Akinwande oluwole Babatunde Soyinka was born 13 July 1934, is a Nigerian playwright and poet.
He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature. The first African to be honored in that category.
Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta. After studying in Nigeria and the UK, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London.
He went on to write plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres and on radio.
He took an active role in Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain.
In 1965, he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections. In 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War, he was arrested by the federal government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for two years.
A descendant of a Remo family of Isara-Remo, Soyinka was born the second of six children, in the city of Abẹokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria, at that time a British dominion. His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka whom he called S.A. or “Essay”, was an Anglican minister and the headmaster of St. Peters School in Abẹokuta. Soyinka’s mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka whom he dubbed the “Wild Christian”, owned a shop in the nearby market. She was a political activist within the women’s movement in the local community. She was also Anglican.
As much of the community followed indigenous Yorùbá religious tradition, Soyinka grew up in a religious atmosphere syncretism, with influences from both cultures. He was raised in a religious family, attending church services and singing in the choir from an early age; however Soyinka himself became an atheist later in life.
His father’s position enabled him to get electricity and radio at home.
He writes extensively about his childhood in one of his memoirs, Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981).
His mother was one of the most prominent members of the influential Ransome-Kuti family: she was the daughter of Rev. Canon J. J. Ransome-Kuti, and sister to Olusegun Azariah Ransome-Kuti, Oludotun Ransome-Kuti and sister in-law to Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Among Soyinka’s cousins were the musician Fela Kuti, the human rights activist Beko Ransome-Kuti, politician Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and activist Yemisi Ransome-Kuti.
In 1940, after attending St. Peters Primary School in Abeokuta, Soyinka went to Abeokuta Grammar School, where he won several prizes for literary composition.
In 1946 he was accepted by Government College in Ibadan, at that time one of Nigeria’s elite secondary schools.
After finishing his course at Government College in 1952, he began studies at University College Ibadan (1952–54), affiliated with the University of London. He studied English literature, Greek, and Western history. Among his lecturers was Molly Mahood, a British literary scholar. In the year 1953–54, his second and last at University College, Soyinka began work on “Keffi’s Birthday Treat”, a short radio play for Nigerian Broadcasting Service that was broadcast in July 1954 While at university, Soyinka and six others founded the Pyrates Confraternity, an anti-corruption and justice-seeking student organisation, the first confraternity in Nigeria.
Later in 1954, Soyinka relocated to England, where he continued his studies in English literature, under the supervision of his mentor Wilson Knight at the University of Leeds from 1954–57. He met numerous young, gifted British writers. Before defending his B.A., Soyinka began publishing and worked as an editor for the satirical magazine The Eagle. He wrote a column on academic life, often criticising his university peers.
Soyinka has been married three times and divorced twice. He has children from his three marriages. His first marriage was in 1958 to the late British writer, Barbara Dixon, whom he met at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. Barbara was the mother of his first son, Olaokun. His second marriage was in 1963 to Nigerian librarian Olaide Idowu, with whom he had three daughters, Moremi, Iyetade deceased,Peyibomi, and a second son, Ilemakin. Soyinka married Folake Doherty in 1989.
In 2014, he revealed his battle with prostate cancer.
The Wole Soyinka Lecture Annual Lecture Series was founded in 1994 and “is dedicated to honouring one of Nigeria and Africa’s most outstanding and enduring literary icons: Professor Wole Soyinka”.
It is organised by the National Association of Seadogs Pyrates Confraternity. Wole Soyinka with six other students founded the organisation in 1952 at the then University College Ibadan.
In 2011, the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre built a writers’ enclave in his honour.
It is located in Adeyipo Village, Lagelu Local Government Area, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. The enclave includes a Writer-in-Residence Programme that enables writers to stay for a period of two, three or six months, engaging in serious creative writing.
In 2013, he visited the Benin Moat as the representative of UNESCO in recognition of the Naija seven Wonders project.
He is currently the consultant for the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, with the Lagos State deeming him as the only person who could bring out the aims and objectives of the Festival to the people.
We all at Eventnews Africa wish him more year on earth.
May God bless your New Age…
Credit: Gbera TV