Ibadan”, “Casualties” etc. have been studied extensively for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations.

JP Clark made history as Africa’s first Professor of English, a coveted feat he achieved at the University of Lagos, Akoka.

Christopher Okigbo had given the manuscript of his poems “Path of Thunder” before he was killed at the beginning of the Nigeria-Biafra war, and Clark duly published the poems posthumously in the magazine Black Orpheus. 

The Anambra State government is in the end comforted that JP Clark left a celebratory legacy even in his demise as a world-famous poet, playwright, folklorist, and a dear friend of Anambra State – “Light of the Nation”.

– Oct. 14, 2020 @ 13:45 GMT |

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