wole soyinka biography

In this article, Lite9ja will be sharing all you need to know about a popular Nigerian writer, Wole Soyinka Biography, ranging from his Biography to early life, Age, Profile, family, Wikipedia, books, awards, facts, career, net worth, etc.

Prof Wole Soyinka Wikipedia Profile

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka in 2018

Wole Soyinka in 2018

Born Akínwándé Olúwolé Babátúndé Sóyíinká
13 July 1934 (age 87)
Abeokuta, Nigeria (now Ogun State, Nigeria)
  • Author
  • poet
  • playwright
Nationality Nigerian
Education Abeokuta Grammar School
University of Leeds
Period 1957–present
  • Drama
  • novel
  • poetry
Subject Comparative literature
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature
Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature
Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award
Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Lifetime Achievement
Relatives Ransome-Kuti family

Prof Wole Soyinka Biography

Who Is Wole Soyinka?

Wole Soyinka was born in Nigeria on the 13th of July 1934 and educated in England. In 1986, the playwright and political activist became the first African to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

He dedicated his Nobel acceptance speech to Nelson Mandela. Soyinka has published hundreds of works, including drama, novels, essays, and poetry, and colleges worldwide seek him out as a visiting professor.

Prof Wole Soyinka Age

How Old Is Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka was born on the 13th of July 1934, he is currently 87 years as of 2021, he will be 88 years this July 2022.

Wole Soyinka Dead

Is Wole Soyinka Dead? Is Wole Soyinka Still Alive?

No, Wole Soyinka Is Not Dead, Yes He Is Still Alive, It was Wole Soyinka’s junior brother Femi Soyinka that died yesterday been 14th of June 2022.

Wole Soyinka Early Life

Wole Soyinka was born Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Babatunde Soyinka on July 13, 1934, in Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, was a prominent Anglican minister and headmaster. His mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka, who was called “Wild Christian,” was a shopkeeper and local activist, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

As a child, he lived in an Anglican mission compound, learning his parents’ Christian teachings and the Yoruba spiritualism and tribal customs of his grandfather. An intelligent and curious child, Wole prompted the adults in his life to warn one another: “He will kill you with his questions.”

After finishing preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, Soyinka moved to England and continued his education at the University of Leeds, where he served as the editor of the school’s magazine, The Eagle. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1958. (In 1972, the university awarded him an honorary doctorate).

Wole Soyinka Parents

Wole Soyinka Father And Mother

Wole Soyinka’s father and mother’s identity still remains unknown to the public.

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Wole Soyinka Plays & Political Activism

In the late 1950s, Soyinka wrote his first important play, A Dance of the Forests, which satirized the Nigerian political elite. From 1958 to 1959, Soyinka was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship and returned to Nigeria to study African drama.

In 1960, he founded the theater group, The 1960 Masks, and in 1964, the Orisun Theatre Company, where he produced his plays and performed as an actor. He has periodically been a visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale.

Soyinka is also a political activist, and during the civil war in Nigeria, he appeared in an article for a cease-fire. He was arrested for this in 1967 and held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969.\

Prof Wole Soyinka Career

Professor Wole Soyinka Early Career

After graduating with an upper second-class degree, Soyinka remained in Leeds and began working on an MA. He intended to write new works combining European theatrical traditions with those of his Yorùbá cultural heritage. His first major play, The Swamp Dwellers (1958), was followed a year later by The Lion and the Jewel, a comedy that attracted interest from several members of London’s Royal Court Theatre, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

Encouraged, Soyinka moved to London, where he worked as a play reader for the Royal Court Theatre. During the same period, both of his plays were performed in Ibadan. They dealt with the uneasy relationship between progress and tradition in Nigeria.

In 1957, his play The Invention was the first of his works to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre. At that time, his only published works were poems such as “The Immigrant” and “My Next Door Neighbour,” which were published in the Nigerian magazine Black Orpheus. This was founded in 1957 by the German scholar Ulli Beier, who had been teaching at the University of Ibadan since 1950.

Soyinka received a Rockefeller Research Fellowship from University College in Ibadan, his alma mater, for research on African theatre, and he returned to Nigeria. After its fifth issue (November 1959), Soyinka replaced Jahnheinz Jahn to become coeditor for the literary periodical Black Orpheus (its name derived from a 1948 essay by Jean-Paul Sartre, “Orphée Noir,” published as a preface to Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache, edited by Léopold Senghor).

