BIOGRAPHY Born in 1934 to Samuel Ayodele Soyinka and Grace Eniola Soyinka, the second of their six children 1986: Became the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature 1994: Forced into exile by military dictatorship 1998: Returned home Present: divides his time between Nigeria and overseas universities On Boko Haram’s hit list
BOKO HARAM IN NIGERIA The roots of Boko Haram lie in the Islamic history of northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has been able to project power over the northeastern section of Nigeria, where the police and army have effectively lost control. No major ideological statement can be associated with Boko Haram that states the group’s objectives or program. Phases Phase 1 was mainly focused first upon withdrawal from and establishing small camps and schools in the remoter regions of Borno and Yobe states during the years 2002-2005. Phase 2 the Boku Haram carry out attacks on the military, the police, teachers/universities; banks and markets, carrying out al-amr bi-l-ma`ruf attacks on beer drinkers, card-players, attacks on Christian preachers and churches, targeted assassinations (Cook). “Nigeria's military chief said Thursday the Islamist Boko Haram sect, blamed for attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives, has ties to Al-Qaeda, the first time a top security official has publicly drawn such links. "We have been able to link the activities of the Boko Haram sect to the support and training the sect received from AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)," Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin said.” – AFP
“What if V.S. Naipaul were a happy man? What if V.S. Pritchett had loved his parents? What if Vladimir Nabokov had grown up in a small town in western Nigeria and decided that politics were not unworthy of him? I do not take or drop these names in vain. Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian novelist, playwright, critic and professor of comparative literature, belongs in their company. It is a company of children who grow up without forgetting anything, children who grow up in a garden of too many cultures.” – John Leonard, The New York Times
ACTIVITY On pg. 59 Soyinka describes a LANDMARK in his home. Take 5 minutes to emulate this passage with a landmark from your own childhood.
CHRISTIANITY AND COLONIALISM Sierra Leone became, for the nineteenth century, the source of a network of West African coastal Christian communities. Its most outstanding representative was the Yoruba-born Samuel Ajayi Crowther (1809?–1891), the first African bishop and Anglican bishop on the Niger. The new breed of missionaries on the west coast clashed with Bishop Crowther and the Sierra Leoneans. Out of this period came the translation of the Bible into African languages, that would prove to be the true foundation for African Christianity. In the 1890s Africa was parceled out among the European powers and missionaries both pressed for, and facilitated, the colonial takeover. Christianity and colonial conquest seemed work side by side. Three principal instruments were at work: the village school, the catechist, and the vernacular Bible. The missions tried to carry out the laws which they saw as the hand of God. Thus, bush schools were opened and passages from the Bible were read.
CHRISTIANITY AND COLONIALISM (CONT.) The school and the catechist were, in secular terms, the agencies of a new economic and social order, but in religious terms they were the agency of a new biblically fed religious consciousness and sense of community. Contested questions included: Should a zealous but polygamist catechist be retained? Could God be expected to address and instruct new converts through dreams and visions? Could the illnesses of Christians be explained and combated in terms of bewitchment? The missionary answer to such questions was most often a firm no. Independent church movements took roughly two chief forms. The first produced what in Nigeria have been called the "African" churches such as the United Native African Church, founded in Lagos in 1891. The main point of conflict between Christianity and African traditional religion was and still is, the veneration of ancestral spirits and the many rites— domestic, agricultural, and communal—which involve the invocation of those spirits.
YORUBA SOCIETY In the 18 th Century, Europeans began taking villagers from West Africa to be slaves in the New Colonies. The British came to Yorubaland in 1852. The British were granted the right by the other European nations to colonize Yorubaland and in 1893 Yorubaland became part of the larger colony known as Nigeria. Their staple food is yam, which is a starchy root or sweet potato. They harvest seeds from the palm oil tree and use the oil produced from these seeds to cook with. They also grow kola nuts. In 1960 Nigeria became an independent country. Many Yoruba live in large towns and cities, and many towns are based on the extended family dwellings in compounds. Many Yoruba today are still employed as carvers, blacksmiths, farmers, weavers, and leather workers. Today the Yoruba still make some of the world’s greatest works of art.
(CONT.) In precolonial Yoruba society, sex, age, descent group, and political role determined social rank. There may be a formal lineage or family corporation, composed of senior male members who hold monthly meetings to run family affairs (Gugler and Flanagan 1978, 131), such as holding and managing property, seeing to the economic welfare of members in need, caring for children of incapacitated parents, and arbitrating disputes among members. The Western concept of the full-time housewife, who earns no income, is alien to Yoruba tradition, although women in urban areas who cannot find employment do become housewives, and the concept itself has been introduced by Christianity and Islam. (United Nations University)
WORLD WAR II Soyinka was five years old when the war began in 1939 Britain's colonies in West Africa, Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and Nigeria served as staging posts and military bases during World War Two. Aircraft destined for the 'Middle East' and the North African front had to fly via West Africa,and were serviced there. Palm oil, nuts, rubber, tin, bauxite, sisal and food stuffs were among the ever-increasing exports. Usually produced by mainly British-owned companies, these exports provided the firms with vastly increased profits, at the expense of badly housed and underfed African labour. Recruitment in both East and West Africa had begun early in the war.
QUOTES BY THE AUTHOR “One must never try to rigidify the divisions between one experience and the other…” In regards to the Yoruba worldview Soyinka states that “all experiences flow into one another…” (Wright)
CHILDHOOD OBSERVATIONS? Soyinka’s ability to reason (pg. 43) Remarkable powers of observation (pg. 228). Reflection and comparison (pg.134) False sense of maturity (p. 230) Think about these moments in comparison with moments of childhood and naivety.
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