Emeritus Professor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Hutchins Fellow, Dubois Institute, Harvard University
The Henry Louis Gates Jr. Lecture
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 · 5pm
Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven
Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist. He was born in 1934 at Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. During a career as a writer spanning more than half a century Soyinka has received distinguished recognition, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. Soyinka was educated in Ibadan and at the University of Leeds, where he earned his doctorate. At the same time, he taught drama and literature at various universities in Badan, 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 Orlsun Theatre Company, in which he has produced his own plays and taken part as actor. He has periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffleld and Yale.
During the civil war in Nigeria, Soyinka appealed in an article for cease-fire. For this he was arrested in 1967, accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels, and was held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969.
Soyinka is the author of numerous works of drama, novels and poetry, including the Swamp Dweller and The Lion and the Jewel (performed at Ibadan in 1958 and 1959, and published in 1963); The Trial of Brother Jero and its sequel, Jero’s Metamorphosis (performed in 1974 and published in 1973); A Dance of the Forests (Performed in 1976 and published in 1978); Death and the King’s Horseman. In The Bacchae of Euripides (1973), he has rewritten the Bacchae for the African stage and in Opera Wonyosi bases himself on John Gay’s Beggaar’s Opera and Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. His other works include A Play of Giants (1984) and Requiem for a Futurologist (1988).
Soyinka’s collections of poems include Idanre and Other Poems (1987); Poems from Prism (1969); A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972), and the long poem, Ogun Abibiman (1976) and Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1988).