Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka popularly known as Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, novelist, and and poet.
Awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first African to be honored in that category.
Wole Soyinka Biography
Wole Soyinka was born on 13 July 1934 at Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. After preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, where, later, in 1973, he also took his doctorate.
During the six years spent in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London 1958-1959.
In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller bursary and returned to Nigeria to study African drama. At the same time, he taught drama and literature at various universities in Ibadan, Lagos, and Ife, where, since 1975, he has been professor of comparative literature.
In 1960, he founded the theatre group, “The 1960 Masks” and in 1964, the “Orisun Theatre Company”, in which he has produced his own plays and taken part as actor. He has also periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale.
In 1965, he also seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections.
In 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War, The federal government of General Yakubu Gowon arrested him and put in solitary confinement for two years, for volunteering to be a non-government mediating actor.
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During the civil war in Nigeria, Soyinka appealed in an article for cease-fire. For this, arrested in 1967, accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels, and held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969. Soyinka has published about 20 works: drama, novels and poetry. He writes in English.
Soyinka’s poems, which show a close connection to his plays, are collected in Idanre, and Other Poems (1967), Poems from Prison (1969), A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972) the long poem Ogun Abibiman (1976) and Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1988).
Soyinka has written two novels:
The Interpreters (1965), narratively, a complicated work compared to Joyce’s and Faulkner’s, in which six Nigerian intellectuals discuss and interpret their African experiences, and Season of Anomy (1973) which is based on the writer’s thoughts during his imprisonment and confronts the Orpheus and Euridice myth with the mythology of the Yoruba.
Purely autobiographical are The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972) and the account of his childhood, Aké ( 1981), in which the parents’ warmth and interest in their son are prominent. Literary essays are collected in, among others, Myth, Literature and the African World (1975).
He bases his writing on the mythology of his own tribe-the Yoruba-with Ogun. The god of iron and war, at the centre. He wrote his first plays during his time in London, The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel (a light comedy), which were at Ibadan in 1958 and 1959 and published in 1963.
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Later, satirical comedies are The Trial of Brother Jero ( in 1960, publ. 1963) with its sequel, Jero’s Metamorphosis (performed 1974, publ. 1973), A Dance of the Forests (performed 1960, publ.1963), Kongi’s Harvest (performed 1965, publ. 1967) and Madmen and Specialists (performed 1970, publ. 1971). Among Soyinka’s serious philosophic plays are (apart from “The Swamp Dwellers“) The Strong Breed (in 1966, publ. 1963), The Road ( 1965) and Death and the King’s Horseman (performed 1976, publ. 1975).
In The Bacchae of Euripides (1973). He has also rewritten the Bacchae for the African stage and in Opera Wonyosi (performed 1977, publ. 1981), bases himself on John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera and Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. Soyinka’s latest dramatic works are A Play of Giants (1984) and Requiem for a Futurologist (1985).