He produced his new satire, The Trials of Brother Jero, in the dining hall at Mellanby Hall of University College Ibadan in April 1960. His work A Dance of The Forest, a biting criticism of Nigeria’s political elites, won a contest that year as the official play for Nigerian Independence Day.

On 1 October 1960, it premiered in Lagos as Nigeria celebrated its sovereignty. The play satirizes the fledgling nation by showing that the present is no more a golden age than was the past. Also, in 1960, Soyinka established the “Nineteen-Sixty Masks,” an amateur acting ensemble to which he devoted considerable time over the next few years.

Soyinka wrote the first full-length play produced on Nigerian television. Entitled My Father’s Burden and directed by Segun Olusola, the play was featured on Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) on 6 August 1960.

Soyinka published works satirizing the “Emergency” in the Western Region of Nigeria, as his Yorùbá homeland was increasingly occupied and controlled by the federal government. The political tensions arising from recent post-colonial independence eventually led to a military coup and civil war (1967–70).

With the Rockefeller grant, Soyinka bought a Land Rover and began traveling throughout the country as a researcher with the Department of English Language of the University College in Ibadan. In an essay of the time, he criticized Leopold Senghor’s Négritude movement as a nostalgic and indiscriminate glorification of the black African past that ignores the potential benefits of modernization.

He is often quoted as saying, “A tiger doesn’t proclaim his nigritude. He pounces.” But in fact, Soyinka wrote in a 1960 essay for the Horn: “the duiker will not paint ‘duiker’ on his beautiful back to proclaim his duikeritude; you’ll know him by his elegant leap.” In Death and the King’s Horsemen, he states: “The elephant trails no tethering-rope; that king is not yet crowned who will peg an elephant.”

In December 1962, Soyinka’s essay “Towards a True Theater” was published. He began teaching with the Department of English Language at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ifẹ. He discussed current affairs with “négrophiles” and, on several occasions, openly condemned government censorship. At the end of 1963, his first feature-length movie, Culture in Transition, was released. In 1965 The Interpreters, “a complex but also vividly documentary novel,” was published in London by André Deutsch.

That December, together with scientists and men of theatre, Soyinka founded the Drama Association of Nigeria. In 1964 he also resigned from his university post, protesting against imposed pro-government behavior by the authorities. A few months later, in 1965, he was arrested for the first time, charged with holding up a radio station at gunpoint (as described in his 2006 memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn) and replacing the tape of a recorded speech by the premier of Western Nigeria with a different tape containing accusations of election malpractice.

Soyinka was released after a few months of confinement due to protests by the international community of writers. This same year he wrote two more dramatic pieces: Before the Blackout and the comedy Kongi’s Harvest. He also wrote The Detainee, a radio play for the BBC in London.

His play The Road premiered in London at the Commonwealth Arts Festival, opening on 14 September 1965 at the Theatre Royal. At the end of the year, he was promoted to the headmaster and senior lecturer in the Department of English Language at the University of Lagos.

Soyinka’s political speeches at that time criticized the cult of personality and government corruption in African dictatorships. In April 1966, his play Kongi’s Harvest was produced in revival at the World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. The Road was awarded the Grand Prix. In June 1965, his play The Trials of Brother Jero was produced at The Lion and The Jewel for Hampstead Theatre Club in London, and in December 1966, The Lion and the Jewel were staged at the Royal Court Theatre.

Wole Soyinka Civil War And Imprisonment

After becoming Chair of Drama at the University of Ibadan, Soyinka became more politically active. Following the military coup of January 1966, he secretly and unofficially met with the military governor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in the Southeastern town of Enugu (August 1967) to try to avert the Nigerian civil war.[citation needed] As a result, he had to go into hiding,, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

He was imprisoned for 22 months as civil war ensued between the Federal government of Nigeria and the Biafrans. Though refused materials such as books, pens, and paper, he still wrote many poems and notes criticizing the Nigerian government while in prison.

Despite his imprisonment, his play The Lion and The Jewel was produced in Accra, Ghana, in September 1967. In November that year, The Trials of Brother Jero and The Strong Breed were produced in the Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York City. Soyinka also published a collection of his poetry, Idanre, and Other Poems, inspired by his visit to the sanctuary of the Yorùbá deity Ogun, whom he regards as his “companion” deity, kindred spirit, and protector.

