Wole Soyinka

Definition

Theater

  • (Akinwande Oluwole); (1934 - ) Nigerian dramatist,poet, and novelist, considered to be one of the foremost playwrightsof his generation. In 1986 Soyinka became the first Black Africanrecipient of the Nobel Prize for literature.

    Soyinka was educated at the University of Ibadan and subsequentlyat the University of Leeds. After Leeds, Soyinka moved to London wherehe became associated with the Royal Court Theatre and George Devine'sWriter's Group, which at the time also included the dramatists EdwardBond, Arnold Wesker, and Ann Jellicoe. In 1959 Soyinka's play TheInvitation was staged at the Royal Court under his own direction.

    Following his return to Nigeria, Soyinka formed the theatergroup the 1960 Masks, which subsequently became the Orisun TheatreCompany. In 1960 his play The Dance of the Forests was stagedas part of the celebrations for Nigerian independence. Other notableplays include The Trials of Brother Jero (1960), Kongi'sHarvest (1964), which opened the first Festival of Negro Artsin Dakar in 1966, Madmen and Specialists (1970), which wasfirst produced at a Playwright's Conference in America, Death andthe King's Horseman (1976), A Play of Giants (1985), The Beatification of Area Boy (1995), and King Baabu (2001).

    In his other writings, which include memoirs, collections of poetry,and several highly acclaimed novels, Soyinka similarly attempts tofuse Western literary influences with African tradition. A politicallyactive writer, Soyinka was imprisoned briefly in 1965 and again from1967 until 1969. In the mid 1990s he emerged as a leading critic ofthe military regime of General Abacha and was obliged to flee to Americafor safety. He was formally charged with treason - a capitaloffence - in 1997 but the charge was subsequently withdrawnand he returned to his homeland. In recent years he has again puthimself at the forefront of the movement for political and constitutionalchange in Nigeria.

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