Written by: Henry Akubuiro
Professor Wole Soyinka is a multi-talented creative writer who writes across the genres of drama, poetry and prose. A virtuoso performer in the literary world, he made history in 1986 when he became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The writer first announced his genius in Nigerian literature early in his writing career –just two years after graduating from the University of Leeds, England, in 1958, founding an acting company that produced his first play, A Dance of the Forests, for the Nigerian independence celebrations. Nigerians instantly took notice of his profound wit. Before then, he had announced his intent in the UK during a stint with the Royal Court Theatre in London, writing plays for the theatre and radios.
He went on to write the plays in Nigeria, The Lion and the Jewel, The Trials of Brother Jero, and Jero’s Metamorphosis, The Strong Breed, Kongi’s Harvest, The Road, From Zia, with Love, King Baabu, Madmen and Specialists, Death and the King’s Horseman, The Beatification of Area Boy.
In Soyinka’s plays, the power game echoes, and, deploying western elements skillfully fused with subject matter and dramatic techniques, he roots them Yoruba folklore and religion, peppered with symbolism, flashback, deft plotting, humour and poetic diction. For Soyinka, theater, because of its nature (with text, images, and multimedia effects) has a wider base of communication with an audience. That’s why he thinks “guerrilla theater” can respond immediately to both events and the changing pattern of events.
Again, Soyinka sees theater as being revolutionary when it awakens the individual in the audience, in the black community in this case, who for so long has tended to express his frustrated creativity in certain self-destructive ways, when it opens up to him the very possibility of participating creatively himself in this larger communal process.
Though he distinguished himself more as a playwright, Soyinka also wrote novels, including The Interpreters and Season of Anomy —and volumes of poetry: Idanre, and Other Poems and Poems from Prison, Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems, and Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known. In these works, he made a success of dramatic and meditative poetic forms.
Soyinka did not allow his imprisonment to weaken his resolve.
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