May their souls rest in peace.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 48
On a Sunday morning in October, the world woke up to the news that the leader of the so-called “Islamic State” group (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed in northern Syria. Al-Baghdadi’s group was designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, as well as by the European Union. Baghdadi was considered a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States until his death. In June 2014, he was chosen caliph of ISIL by the Shura Council, who were representing those members of the Islamic State qualified to elect a caliph.
David H. Koch, 79
Billionaire business man, industrialist and political donor, David H. Koch who with his elder brother Charles poured a fortune into right-wing causes, transforming the American political landscape and shaping U.S. policies on such issues as climate change and government regulation, died August at age 79. Koch led Koch Industries, a diversified manufacturing conglomerate now taking in around $110bn per year. Cause of death was not disclosed, but Koch had managed various illnesses for years including prostate cancer.
Karl Lagerfield, 85
Karl Lagerfeld, one of the most prolific and popular designers of the 20th and 21st centuries died in Paris in February. Till his death, Lagerfield was creative director of Chanel for a record 36 years. Upon assuming the reins in 1983, Lagerfeld revived the iconic French house, reinterpreting the founder’s iconic and classic looks. Renowned for his lavish parties and productions, as he was for his black leather gloves and white ponytail, he was also the creative director of fur and ready-to-wear at Fendi.
Toni Morrison, 88
The legend known to the world as Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Ohio back in 1931. A novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1987 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 becoming the first black woman to receive this honor. Her novels known for their epic themes, exquisite language and richly detailed settings are also famous for centering the lives of African Americans, bringing their histories to a wider audience.
Oliver Mtukudzi, 66
Considered Zimbabwe’s most renowned and internationally recognized cultural icon of all time, Oliver Mtukudzi was a guitarist, singer and songwriter, celebrated as much for the messages in his lyrics as for the distinctive musical style that became known as Tuku music. He died from complications of Diabetes. Mtukudzi was also an actor, having featured in films like Jit (1990), Neria (1993) and Zimbabwe Respect for Africa (1994).
Robert Mugabe, 95
The Zimbabwean independence icon turned authoritarian leader died in a hospital in Singapore where he had been receiving treatment at the age of 95. He was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power. The Mugabe years were marked by hardship and a plummeting of the country’s economic fortunes as sanctions were placed on the country by the international community. They were also marked by violent repression of his political opponents. Mugabe died far from home, bitter, lonely, and humiliated.
I.M Pei, 102
The Chinese-born American architect noted for his large, elegantly designed urban buildings and complexes left this world at the ripe old age of 102. Pei was known for iconic designs, such as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the JFK Library in Boston, designed in the 1970s. He also designed the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in the 1980s and the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan in the 1990s. “But how can you compare?” Pei queried back at New York Times in 1983 when asked about his favorites among his works. “It’s like a man with many children … They all have different challenges, and their personalities are different.″
Jose Antonio Reyes, 35
On 1 June 2019, Spanish footballer Jose Antonio Reyes died at the age of 35 following a car accident while traveling between Utrera and Seville with his cousins. Police estimated that the car was traveling between 111 km/h (66 mph) and 130 km/h (81 mph) and that he had suffered a steering failure which led to the car losing control. Reyes made his professional debut for Sevilla aged 16, and signed for England’s Arsenal in January 2004. He also played for, Real and Atlético Madrid clubs.
Binyavanga Wainaina, 48
One of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists, Wainaina died on a May night in Nairobi after a short illness. Winner of the 2002 Caine prize for African writing, the Kenyan author and publisher made headlines around the world in 2014, when he publicly outed himself as queer in a short essay which he called the lost chapter of his stunning 2011 memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place. In 2014, Wainaina who lived openly with his HIV positive status was listed by TIME magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Juice WRLD, 21
On December 8, six days after his birthday, rapper and singer Juice WRLD suffered a seizure and heart attack shortly after landing at Chicago’s Midway International Airport. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Born Jarad Anthony Higgins, the fast-rising artist was known for his biggest hit “Lucid Dreams,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of the biggest streaming hits of 2018. Prior to his death, he had been open about his struggles with addiction.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.