WOLE SOYINKA’s BIOGRAPHY
Born July 13, 1934, Wole Soyinka was educated in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Leeds, England, where he obtained an Honours degree in Literature. Essentially a playwright, Soyinka is also an established 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”. His satiric pen, directed at corruption, repression and other inequities of leadership on his continent and internationally, has also produced powerful works of political dimensions, an activity that has not endeared him to many in the seat of power.
JUSTICE IS THE FIRST CONDITION OF HUMANITYWole Soyinka
A Human Rights activist who declares that human liberty is his abiding religion, and asserts that Justice is the First Condition of Humanity, Wole Soyinka has endured incarceration at the hands of repressive regimes, has been placed on trial on trumped-up charges of treason, and undergone spells of prison detention without trial and political exile. He was once tried in absentia and declared Wanted, Dead or Alive. His prison experience during Nigeria’s Civil War is recounted in THE MAN DIED. In numerous plays, poetry, essays, and the occasional novels, he continues to expose the plight of millions under repressive rule, neglect and marginalisation. His work with a number of United Nations agencies, including UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Commission, has placed him at the forefront of those who speak to the world on behalf of the voiceless.
Wole Soyinka’s childhood autobiography, AKE: The Years of Childhood, deemed a classic of childhood biography and a companion piece, ISARA: A Voyage Around Essay, narrate much of his early life. IBADAN covers his period of adolescence and political beginnings. Among his plays, DEATH AND THE KING’S H ORSEMAN has been described as ‘a classic of tragic drama in any age’. Other plays include THE STRONG BREED, THE LION AND THE JEWEL, A DANCE OF THE FORESTS, THE ROAD, A PLAY OF GIANTS 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, Jean Genet’s THE BLACKS and KING BAABU, from Alfred Jarry’s UBU ROI.
His poetry has been published under the titles of IDANRE AND OTHER POEMS, POEMS FROM PRISON, A SHUTTLE IN THE CRYPT, MANDELA’S EARTH AND OTHER POEMS and SAMARKAND AND OTHER MARKETS I HAVE KNOWN. Critical works include: MYTH, LITERATURE AND THE AFRICAN WORLD and ART, DIALOGUE AND OUTRAGE; The themes of politics, memory, and social reconciliation are examined in THE OPEN SORE OF A CONTINENT ; THE BURDEN OF MEMORY, MUSE OF FORGIVENESS as well as in his BBC Reith Memorial lectures – CLIMATE OF FEAR – now published under that title and widely translated. In his latest work OF AFRICA, he explores the African continent as a repository of yet untapped humanistic values that respond to social and spiritual malformations such as religious bigotry and extremisms.
Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first writer of African descent to be so honoured. He is currently a Hutchins Fellow of the Dubois Institute, Harvard University, Professor Emeritus of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria and President’s Professor at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. He currently serves on the UNESCO High Panel for Peace.
Wole Soyinka is married, with children and grandchildren.