Wole Soyinka - Biography

Wole Soyinka was born near Abeokuta in Nigeria. He grew up in an Anglican mission compound in Ake. He attended the parsonage's primary school where his father was the headmaster, and then attended the grammar school in Abeokuta where his uncle was principal. When he was twelve, he left Ake for Ibadan to attend the Government College there. He entered Ibadan's new university when he was eighteen. Two years later he went to England to complete his degree in drama at Leeds. Following his graduation, he worked as a script-reader, actor, and director at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

Upon his return to Ibadan he founded two theatre companies, one of which was called the 1960 Masks. It is now called the Orisun Theatre. His first important play, A DANCE OF FORESTS, was written for the Nigerian independence celebrations. Soyinka's works were met with criticism from all sides. They brought out hostility from Nigerian authorities as well as by proponents of pure "Negritude." His plays are written in English, but they incorporate the music, dance, and the words of the traditional Yoruban festivals.

Soyinka's work openly criticizes the Nigerian government. He advocates an autonomous African culture which assimilates only those elements of the modern world which are progressive. He was imprisoned for two years on the charges that he aided the attempted secession of Biafra from Nigeria. While in prison he spent much of his time in solitary confinement. Upon his release he published a book of poetry, A SHUTTLE IN THE CRYPT, and one of his many autobiographies, THE MAN DIED: PRISON NOTES OF WOLE SOYINKA. He was later exiled from his home land for speaking out against the dictator, General Sani Abacha. The charges of treason were dropped when Abdulsalam Abubakar came into power.

oyinka has produced a large body of work which includes plays, poetry, novels, autobiographies, literary criticism, and social criticism. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first black African to be given the honor.


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