Voices Against Indifference Initiative

The Wole Soyinka Project: Truth, Memory & Reconciliation

September 2002 - February 2003


 

Biography

Picture courtesy of Peter Badge/Typos1 in coop. with Lindau Nobelprizewinner Meetings at Lake Constance

 

Educated in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Leeds, England, where he obtained an Honours degree in Literature, Wole Soyinka has held fellowship and professional positions in Theatre and Comparative Literature at the Universities of Ibadan, Lagos, and Ife (Nigeria), Legon (Ghana), Sheffield and Cambridge (England), Yale, Cornell, Harvard and Emory (USA).  He frequently lectures as Visiting Professor/Distinguished Scholar in other American, European and African universities.

While he is foremost a playwright, Wole Soyinka is also active as an essayist, poet, novelist and theatre director.  He writes mainly in English, but his works are distinguished by their exploration of “the African world view, and are steeped in Yoruba mythology, imagery and dramatic idioms.”

From 1967 to 1969, he was imprisoned during the Nigerian Civil War, most of it in solitary confinement; from this experience emerged The Man Died.  A very different prose work, Ake, his childhood biography, has been acclaimed a classic, as was his tragic drama, Death and the King’s Horseman.  Other plays include: The Strong Breed, The Lion and the Jewel, A Dance of the Forests, The Road, A Play of Giants, From Zia with Love and Beatification of Area Boy.  His adaptation of Euripedes’ classic, The Bacchae, was performed by the English National Theatre as The Bacchae of Euripedes.  Other adaptations include Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, re-titled Opera Wonyosi, and King Baabu, from Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi.  

Wole Soyinka’s poems are collected under the titles: Idanre and Other Poems, A Shuttle in the Crypt, Ogun Abibiman, and Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems.  Essay collections as titled: Myth, Literature and the African World; Art, Dialogue and Outrage; Continuity and Amnesia; The Open Sore of a Continent; The Burden of Memory and Muse of Forgiveness. 

Wole Soyinka has been honoured with doctorates by the universities of Leeds, Manchester, England; Yale, Harvard, Emory, Morehouse College, USA; Toronto, Canada; Paul Valery, Montpelier-France; Bayreuth, Germany; Cape Town, South Africa; and Havana, Cuba; He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom, Academic Universelle des Cultures, France, the Association of Nigerian Authors.  He is past President of the International Parliament of Writers.

Civic Honours include: The Akogun of Isara, the Akinlatun of Egba (Nigeria); Honorary citizen of Montpelier, Houston, New Orleans, etc; Commander of the Legion of Honour, France; Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic; and the Felix Varela Award of Cuba.

Among his artistic recognitions, Wole Soyinka has received the Enrico Mattei Award for the Humanities, the Leopold Sedar Senghor Award for the Arts, the John Whiting Literary Prize, the Benson Medal of the Royal Society for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour, The Premio Litterario Internazionalle Mondello, Italy, the UNESCO Medal for the Arts, and the Nobel Prize for Literature, ’86.  

He is currently Alphonse Fletcher Fellow of the Dubois Institute, Harvard University, and Professor Emeritus, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Wole Soyinka’s Memoirs, YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN, will be published by Random House, April 2006.