Playwrights Throughout History: Wole Soyinka Biography

Wole Soyinka was born near Abeokuta in Nigeria. He grew up in an Anglican mission compound in Ake. He attended the parsonage's primary school where his father was the headmaster.

BIOGRAPHY

Wole Soyinka was born near Abeokuta in Nigeria. He grew up in an Anglican mission compound in Ake. He attended the parsonage's primary school where his father was the headmaster, and then attended the grammar school in Abeokuta where his uncle was principal. When he was twelve, he left Ake for Ibadan to attend the Government College there. He entered Ibadan's new university when he was eighteen. Two years later he went to England to complete his degree in drama at Leeds. Following his graduation, he worked as a script-reader, actor, and director at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

Upon his return to Ibadan he founded two theatre companies, one of which was called the 1960 Masks. It is now called the Orisun Theatre. His first important play, A DANCE OF FORESTS, was written for the Nigerian independence celebrations. Soyinka's works were met with criticism from all sides. They brought out hostility from Nigerian authorities as well as by proponents of pure "Negritude." His plays are written in English, but they incorporate the music, dance, and the words of the traditional Yoruban festivals.

Soyinka's work openly criticizes the Nigerian government. He advocates an autonomous African culture which assimilates only those elements of the modern world which are progressive. He was imprisoned for two years on the charges that he aided the attempted secession of Biafra from Nigeria. While in prison he spent much of his time in solitary confinement. Upon his release he published a book of poetry, A SHUTTLE IN THE CRYPT, and one of his many autobiographies, THE MAN DIED: PRISON NOTES OF WOLE SOYINKA. He was later exiled from his home land for speaking out against the dictator, General Sani Abacha. The charges of treason were dropped when Abdulsalam Abubakar came into power.

Soyinka has produced a large body of work which includes plays, poetry, novels, autobiographies, literary criticism, and social criticism. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first black African to be given the honor.

CHRONOLOGY

1934 He was born near Abeokuta, Nigeria.

1945 He left Ake to attend the elite Government College at Ibadan.

1952 He enrolled in the new university at Ibadan.

1954 He went to England to complete his degree in drama at Leeds.

1955 THE INVENTION - play

1957 He graduated from Leeds.

1959 He received a Rockefeller research grant and returned to Nigeria.; THE LION AND THE JEWEL - play

1960 A DANCE OF THE FORESTS, THE TRIALS OF BROTHER JERO - plays; He became coeditor of BLACK ORPHEUS, a literary journal.



1963 THE STRONG BREED - play

1965 THE INTERPRETERS - novel; KONGI'S HARVEST, THE ROAD - plays

1967 IDANRE AND OTHER POEMS - poetry; He was put in prison.

1969 He was released from prison.; POEMS FROM PRISON - poetry

1971 MADMEN AND SPECIALISTS - play

1972 A SHUTTLE IN THE CRYPT - poetry; He became a professor of comparative literature at Ife.; JERO'S METAMORPHOSIS - play; THE MAN DIED: PRISON NOTES OF WOLE SOYINKA - autobiographical work

1973 SEASON OF ANOMY - novel; He received his Ph.D. from Leeds University in England.

1975 DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN - play

1976 MYTH, LITERATURE, AND THE AFRICAN WORLD -literary criticism

1981 AKE: THE YEARS OF CHILDHOOD - autobiographical work

1986 He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1988 MANDELA'S EARTH AND OTHER POEMS - poetry; He became professor of African studies and theatre at Cornell University.; ART, DIALOGUE & OUTRAGE - literary criticism

1989 ISARA: A VOYAGE AROUND ESSAY - autobiographical work

1991 THE CREDO OF BEING AND NOTHINGNESS - essay collection

1992 FROM ZIA, WITH LOVE - play

1994 IBADAN, THE PENKELEMES YEARS, A MEMOIR: 1946-1965 - autobiographical work; He went into exile from Nigeria.

1996 THE OPEN SORE OF A CONTINENT - social criticism

1997 A death sentence was pronounced on him by Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha.

1998 The charges of treason against him were dropped by Nigeria's new leader, Abdulsalam Abubakar.

1999 THE BURDEN OF MEMORY, THE MUSE OF FORGIVENESS - social criticism

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