Wilton Sankawulo, www.liberianlistener.comTributes 

Tribute: Writer, Wilton Sankawulo, 1937—2009


Wilton Sankawulo began earning his fame as a prolific Liberian writer in the 1970s. He was born on 26 July, 1937 in Haindi, Bong County, Republic of Liberia, unto to the blessed union of Dougba and Naisua Sankawulo. He began his educational pursuit at Kpalopele, Lutheran Mission, near Haindi, in Bong County, where he received his initial and elementary training. He first enrolled at the Totota Lutheran School, and later continued at Sanoyea Lutheran School, where he completed his Junior High Education. He moved to Lofa County and attended the Lutheran Training Institute (LTI) in Salayea, Lofa County, from which he successfully graduated and obtained a High School Diploma in 1959.

In 1960, Wilton S. Sankawulo, matriculated to the Cuttington College and Divinity School, now Cuttington University College, from which he graduated with honors in 1963. As a young university student, his professors,  John and Judy Gay, among others, noted his collated brilliance and his ever churning craving for writing, as a result of which, Young Wilton S. Sankawulo wrote many short stories first published in the Cuttington Review, the College Literary Magazine, under the auspices of Mrs. Judy Gay, Faculty Review Board Advisor, and, Cuttington lead English Teacher, her Husband, Mr. John Gay.

Sankawulo was awarded a fellowship to study Sacred Theology at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, United States of America. There he acquired a Master of Divinity Degree. While in the United States, he thereafter attended the University of Iowa, and participated in its famous writers’ workshop, successfully earning MFA Degree in English.

Upon his returned to Liberia in the 1960s,  Sankawulo began his illuminating Public Career at the Department of Information and Culture Affairs, now Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, where he served first in the Press Bureau with enthusiasm and proficiency, a performance which earned him the Position of a Director of Overseas and Press Bureau.

Wilton Sankawulo’s last Position at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism was Director Specialist for Research, in which he served for almost a year and then was transferred out of the Ministry to the Executive Mansion, due to his expertise, dedication and achievements, as a Writer and a Researcher to the Position of Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs.

Sankawulo maintained his teaching Position at the University of Liberia, and later at Cuttington University College, which was his Alma mater, with professionalism, as an Associate Professor of English and Literature up to and after the civil unrest in Liberia. An author and a man of enlightenment, the prolific story teller also served as a writer for the Education Secretariat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia.

Mr. Sankawulo having established himself as as a thinker, a writer, an educator, public servant and a man of creativity, did leave and indelible mark on the literary landscape of the country. By 1995, Professor Wilton S. Sankawulo was chosen, and named as Chairman of the Council of State of the Liberia National Transitional Government. He served in this position for a year. It is the outlook of history, according to some pundits, that his choice at the time was more as the Mediator, being a neutralist, and not a leader of any Warring Faction. However, his neutrality, which brook no intransigence, was erroneously interpreted as reticence to progress by some stakeholders.

Wilton Sankawulo, www.liberianlistener.com
Wilton Sankawulo, Liberian Listener

He made several visits abroad in the performance of his duties to enable the voice of Liberia to be heard for Peace.  Sankawulo, always devoted his life to research and writing, dealing with Liberia’s traditional culture. According to him, he made this sacrifice because he felt that very little attention had been given to the preservation of his country’s traditional culture, which was dying gradually in his opinion. In his career as a writer, he said, he had been inspired by Liberia’s foremost folklorists, Bai T. Moore, and Dr. S. Jangaba M. Johnson, a once walking Encyclopedia of Liberian culture. Though a novelist, poet and a short story Writer, Sankawulo, himself, was best known as a folklorist.

Wilton S. Sankawulo most notable novels and short stories are: “The Rain and the Night”, his first novel, “Marriage of Wisdom”, and, “Why No One Knows When He Will Die”. He also wrote, “The Birds Are Singing”, and, “Wind Blows In Fuama”. Most of Sankawulo’s stories appeared in publications, such as the Pan-African Journal, Negro Digest, African Arts, and, World Encounter. Sankawulo also produced an Anthology of African Stories, entitled: “More Modern African Stories,” published by Fontana Books.

By these writings and publications, books, short stories, and cultural exposes, Wilton S. Sankawulo, ably is regarded as a national role model in Liberian literary arts and a man of stature.  Sankawulo was married to Amelia Yata Korpelleh, and produced four (4) Children from the union.


Photo: Wilton Sankawulo

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