• Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka also known and popularly called Wole Soyinka, was born 13th July, 1934, in Abeokuta (western Nigeria).  His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, was a renowned Anglican Minister and Headmaster.  His mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka, who was known as “Wild Christian” was a shopkeeper and local activist. 
  • As a child, he lived in an Anglican Mission environment, learning the Christian teachings of his parents, as well as the Yoruba spiritualism and tribal customs of his grandfather, thereby growing up to be an ambitious and inquisitive child.
  • Wole Soyinka commenced his educational career with the Government College in Ibadan and the University of Ibadan, prior to his departure to England and continued his education at the University of Leeds, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1958 and in 1972 the same University awarded him an honorary doctorate. 
  • While as a student, he served as the editor of the school’s magazine, The Eagle.
  • In the late 1950s Soyinka wrote his first important play: A Dance of the Forests, which was a satire of the Nigerian political elite.  From 1958 to 1959, Soyinka was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London.  In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship and later returned to his home country to study African drama.
  • Wole founded a theatre group in 1960 ‘The 1960 Masks’ and in 1964, ‘The Orisun Theatre Company’, in which he produced his own plays and performed as an actor, while serving periodically as a visiting professor at the Universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale.
  • Soyinka is also a well-known political activist and during the civil war in Nigeria he appealed in Newspaper article for a cease-fire.  He was arrested for this in 1967 and held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969.
  • Soyinka sometimes writes of modern West Africa in a satirical style, but his serious intent and his belief in the evils inherent in the exercise of power are usually present in his work.
  • To date, Soyinka has published hundreds of works.
  • He wrote and produced plays that were published and aired in Nigerian and the United Kingdom theatres and on radios.  He took a keen interest and was very active Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence.
  • However, in addition to drama and poetry, he has written two novels, ‘The Interpreters (1965)’ and ‘Season of Anomy (1973)’, as well as autobiographical works including ‘The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972)’, a gripping account of his prison experience, and ‘Aké ( 1981)’, a memoir about his childhood.  Myth, Literature and the African World (1975) is a collection of Soyinka’s literary essays.
  • Wole Soyinka was a Professor of Comparative Literature for several years at the Obafemi Awolowo University and was later made professor emeritus at the University.
  • In the past, he has lectured at Cornell University as a Goldwin Smith professor for African Studies and Theatre Arts between 1988 to 1991, Emory University and was appointed Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Arts in 1996.
  • He was also a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, served as scholar-in-residence at NYU’s Institute of African American Affairs and also at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles – California United States.
  • He has also taught at Harvard, Yale and Oxford Universities and was a distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Duke’s University in 2008.
  • Having been considered as Nigeria’s foremost man of letters, Soyinka is still politically active and spent the 2015 election day in Africa’s biggest democracy working the phones to monitor reports of voting irregularities, technical issues and violence, according to The Guardian.  After the election on March 28, 2015, he said that Nigerians must show a Nelson Mandela – like ability to forgive president-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s past as an iron-fisted military ruler, according to
  • Soyinka has been married three times: he married a British writer, Barbara Dixon in 1958; Olaide Idowu, a Nigerian librarian, in 1963 and Folake Doherty, his current wife, in 1989.  
  • In 2014, Soyinka revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was cured 10 months after treatment.

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