Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka (b. July 13, 1934) is a Nigerian writer (considered to be Africa's most distinguished playwright) and the first African winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.
He received a primary school education in Abeokuta and secondary school at Government College, Ibadan. He studied at the University College, Ibadan (1952-1954) and the University of Leeds (1954-1957) from which he received an honours degree in English Literature. He worked as a play reader at the Royal Court Theatre in London before returning to Nigeria to study African drama . He taught in the Universities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Ife (becoming Professor of Comparative Literature there in 1975). In 1986 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature becoming the first African to be so honored.
Soyinka has played an active role in Nigeria's political history; In 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War he was arrested by the Federal Government and put in solitary confinement for his attempts at brokering a peace between the warring parties. He was released 22 months later after international attention was drawn to his imprisonment. His experiences in prison are recounted in his book The Man Died .
He has been an outspoken critic of many Nigerian administrations and of political tyrannies worldwide. A great deal of his writing has been concerned with "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it". This activism has often exposed him to great personal risk most notable during the government of the Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha (1993-1998). During Abacha's dictatorship, Soyinka left the country on voluntary exile and has since been living abroad (mainly in the United States where he is a professor at Emory University in Atlanta).
In 2005, he became one of the spearheads of an alternative National conference - PRONACO .
- The Interpreters
- Season of Anomy
- A Shuttle in the Crypt
- Idanre and other poems
- Mandela's Earth
- Ogun Abibiman
- Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known
See also: List of African writers
To Do: Larger Biography, links to works, general themes, political activism in Nigerian politics.
1934: Born Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka on 13 July in Ijebu Isara in Western Nigeria. His father Ayo was a school supervisor and his mother Eniola "a trader."
1957: Begins work for M. A. at Leeds but abandons graduate studies to work in theater; serves as play reader for Royal Court Theatre, London.
September 1958: Produces The Swamp Dwellers for the University of London Drama Festival.
February 1959: The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel produced in Ibadan; November: Writes, produces, and acts in a An Evening without Decor, a medley of his work, at the Royal Court Theatre, London; attacks racism and colonial repression in Africa in these and other works.
1960: Returns to Nigeria; March: The Trials of Brother Jero produced at Ibadan; May: Acts role of Yang Sun in The Good Woman of Setzuan at Ibadan; October: completes, directs, and acts in A Dance of the Forests with his own acting company, 1960 Masks.
1961-64: Directs plays by other playwrights, Ibadan; attacks political intriguing, corruption, and manipulation of mass media in The (new) Republican and Before the Blackout.
1960-62: Rockefeller Research Fellow; attached to English Department at the University of Ibadan studying African drama; December: "Towards a True Theatre" (essay); writes political satire on based on emergency in Western Nigeria.
1962-63: Lecturer, Department of English, University of Ife
1963: Culture in Transition (film)
December 1964: Founds, with others, the Drama Association of Nigeria.
1965: The Interpreters (novel) published in London; April: Writes and directs Before the Blackout, Orisun Theatre; directs Kongi's Harvest, Lagos; September: records The Detainee for BBC in London.
1965-67: Senior lecturer, Department of English, University of Lagos; criticizes personality cults and dictatorship in Africa.
April 1966: Revives Kongi's Harvest, Dakkar festival; June: Trials of Brother Jero produced, Hampstead Theatre Club, London; December: The Lion and the Jewel , Royal Court Theatre, London; shares John Whiting Award with Tom Stoppard.
1967: Head of the Department of Theater Arts, University of Ibadan; June: "The Writer in a Modern African State;" August to October 1969 imprisoned for writings sympathetic to secessionist Biafra; September: The Lion and the Jewel produced Accra; November: Trials of Brother Jero and The Strong Breed produced, Greenwich Mews Theatre, New York; Idanre and Other Poems.
April 1968: Kongi's Harvest, produced by Negro Ensemble Company, New York.
February 1969: The Road produced by Theatre Limited, Kampala, Uganda; Poems from Prison, London.
August 1970: Completes and directs Madmen and Specialists with Ibadan University Theare Arts Company in New Haven, Connecticut (at Yale?); play tours to Harlem; directs plays by Pirandello and others; Kongi's Harvest (film).
1971: A Shuttle in the Crypt (poems); March: revives Madmen and Specialists in Ibadan; acts Patrice Lumumba in John Littlewood's French production of Conor Cruise O'Brien's Murderous Angels, Paris; testifies before Kazeem Enquiry on violation of students' rights.
1972: Publishes his prison notes, The Man Died, London; July: produces extracts from A Dance of the Forests in Paris.
1973: Honorary Ph. D., University of Leeds; Season of Anomy (novel); Collected Plays I; August: National Theatre, London, produces Bacchae of Euripides, which it commisioned.
1973-74: Overseas Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge, and Visiting Professor of English, University of Sheffield; Collected Plays II.
1975: Edited Poems of Black Africa, London and New York; "Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Tradition" (essay); attacks Idi Amin in Transition.
1976: Ogun Abibiman (poems); Myth, Literature, and the African World; Visiting Professor, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon; Professor, University of Ife; September: Nairobi High School production of A Dance of the Forests; October: French production of A Dance of the Forests, Dakar, Gambia; December: produces Death and the King's Horseman, Ife.
1978: "Language as Boundary" (essay)
1981: Aké: The Years of Childhood (autobiography); Opera Wonyosi, an adaptation of Brecht's Three Penny Opera; "The Critic and Society: Barthes, Leftocracy, and Other Mythologies" (essay).
1982: Blues for the Prodigal (film) released; "Cross Currents: The 'New African' after Cultural Encounters" (essay).
December 1983: Die Still, Rev. Dr. Godspeak (radio play); Requiem for a Futurologist (play) produced at Ife university; Blues for a Prodigal (film); "Shakespeare and the Living Dramatist" (essay); (July) - Unlimited Liability Company (phonograph recording).
1984: A Play of Giants (play)
1985: Requiem for a Futorologist published; "Climates of Art" (Herbert Read Memorial Lecture), Institute of Contemporary Art, London.
1986: Nobel Prize for Literature. "The External Encounter: Ambivalence in African Arts and Literature" (essay), A Play of Giants (play), Fellow, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University; Agip Prize for Literature; 1986 (October); Awarded of Nigeria's second highest honour, Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR.;
1987: Six Plays; Childe Internationale (play) republished.
1989: "The Search" (short story).
1991: Sisi Clara Workshop on Theatre (Lagos); A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play) BBC African Service; "The Credo of Being and Nothingness" (The First Rev. Olufosoye Annual Lecture in Religion, delivered at the University of Ibadan on 25th January, 1991; published
1992: From Zia With Love
1993: honorary doctorate, Harvard University
1994: Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years (A Memoir: 1946-1965) (autobiography); Memories of a Nigerian Childhood; Flees Nigeria (November).
1995: The Beatification of Area Boy,
1996: The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis
March 1997: Charged with treason by military dictatorship.
Considered one of the greatest African poets alongside Cesair,Senghor,Okigbo,Ohanyido,Okara,Clark and so forth.
2005: Together with Nigerian elder statesman Chief Anthony Enahoro, he convened an alternative national confab under the aegis of PRONACO (Pro -national conference group).