He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature ,  the first African to be honoured in that category. Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta. He went on to write plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres and on radio. He took an active role in Nigeria 's political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain.
Wole Soyinka's The Swamp Dweller
In , he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections.
In , during the Nigerian Civil War , he was arrested by the federal government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for two years. Soyinka has been a strong critic of successive Nigerian governments, especially the country's many military dictators, as well as other political tyrannies, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.
Much of his writing has been concerned with "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it". Woodruff Professor of the Arts. His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka whom he called S. Soyinka's mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka whom he dubbed the "Wild Christian" , owned a shop in the nearby market. She was a political activist within the women's movement in the local community. She was also Anglican. He was raised in a religious family, attending church services and singing in the choir from an early age; however Soyinka himself became an atheist later in life.
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His mother was one of the most prominent members of the influential Ransome-Kuti family : she was the daughter of Rev. Canon J. In , after attending St. In he was accepted by Government College in Ibadan , at that time one of Nigeria's elite secondary schools.
After finishing his course at Government College in , he began studies at University College Ibadan —54 , affiliated with the University of London. He studied English literature , Greek , and Western history. Among his lecturers was Molly Mahood , a British literary scholar.
Later in , Soyinka relocated to England, where he continued his studies in English literature, under the supervision of his mentor Wilson Knight at the University of Leeds — He met numerous young, gifted British writers.
Before defending his B.
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He wrote a column on academic life, often criticising his university peers. After graduating with an upper second-class degree, Soyinka remained in Leeds and began working on an MA. His first major play, The Swamp Dwellers , 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.
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 , his play The Invention was the first of his works to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre. Soyinka received a Rockefeller Research Fellowship from University College in Ibadan, his alma mater, for research on African theatre , and he returned to Nigeria. 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 , 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 , 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. The political tensions arising from recent post-colonial independence eventually led to a military coup and civil war — With the Rockefeller grant, Soyinka bought a Land Rover , and he began travelling throughout the country as a researcher with the Department of English Language of the University College in Ibadan.
He is often quoted as having said, "A tiger doesn't proclaim his tigritude, he pounces. At the end of , his first feature-length movie, Culture in Transition , was released. In April The Interpreters , "a complex but also vividly documentary novel",  was published in London. That December, together with scientists and men of theatre, Soyinka founded the Drama Association of Nigeria.
In he also resigned his university post, as a protest against imposed pro-government behaviour by the authorities. A few months later, in , he was arrested for the first time, charged with holding up a radio station at gunpoint as described in his 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, as a result of protests by the international community of writers. Soyinka's political speeches at that time criticised the cult of personality and government corruption in African dictatorships.
The Road was awarded the Grand Prix. After becoming chief of the Cathedral of Drama at the University of Ibadan , Soyinka became more politically active.
Following the military coup of January , he secretly and unofficially met with the military governor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in the Southeastern town of Enugu August , to try to avert civil war. As a result, he had to go into hiding.
He was imprisoned for 22 months  as civil war ensued between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Biafrans. Through refuse materials such as books, pens, and paper, he still wrote a significant body of poems and notes criticising the Nigerian government while in prison. He also published a collection of his poetry, Idanre and Other Poems.
While still imprisoned, Soyinka translated from Yoruba a fantastical novel by his compatriot D. In October , when the civil war came to an end, amnesty was proclaimed, and Soyinka and other political prisoners were freed.
For the first few months after his release, Soyinka stayed at a friend's farm in southern France, where he sought solitude. He wrote The Bacchae of Euripides , a reworking of the Pentheus myth.
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At the end of the year, he returned to his office as Headmaster of Cathedral of Drama in Ibadan. In June , he finished another play, called Madman and Specialists. It gave them all experience with theatrical production in another English-speaking country.
In , his poetry collection A Shuttle in the Crypt was published.
Madmen and Specialists was produced in Ibadan that year. Soyinka travelled to Paris to take the lead role as Patrice Lumumba , the murdered first Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo , in the production of his Murderous Angels.
In April , concerned about the political situation in Nigeria, Soyinka resigned from his duties at the University in Ibadan, and began years of voluntary exile. In , he was awarded an Honoris Causa doctorate by the University of Leeds. His powerful autobiographical work The Man Died , a collection of notes from prison, was also published that year.
From to , Soyinka spent time on scientific studies. In Soyinka was promoted to the position of editor for Transition , a magazine based in the Ghanaian capital of Accra , where he moved for some time. He used his columns in Transition to criticise the "negrophiles" for instance, his article "Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition" and military regimes.
He protested against the military junta of Idi Amin in Uganda. After the political turnover in Nigeria and the subversion of Gowon's military regime in , Soyinka returned to his homeland and resumed his position at the Cathedral of Comparative Literature at the University of Ife. In , he published his poetry collection Ogun Abibiman , as well as a collection of essays entitled Myth, Literature and the African World.
In these, Soyinka explores the genesis of mysticism in African theatre and, using examples from both European and African literature, compares and contrasts the cultures. In he both directed and acted in Jon Blair and Norman Fenton's drama The Biko Inquest , a work based on the life of Steve Biko , a South African student and human rights activist who was beaten to death by apartheid police forces.
Soyinka founded another theatrical group called the Guerrilla Unit. Its goal was to work with local communities in analysing their problems and to express some of their grievances in dramatic sketches. In his play Requiem for a Futurologist had its first performance at the University of Ife. In July, one of his musical projects, the Unlimited Liability Company, issued a long-playing record entitled I Love My Country , on which several prominent Nigerian musicians played songs composed by Soyinka.
In , he directed the film Blues for a Prodigal ; his new play A Play of Giants was produced the same year.
STRAIGHTalk with Professor Wole Soyinka
During the years —84, Soyinka was more politically active. At the University of Ife, his administrative duties included the security of public roads.
He criticized the corruption in the government of the democratically elected President Shehu Shagari.
When he was replaced by the army general Muhammadu Buhari , Soyinka was often at odds with the military. Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in ,   becoming the first African laureate. He was described as one "who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence".
Reed Way Dasenbrock writes that the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Soyinka is "likely to prove quite controversial and thoroughly deserved".
The Strong Breed
He also notes that "it is the first Nobel Prize awarded to an African writer or to any writer from the 'new literatures' in English that have emerged in the former colonies of the British Empire. Soyinka's speech was an outspoken criticism of apartheid and the politics of racial segregation imposed on the majority by the Nationalist South African government. In , he received the Agip Prize for Literature.
In , his collection of poems Mandela's Earth, and Other Poems was published, while in Nigeria another collection of essays entitled Art, Dialogue and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture appeared. Both works are very bitter political parodies, based on events that took place in Nigeria in the s.
In Soyinka was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard University.
The following year his play The Beatification of Area Boy was published. In he was charged with treason by the government of General Sani Abacha. The International Parliament of Writers IPW was established in to provide support for writers victimized by persecution. Soyinka became the organization's second president from to That same year, a BBC-commissioned play called "Document of Identity" aired on BBC Radio 3 , telling the lightly-fictionalized story of the problems his daughter's family encountered during a stopover in Britain when they fled Nigeria for the US in ; her baby was born prematurely in London and became a stateless person.
In he cancelled his keynote speech for the annual S.
Write Awards Ceremony in Bangkok to protest the Thai military's successful coup against the government.