The Legendary Wole Soyinka

*Drum rolls please*… Beautiful MSB readers, today we will be looking at the life of an accomplished scholar, an intellectual giant, a shining star of Nigeria to the world, the white haired professor Akinwande Wole Soyinka.

wole 2The second of six children, he was born in 13th of July 1934 at Isara Ijebu-Remo, Ogun state to a Mr Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, an Anglican minister and his mum, Grace Eniola Soyinka who is a descendant of the popular Ransome-Kuti. This makes Wole Soyinka a cousin to Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. He had his elementary education at St Peters primary in Abeaokuta, from where he proceeded to Abeokuta grammar school for his secondary education. He gained admission into federal government college, Ibadan in 1946. In 1952, he proceeded to the university college Ibadan, where he studied western history, English and Greek. Following his initial education at Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, UK where he earned an honours degree in English literature. In 1973, he took his doctorate degree at the same university of Leeds. During his six years in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal court theatre in London, 1958-1959, he was awarded a Rockfeller busary 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 he was professor of comparative literature.

In 1960, he founded the theatre group, ‘The 1960 masks’ and in 1964, the ‘Orisun theatre company’ in which he was produced his own plays wole 3and taken part as actor. As a writer, Professor Soyinka has effectively used Yoruba culture and mythology as the philosophical basis of his writings and this transformed the patterns of the Nigerian and African theatre in English. Through his prolific literary output, he has elevated the status of African literature to become an essential part of the world cultural heritage. Using his great intellectual prowess and extensive knowledge of world affairs, Professor Soyinka has stridently defended human rights and human dignity, social justice and democracy in Nigeria, in Africa and the world at large. Though this irrepressible aspect of his life has earned him occasional detention and exile, his revolutionary fevour has not been dampened. During the civil war in Nigeria, Soyinka appealed in an article for cease-fire. He was arrested for this in 1967, accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels, and was held as a political prisoner for 22months until 1969. His prison experience are recounted in one of his master pieces, ‘The man died (1972)’

wole 4His writings, basically every product from his beautiful mind continues to be an expression of the voice of the oppressed in Africa and an exposition of the corruption of dictatorships in Nigeria and Africa as exemplifies by his book, ‘The open sore of a continent’. Professor Wole Soyinka’s long and meritorious academic career as a teacher, writer, African Nationalist, defender of human rights and social critic have endeared him to the global community of academic and professional bodies. His outstanding literary works and involvement as activist have also earned him admiration and honours from many universities, public and private institutions and governments, not only in Nigeria but all over the world. Though he won many international awards earlier, Wole Soyinka shot to global fame when he won the Nobel Prize for peace in 1986. His acceptance speech, titled ‘This past must address its present’ was dedicated to Nelson Mandela. Later in the same year, he received the Agrip prize for literature. In 2009, he bagged the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award.

He holds honorary doctorate degrees, fellowships and memberships of: The university of Ibadan, his alma mater; Yale, Harvard, Nevada, Morehouse and Emory University in the U.S; Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburg in U.K; Toronto and Alberta in Canada; Paul Valery, Montpellier and Sorbonne in France, Bayrenth in Germany, Cape Tow in South –africa, Havana in Cuba, Turin and Bologne in Italy and the European University in Hungary.

wole 6This great over-achiever won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986, the first Nigerian and writer of African descent to do so. He has received several other literary honours, medals and artistic awards in virtually all the continents of the world. In all, he has won over twenty national and international awards and honours.

These are just some highlighted facts about the Great Literary Genius Wole Soyinka whose opinion is highly respected all over the world. His autobiography is too long to write as you can imagine. Some of his books include Ake, King Baabu, the Beautification of the Area, The burden of memory; the muse of forgiveness amongst others.

This man has clearly achieved a lot but before he could achieve all these things, he had a certain mindset. The same mindset you and I can have. I’m not going to say you should compare yourself to him because you are the amazing you and he is well, the great Wole Soyinka but really, does he have two heads? (lol! That makes me sound like a typical Nigerian mother) but really does he? I don’t think so. I only know he decided to take charge of his life and not be mediocre. He is a determined and highly disciplined man who keeps trying and trying, who focuses on his goals and makes sure he accomplishes them. He didn’t rise to fame overnight. It took years of private cooking, the cooking you have to allow yourself undergo because that is what will make you. The only one stopping you is you, same way the only one stopping me is me. I hope we have the courage, fortitude, determination to be what we picture our lives as.wole soyinka

Have a good day and you can start rejoicing, tomorrow is Friday. Stay beautiful darlings :*


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