A wide-ranging conversation with Wole Soyinka; Nigerian playwright, poet and novelist of global acclaim
Professor Wole Soyinka (b. 1934) was the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1986. A distinguished philosopher, academic and commentator, he is most famous as a playwright. His A Dance of the Forests (1963) and Death and the King’s Horseman (1975), for example, chart the discontents and conflicts of the colonial and early post-colonial eras, at the same time drawing on a deep and complex heritage of Yoruba mythology. Throughout his career, Soyinka has been an outspoken critic of injustice and corruption. He spent time in prison during the 1960s, going into voluntary exile after his release for the second time in 1969.
Soyinka has published numerous works in a variety of genres including drama, memoir, fiction and cultural critique. Today, he continues to engage actively with art and life in Nigeria and Africa, and annually presents the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, set up in his name in 2005. Recent intellectual engagements include calls to value manifestations of popular culture, such as pamphlet publishing – a form of easily accessible publishing in Nigeria and Ghana which has dramatically expanded both authorship and readership – and outdoor art such as ‘mobile murals’ – signboards on buses, lorries and taxis.
Wole Soyinka will be in conversation with Olusola Oyeleye.
Olusola Oyeleye is an award-winning writer, director and producer working in opera, music theatre, visual arts and dance. Her theatre includes Trevor Nunn’s West End production of Porgy and Bess (Savoy Theatre), staff producer at English National Opera, Spirit of Okin and Sankofa for Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble, the award-winning Call Mr Robeson (New York Fringe Festival, Carnegie Hall, DC Black Theatre Festival et al), The Shelter(Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican Theatre), Medea (Ariya, Royal National Theatre Studio). Opera work includes Akin Euba’s Orunmila’s Voices: Songs from the Beginning of Time (Jefferson’s Arts Centre, New Orleans), Chaka: An Opera in Two Chants (St. Louis African Chorus), and Dido and Aeneas (Tricycle). Her poetry has been set to music by Akin Euba and performed at both Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Olusola is artistic director of Ariya, associate producer for Collective Artistes and a Fellow of the RSA. She has been a visiting artist/lecturer at universities in South Africa and London.