Wole Soyinka: A force of Nature in the African Literary Space

Credit: Achievement.org: October 21, 1969: Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka.

As we begin our Series: "Great Minds and Leaders from Africa" in which we attempt to highlight a few great minds from the African continent who maybe novelists, storytellers, essayists, poets and thinkers whose body of work made a mark in history and fostered progress. And so we continue with an individual who is one of Africa's greatest contemporary writers. It is in most times ignorant at the same time fascinating when once in a while you encounter folks who will ask you how come you speak English or any other international languages so well especially when you are from Africa. A recent example of this was when the great Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was enthusiastically asked in 2018 by a French journalist “if bookstores exist in Nigeria.” What a myopic question to say the least. And when you are startled by such a statement folks begin to see you as an African chauvinist. Rationalism is essentially European, they claimed; the black man is emotive and intuitive. He is not a man of technology, but a man of the dance, of rhythm and song. But we will leave that argument for another day.

Credit: Achievements.org: Right: Wole Soyinka matriculating at the University College, Ibadan in the 50s.

Wole Soyinka (Yoruba: Akínwándé Olúwo̩lé Babátúndé S̩óyíinká) was born on 13 July 1934 at Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. After preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds in England. And in 1973 he took his doctorate. During the six years spent in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London 1958-1959. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller bursary and returned to Nigeria to study African drama. At the same time, he ta