Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka

Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka

Nigerian writer. He was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he received in 1986.

This Nigerian writer (Abeokuta, July 13, 1934) was the first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.

He began his university studies at the University of Ibadan, and completed them at Leeds University, where he would return in the 1970s to obtain a doctorate degree.

Between 1957 and 1959, he worked at the Royal Court Theatre in London as a director and actor. During this period, he also wrote three productions for a small company of actors he had recruited. While many African writers rejected the use of European languages due to the association between Europe and the violent colonisation of Africa, Soyinka opted to write his works in English. He is characterised by mixing African traditions with a European style, using African traditions and myths which he narrates in Western styles. He always used his works to disseminate his social and political position, which is why his work is plagued with symbolisms (some simple, others rather complex). This acid style was the reason for his arrest in 1967.

In the 1960s, he returned to Nigeria to study African theatre, and that same year he founded the theatre group called The Masks of 1960. His work during that period is filled with some social criticism, but in general, this is done lightly, and sometimes with humour. In 1964, he founded the Orisun Theatre Company. He also taught theatre and literature at the University of Lagos and the University of Ibadan. However, in 1967, he was arrested during the Nigerian Civil War for writing an article advocating an armistice. Accused of conspiracy and jailed during more than 20 months, he was freed at the end of 1969.

In the 1970s, no longer in prison, his work turns darker and more critical. He attacks the system and he reflects his suffering and that of the Nigerian people.

In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the first African writer to receive it.


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