In 1968, the Negro Ensemble Company in New York produced Kongi’s Harvest. While still imprisoned, Soyinka translated from Yoruba a fantastical novel by his compatriot D. O. Fagunwa, entitled The Forest of a Thousand Demons: A Hunter’s Saga, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

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Wole Soyinka Personal Life

Soyinka has been married three times and divorced twice. He has children from his three marriages. His first marriage was in 1958 to the late British writer Barbara Dixon, whom he met at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. Barbara was the mother of his first son, Olaokun, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

His second marriage was in 1963 to Nigerian librarian Olaide Idowu, with whom he had three daughters – Moremi, Iyetade (deceased), Peyibomi – and a second son, Ilemakin. Soyinka married Folake Doherty in 1989.

In 2014, he revealed his battle with prostate cancer.

Wole Soyinka Family

Wole Soyinka Wife

Wole Soyinka Children

Soyinka has been married three times and divorced twice. He has children from his three marriages. His first marriage was in 1958 to the late British writer Barbara Dixon, whom he met at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. Barbara was the mother of his first son, Olaokun.

His second marriage was in 1963 to Nigerian librarian Olaide Idowu, with whom he had three daughters – Moremi, Iyetade (deceased), Peyibomi – and a second son, Ilemakin. Soyinka married Folake Doherty in 1989.

Wole Soyinka Awards and Honours

The Wole Soyinka Annual Lecture Series was founded in 1994 and “is dedicated to honoring one of Nigeria and Africa’s most outstanding and enduring literary icons: Professor Wole Soyinka.” It was organized by the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity), which organized Soyinka with six other students founded in 1952 at the then University College Ibadan.

In 2011, the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre built a writers’ enclave in his honor. It is located in Adeyipo Village, Lagelu Local Government Area, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. The enclave includes a Writer-in-Residence Programme that enables writers to stay for two, three, or six months, engaging in serious creative writing. 

In 2013, he visited the Benin Moat as the representative of UNESCO in recognition of the Naija seven Wonders project. He is currently the consultant for the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, with the Lagos State deeming him as the only person who could bring out the aims and objectives of the Festival to the people. He was appointed a patron of Humanists UK in 2020.

In 2014, the collection Crucible of the Ages: Essays in Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80, edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochwuku Promise, was published by Bookcraft in Nigeria and Ayebia Clarke Publishing in the UK, with tributes and contributions from Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Margaret Busby, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ali Mazrui, Sefi Atta, and others.

In 2018, Henry Louis Gates, Jr tweeted that Nigerian filmmaker and writer Onyeka Nwelue visited him at Harvard and made a documentary film on Wole Soyinka. As part of efforts to mark his 84th birthday, a collection of poems titled 84 Delicious Bottles of Wine was published for Wole Soyinka, edited by Onyeka Nwelue and Odega Shawa. Among the notable contributors was Adamu Usman Garko, award-winning teenage essayist, poet, and writer.

Wole Soyinka Books

Wole Soyinka Works


  • Keffi’s Birthday Treat (1954)
  • The Invention (1957)
  • The Swamp Dwellers (1958)
  • A Quality of Violence (1959)
  • The Lion and the Jewel (1959)
  • The Trials of Brother Jero (1960)
  • A Dance of the Forests (1960)
  • My Father’s Burden (1960)
  • The Strong Breed (1964)
  • Before the Blackout (1964)
  • Kongi’s Harvest (1964)
  • The Road (1965)
  • Madmen and Specialists (1970)
  • The Bacchae of Euripides (1973)
  • Camwood on the Leaves (1973)
  • Jero’s Metamorphosis (1973)
  • Death and the King’s Horseman (1975)
  • Opera Wonyosi (1977)
  • Requiem for a Futurologist (1983)
  • A Play of Giants (1984)
  • Childe Internationale (1987)
  • From Zia with Love (1992)
  • The Detainee (radio play)
  • A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play)
  • The Beatification of Area Boy (1996)
  • Document of Identity (radio play, 1999)
  • King Baabu (2001)
  • Etiki Revu Wetin
  • Alapata Apata (2011)
  • “Thus Spake Orunmila” (short piece; in Sixty-Six Books (2011)


