It is sad that so many times Harry Garuba and I met to discuss fitting obituaries for a range of wondrous scholars, writers and poets like Stuart Hall, Aime Cesaire, Keroapetse Kgositsile, I never expected that I would be sitting now thousands of kilometres away trying to gauge words fitting to embrace him and to sense how his absence is taking up so much of our feeling and thinking spaces.
Harry’s is a major loss.
Our last correspondence was in December when I was already away- he was wishing me well on my exploits but there was an undertow and an urgency in his message that I misunderstood for euphoria. My response - asking him for some information about the Carribbean and Cesaire- elicited an unusual silence. I soon found out that he was in quite a serious phase of the ailment that haunted his waking hours. But I never expected this.
We interacted on many levels: administrative, collegial, intellectual, musical and poetic. He gave me generous space whether he was a Dean or a Professor in African Studies for my work and my research. He listened carefully to all of us in Sociology and listening these days is a rare virtue. He will be missed and we will all have stories to tell.
My message here though carries with it a formal farewell:
On behalf of the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences I would like to extend the deepest condolences to the family, the colleagues, the friends and the students of Harry and mark seriously that one of our most committed interlocutors has gone. His immense knowledge of African and diasporic literatures, of black studies, of memories of slavery and redemption will be missed.
Chair of the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences