Wole Soyinka, one of Africa’s best authors, is the first African to receive the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. He has been imprisoned numerous times for his outspoken opinions about the Nigerian government, despite being acknowledged as one of the greatest poets and playwrights. He has been a controversial figure in Nigerian politics and has lived in exile for significant portions of his life. Soyinka has denounced a number of Nigerian military dictators, most notably the late General Sanni Abacha, as well as Mugabe’s cruel regime in Zimbabwe. His plays explore a variety of topics, ranging from humor to tragedy and political satire to indigenous power struggles. He actively contributed to Nigeria’s political history and its struggle against British colonialism. He is also recognized as one of the greatest masters of drama and theater, whose literary works revealed significant political themes. ‘A Dance of the Forests,’ ‘Aké: The Years of Childhood,’ ‘The Lion and the Jewel,’ and ‘The Interpreters are among his most important works. His most recent book, ‘Of Africa,’ is a ground-breaking exploration of the history, culture, and heritage of Africa.
Youth and Early Life
Wole Soyinka was born in the Nigerian city of Abeokuta, which was a part of the British Empire at the time.
Because his father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, held a prominent position as an Anglican clergyman and headmaster, he was privileged to have access to radio and electricity at home.
He attended St. Peters Primary School before enrolling in Abeokuta Grammar School, where he was recognized for his talent in literary composition and received numerous awards.
In 1952, after graduating from Government College, he attended the University College of Ibadan to study English literature, Greek history, and Western history. During his final year of college, he wrote a short drama for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service.
In 1954, he relocated to England and resumed his education at the University of Leeds under Wilson Knight’s tutelage. Here, he became the editor of the university’s journal, The Eagle.
Wole Soyinka’s Career
In 1957, his poems “The Immigrant” and “My Next Door Neighbor” were published in the Nigerian magazine “Black Orpheus.” The same year, his drama “The Invention” premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
In 1958, he wrote “The Swamp Dwellers” and served as a play reader at the Royal Court Theatre.
After receiving a Rockefeller Research Fellowship to study African theater, he returned to Nigeria and wrote political satires such as “The Trials of Brother Jero” and “A Dance of the Forest.”
In 1960, he founded the amateur acting community Nineteen-Sixty Masks, to which he devoted substantial time throughout the years.
In 1962, he joined the English department at Obafemi Awolowo University, where he spoke out against government censorship and analyzed contemporary events. His essay “Towards a True Theatre” was published the same year.
As a protest against the pro-government policies enforced by university authorities, he resigned from his academic position in 1964. In the same year, he wrote ‘Before the Blackout,’ ‘Kongi’s Harvest,’ and a BBC radio play titled ‘The Detainee.’
He was released from prison in 1969 and afterward traveled to France, where he wrote “The Bacchae of Euripides” and “Poems from Prison.”
From 1970 to 1973, he produced a number of plays, traveled to the United States for the premiere of one of his plays, and composed a collection of poems named “A shuttle in the Crypt.”
In 1988, he was appointed professor of African Studies and theatre at Cornell University, and in the same year, he published Mandela’s Earth, and Other Poems and Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture.
The BBC African service broadcast his radio play “A Scourge of Hyacinths” in 1991, and the following year, “From Zia with Love” premiered in Siena, Italy.
In 2012, he published the book ‘Of Africa,’ in which he provided a superb picture of Africa’s most difficult concerns, its culture, and its history.
Controversies & Incarceration
In 1965, the Nigerian government arrested him for reportedly holding a radio broadcaster at gunpoint in order to broadcast fake election results. After three months, he was released due to a broad campaign by the international community of writers.
After becoming politically involved in 1967 and arranging an unofficial meeting with military governor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to end the Civil War, he went into hiding.
During the Civil War, he was accused of helping the Biafrans, the inhabitants of Biafra, and was consequently imprisoned by the Nigerian government for 22 months.
Despite being denied writing materials during his incarceration, he is thought to have written a number of poems and messages condemning the government of Nigeria. While he was incarcerated in New York, his plays were also performed.
After the end of the civil war, which ended in the Biafrans’ defeat, he was released along with other political activists by the end of 1969.
In 1994, he fled to Paris during the reign of General Sani Abacha because he feared incarceration for championing democracy in Nigeria. Later, he moved to America. His self-exile ended in 1998, after the death of Sani Abacha.
One of his famous pieces, “A Dance of the Forests,” was performed at the 1960 Nigerian Independence Day celebrations. It was eventually released by Oxford University Press in London and New York and is regarded as one of his most significant plays. It proposeștii a newștiion for Africa. Additionally, the piece was performed in Paris and Dakar.
His autobiography, ‘Ake: The Years of Childhood,’ won the coveted 1983 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and gained widespread critical praise.
Honors & Accomplishments
In 1972, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Leeds.
In 1986, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first and only Nigerian and second African to do so. In the same year, he received the Agip Prize for Literature.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Harvard University in 1993.
He was named the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Promotion of African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media, and communication in 1994.
He received the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award in 2009.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1989, he wed a Nigerian woman named Doherty Folake, whose prior two marriages had both.
Estimated Net worth
Wole is one of the wealthiest and most popular playwrights in history. According to our research, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Wole Soyinka has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million.