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Wole Soyinka Disher-Campbell Spring 2011. Early Years Born Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka in Western Nigeria in 1934 grew up in an Anglican mission compound.

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Presentation on theme: "Wole Soyinka Disher-Campbell Spring 2011. Early Years Born Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka in Western Nigeria in 1934 grew up in an Anglican mission compound."— Presentation transcript:

1 Wole Soyinka Disher-Campbell Spring 2011

2 Early Years Born Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka in Western Nigeria in 1934 grew up in an Anglican mission compound in Aké Raised in a colonial, English- speaking environment, but his heritage is Yoruba (frequent trips to his father’s ancestral home in Isara) At age eleven, Soyinka joins the protest movement that will later win Nigeria’s independence from British colonial rule

3 Education Primary and grammar school in Ake and Abeokuta At age twelve, Soyinka leaves Ake for Ibadan to attend the elite Government College and at 18 entered the university. Graduates from Leeds College in England with a degree in English Literature and drama in 1957 Works for several years in Europe as a script-reader, actor, and director for the Royal Court Theatre in London Begins to write early plays (The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel)

4 Return to Nigeria At age 26 (1960), Soyinka returns to Nigeria, but new play A Dance of the Forests puts him in a precarious position with Nigeria’s new government Presents a pageant of black Africa’s “recurrent cycle of stupidities” (designed to remind Nigerians of the chronic dishonesty and abuse of power that colonialism had instilled in generations of native politicians) “African Chauvenists” or proponents of the Negritude movement (Soyinka called them “Neo-Tarzanists”) object to Soyinka’s use of European techniques Politically active and combatant—in 1965 calls for cancellation of rigged Western Nigerian regional elections by seizing control of the Western Nigerian Broadcast Service. Arrested and arraigned, but released on a technicality. Political speeches in the 1960s criticize the “cult of personality” and government corruption in African dictatorships

5 Political Motives In 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War he was arrested and put in solitary confinement for two years for attempting to act as an intermediary between the warring Nigerian and Biafran parties. Writes poetry on tissue paper which is later published as Poems from Prison Released 22 months after initial detainment after international attention rises ( ). Outspoken critic of many Nigerian military dictators and of political tyrannies in Africa and abroad.

6 Personal Risks Flees Nigeria via motorcycle in 1994 to avoid charges brought against him. In 1997, General Sani Abacha, during his reign in Nigeria, pronounced a death sentence on Soyinka “in absentia” for treason In 1999, after democratic rule was reestablished in Nigeria, Soyinka returned home to a hero’s welcome Side Note: in 1975, he openly attacks Idi Amin (at the height of his power) in Transition, a Ghanan magazine where he serves as editor-in-chief and columnist

7 Yoruba Culture and Soyinka’s art Soyinka advocates two major ideas regarding art/artistic mission: “organic revolution”: “a process of communal renewal reached in moments of shared cultural self-apprehension -- moments whose manner and content are particular to each society” “organic restoration”: Ogun Three stages of Yoruba existence—the world of the ancestors, the world of the living, and the world of the unborn—Ogun bridges these relams, living in what Soyinka calls the “fourth stage”

8 Ogun

9 Colonialism in Nigeria Nigeria operated under British control from mid-1800s until October 1, 1960, when it gained independence. Nigeria encompasses different ethnic groups Dominant groups: Yoruba in the West Hausa-Fulani in north Igbo in the east

10 Colonialism in Nigeria British claim entire area of Nigeria as a colony around 1914 and begin to exercise more power in the area (rather than simply controlling palm oil and palm kernel trade) Difficulties in governing so many ethnic groups led to tensions— different languages, culture, and religions Hausa-Fulani=Muslim, strong central government Igbo=no central government/stateless society Pre-existing rivalries (ex: Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba) Indirect rule—need to appoint chiefs where there had not been chiefs before (difficult in certain areas without strong central government) Resistance occurs from some groups, resulting in rebellion and struggle for independence (won in 1960)

11 Honors and Awards 1967: Head of the Department of Theater Arts, University of Ibadan 1973: Honorary Ph. D., University of Leeds 1986: Nobel Prize for Literature 1990: Benson Medal from Royal Society of Literature 1993: honorary doctorate, Harvard University. 2005: Honorary doctorate degree, Princeton University 2008: Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke UniversityDuke University

12 Poetry Combines Yoruba myth with political aims (takes Ogun, the Yoruba god of metallurgy, as his personal muse and the inspiration) Poems can be roughly divided into poems of experience/life and poems relating to myth/Yoruba culture Themes of war, violence, struggle, hate, family, love Seemingly simplistic, direct diction, but with underlying complexity Sparse punctuation Metaphors, similes, and juxtaposition of ideas are common, as is larger symbolism

13 Characterizing Poetry Various Life Experiences: 'Telephone Conversation", (an early light hearted response to racial discrimination), some of the poems in Idanre and Other Poems (1967), most of the ones in A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972), (his prison notes when he was detained during the Nigerian Civil War). They are about births and deaths (the most important being his "Abiku" poem) in which he dwells on the inscrutable nature of the spirit of death, about strange coincidences as in "A First Death Day", when a child dies exactly on her first birthday anniversary, about grey seasons as metaphors for rust, ripeness and decay, and about lone figures and the messianic plight of some of them. Many of the poems in A Shuttle in the Crypt are even more private in tone because of their genesis. They are the meditations of a man in confinement whose active mind wandered far and wide, about people in similar plight in history, about nature, and about the fragility and transience of life. Ogunnian poems: poems about death on the road massacre in north ern Nigerian in the epic poems Idanre and Ogun Abibiman (1977). All these poems are celebrations in a contemporary context: of the mysteries of Ogun, the god of contraries, who is both destructive and creative and, therefore, whose unlimited resources can be used for good or for ill. The road and massacre poems showed Ogun in his most negative aspects, that is, metaphors for man or man's weapons of destruc tion eating up fellow men. They are Soyinka's way of commenting on the senseless slaughter and wastage of human life in moments of carelessness, hatred and ethnic intoxication. In Idanre and Ogun Abibiman, however, Soyinka goes beyond the merely negative features of Ogun. In the former, he seeks a new order that will further split the Ogun godhead and release the creative flint that will be used perpetually for man's benefit. In the latter, he enlists the co-operation of Ogun to commit his unlimited resources to the liberation struggle in South Africa.

14 Works Plays The Swamp Dwellers The Lion and the Jewel The Trials of Brother Jero A Dance of the Forests The Strong Breed Before the Blackout Kongi's Harvest The Road The Bacchae of Euripides Madmen and Specialists Camwood on the Leaves Jero's Metamorphosis Death and the King's Horseman Opera Wonyosi Requiem for a Futurologist A Play of Giants A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play) The Beatification of the Area Boy King Baabu Etiki Revu Wetin Novels The Interpreters Season of Anomie Memoirs The Man Died: Prison Notes Aké: The Years of Childhood Isara: A Voyage around Essay Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: a memoir Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: a memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn Poetry collections A Big Airplane Crashed Into The Earth (original title Poems from Prison) Idanre and other poems Mandela's Earth and other poems Ogun Abibiman Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known Abiku The Ballad of the Landlord After the Deluge Prisonnettes Telephone Conversation Essays Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture Myth, Literature and the African World From Drama and the African World View The Burden of Memory - The Muse of Forgiveness The Credo of Being and Nothingness Movies Culture in Transition Blues for a Prodigal

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