Short stories

  • A Tale of Two (1958)
  • Egbe’s Sworn Enemy (1960)
  • Madame Etienne’s Establishment (1960)


  • The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972)
  • Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981)
  • Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: a memoir 1945–1965 (1989)
  • Ìsarà: A Voyage around Essay (1989)
  • You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006)

Poetry collections

  • Telephone Conversation (1963) (appeared in Modern Poetry in Africa)
  • Idanre and other poems (1967)
  • A Big Airplane Crashed into The Earth (original title Poems from Prison) (1969)
  • A Shuttle in the Crypt (1971)
  • Ogun Abibiman (1976)
  • Mandela’s Earth and other poems (1988)
  • Early Poems (1997)
  • Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002)


  • “Towards a True Theater” (1962)
  • Culture in Transition (1963)
  • Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition
  • A Voice That Would Not Be Silenced
  • Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture (1988)
  • From Drama and the African World View (1976)
  • Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976)
  • The Blackman and the Veil (1990)
  • The Credo of Being and Nothingness (1991)
  • The Burden of Memory – The Muse of Forgiveness (1999)
  • A Climate of Fear (the BBC Reith Lectures 2004, audio and transcripts)
  • New Imperialism (2009)
  • Of Africa (2012)
  • Beyond Aesthetics: Use, Abuse, and Dissonance in African Art Traditions (2019)



Wole Soyinka Latest News

Professor Soyinka’s brother, Femi, dies at 85

Professor Femi Soyinka, a brother of Nobel laureate and professor of Comparative Literature, Wole Soyinka, has died.

The former Provost of the College of Health Sciences of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, died on Tuesday at 85.

According to a statement by his family, signed by his son, Ayodele, Soyinka died in the early hours of Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at his home in Kukumada Village, Ibadan, Oyo State.

Soyinka, who received a medical degree in Medicine and Surgery MBChB from the University of Heidelberg in 1964, worked in the academia for 30 years, holding various positions from Chief Medical Director to Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Provost of the College of Health Sciences of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

The statement read, “The Soyinka Family of Ake/Isara, Ogun State, has announced the passing of their father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, uncle Professor Femi Soyinka, which occurred in the early hours of Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at his home in Kukumada Village, Ibadan, Oyo State.

“Born in 1937, Professor Femi Soyinka received a Medical degree in Medicine and Surgery MBChB from the University of Heidelberg, 1964; and a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from the same University in 1965. He specialized and practiced as a Dermatologist, Venereologist, and Allergologist at the University of Giessen in 1969.

“In 1972, he obtained a Master of Public Health degree from Hadassah Medical School, (MPH) Israel.

“He worked in the academic field for 30 years, holding various positions from Chief Medical Director to Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Provost of College of Health Sciences of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He was also involved in extensive research on Tropical Skin Diseases and Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in collaboration with the Federal government, international donor agencies, and organizations such as the World Bank, UNDP, DFID, the British Council; and the International Development Research Centre, Canada.

“He pioneered several types of research in the field of HIV/AIDS and worked as a consultant to various international and local agencies, including the World Health Organization, DFID, UNDP, and Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, based on his extensive experience in the subject in various parts of the country.

“Prof. Femi Soyinka was at the forefront of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. By translating the outcomes of his research into clinical practice, he impacted significantly the lives of numerous individuals and families living with the disease and the nation as a whole.

“He initiated the Ambassador of Hope program in Nigeria, encouraging people living with HIV/AIDs (PLWHAs) to speak up, thereby bringing the much-needed public awareness to the disease at a time when knowledge was low, and stigma was high. He also demonstrated technical knowledge and was involved with many other HIV/AIDs-related programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, ARV programs, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), and home-based care for PLWHAs in Nigeria, Professor Wole Soyinka Biography.

“Subsequently, he contributed significantly to capacity building of indigenous organizations across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria through his non-governmental organization – New Initiative for the Enhancement of Life and Health (NELAH), previously known as; Network on Ethics/Human Rights, Law, HIV/AIDS-Prevention, Support and Care (NELA). He was a past president of the Society for AIDS in Africa and successfully coordinated the International Conference on AIDS and STIs In Africa (ICASA) in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2005.

“He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

“Burial arrangements would be announced by the family later.”

Wole Soyinka Net Worth

Professor Wole Soyinka estimated net worth is $25 million.

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Source: Litenaija.com