Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka

The mentor

Published in 2013

Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka is acclaimed internationally as a playwright, poet, novelist, essayist and humanitarian.

Considered his country’s foremost dramatist, he was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1986, for his groundbreaking works that fuse literature and politics, Western and African traditions. Educated at Western Nigeria’s University College, Ibadan, and at the University of Leeds in the U.K., in 1960 Soyinka returned to Nigeria after six years in England to pursue his career as an author, professor and human rights activist. An outspoken critic of Nigeria’s past tyrannies, Soyinka has spent long periods of his life in exile. His Poems from Prison (1969) and The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972) describe his 27 months in a Nigerian prison, and his play, King Baabu (2001) satirizes African dictatorships. Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006) depicts his adult life and opposition to Nigeria’s corrupt regimes. The memoir follows on from his autobiography, Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981), and a long string of masterpieces written over a half-century. His latest work, Of Africa (2012), a volume of essays on Africa and Africans in the new millennium, was published in Nigeria under the title Harmattan Haze on an African Spring. Soyinka represented Nigeria at “Poetry Parnassus”, a week-long series of poetic events at the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in London. He is emeritus professor at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, President’s Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and an associate at the Du Bois Institute, Harvard University.