Professor WOLE SOYINKA Full Biography,Life And News

Full Name:     Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka

Date Of Birth: Born 13 July 1934

Occupation: Author, poet, playwright

Genres Drama, Novel, poetry

Marital Status:MARRIED


A descendant of a Remo family of Isara-Remo, Soyinka was born the second of six children, in the city of Abẹokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria, at that time a British dominion. His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka (whom he called S.A. or “Essay”), was an Anglican minister and the headmaster of St. Peters School in Abẹokuta. Soyinka’s mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka (whom he dubbed the “Wild Christian”), owned a shop in the nearby market. She was a political activist within the women’s movement in the local community. She was also Anglican. As much of the community followed indigenous Yorùbá religious tradition, Soyinka grew up in an atmosphere of religious syncretism, with influences from both cultures. While he was raised in a religious family; attending church services and singing in the choir from an early age; Soyinka himself became an atheist. His father’s position enabled him to get electricity and radio at home.

After graduating, he remained in Leeds with the intention of earning an M.A. Soyinka intended to write new work combining European theatrical traditions with those of his Yorùbá cultural heritage. His first major play, The Swamp Dwellers (1958), was followed a year later by The Lion and the Jewel, a comedy that attracted interest from several members of London’s Royal Court Theatre. Encouraged, Soyinka moved to London, where he worked as a play reader for the Royal Court Theatre. During the same period, both of his plays were performed in Ibadan. They dealt with the uneasy relationship between progress and tradition in Nigeria.


In 1957 his play The Invention was the first of his works to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre. At that time his only published works were poems such as “The Immigrant” and “My Next Door Neighbour”, which were published in the Nigerian magazine Black Orpheus.

This was founded in 1957 by the German scholar Ulli Beier, who had been teaching at the University of Ibadan since 1950.

After becoming chief of the Cathedral of Drama at the University of Ibadan, Soyinka became more politically active. Following the military coup of January 1966, he secretly and unofficially met with the military governor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in the Southeastern town of Enugu (August 1967), to try to avert civil war. As a result, he had to go into hiding.

He was imprisoned for 22 months as civil war ensued between the federal government and the Biafrans. Though refused materials such as books, pens, and paper, he still wrote a significant body of poems and notes criticising the Nigerian government. Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, becoming the first African laureate. He was described as one “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”. Reed Way Dasenbrock writes that the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Soyinka is “likely to prove quite controversial and thoroughly deserved.” He also notes that “it is the first Nobel Prize awarded to an African writer or to any writer from the ‘new literatures’ in English that have emerged in the former colonies of the British Empire.” His Nobel acceptance speech, “This Past Must Address Its Present”, was devoted to South African freedom-fighter Nelson Mandela. Soyinka’s speech was an outspoken criticism of apartheid and the politics of racial segregation imposed on the majority by the Nationalist South African government. In 1986, he received the Agip Prize for Literature.

In 1988, his collection of poems Mandela’s Earth, and Other Poems was published, while in Nigeria another collection of essays entitled Art, Dialogue and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture appeared. In the same year, Soyinka accepted the position of Professor of African Studies and Theatre at Cornell University. In 1990, the second portion of his memoir Isara: A Voyage Around Essay appeared. In July 1991 the BBC African Service transmitted his radio play A Scourge of Hyacinths, and the next year (1992) in Sienna (Italy), his play From Zia with Love had its premiere. Both works are very bitter political parodies, based on events that took place in Nigeria in the 1980s. In 1993 Soyinka was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. The next year another part of his autobiography appeared: Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years (A Memoir: 1946–1965). The following year his play The Beatification of Area Boy was published. In October 1994, he was appointed UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Promotion of African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media and communication.



The Invention (1957)
The Swamp Dwellers (1958)
The Lion and the Jewel (1959)
The Trials of Brother Jero
A Dance of the Forests (1960)
My Father’s Burden (1960)
The Strong Breed (1964)
Before the Blackout (1964)
Kongi’s Harvest (1964)
The Road (1965)
Madmen and Specialists (1970)
The Bacchae of Euripides (1973)
Camwood on the Leaves (1973)
Jero’s Metamorphosis (1973)
Death and the King’s Horseman (1975)
Opera Wonyosi (1977)
Requiem for a Futurologist (1983)
Sixty Six (short piece) (1984)[33]
A Play of Giants (1984)
From Zia with Love (1992)
The Detainee (radio play)
A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play)
The Beatification of Area Boy (1996)
King Baabu (2001)
Etiki Revu Wetin


The Interpreters (novel) (1964)
Season of Anomy (1972)

Short stories

A Tale of Two (1958)
Egbe’s Sworn enemy (1960)
Madame Etienne’s Establishment (1960)


The Man Died: Prison Notes (1971)
Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981)
Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: a memoir 1946-65 (1989)
Isara: A Voyage around Essay (1990)
You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006)

Poetry collections

Idanre and other poems (1967)
A Big Airplane Crashed Into The Earth (original title Poems from Prison) (1969)
A Shuttle in the Crypt (1971)
Ogun Abibiman (1976)
Myth, Literature and the African World (1976)
Mandela’s Earth and other poems (1988)
Early Poems (1997)
Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002)


Towards a True Theater (1962)
Culture in Transition (1963)
Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition
Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture (1988)
From Drama and the African World View (1976)
The Credo of Being and Nothingness (1991)
The Burden of Memory – The Muse of Forgiveness (1999)
A Climate of Fear (originally held as the BBC Reid Lectures 2004, audio and transcripts)


Kongi’s Harvest
Culture in Transition
Blues for a Prodigal


Forest of a Thousand Daemons. [a translation of D O Fagunwa’s OGBOJU ODE NINU IGBO IRUNMALE]
In the Forest of Olodumare. [a translation of D O Fagunwa’s IGBO OLODUMARE]


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