Nigerian Playwright and poet, the first African to be awarded Nobel Prize in Literature turns 81. Born 13 July 1934, he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature. His award was described as “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.” His Nobel acceptance speech, “This Past Must Address Its Present”, was devoted to Nelson Mandela. Soyinka’s speech was an outspoken criticism of apartheid and the politics of racial segregation of the South African government.
Fondly called Kongi after a character in one of his works, the Professor excels in all of the genres of literature and his phenomenal works are reference levels in educational circles everywhere in the world.
Activities are lined up by creative lovers of Kongi in Abeokuta and Lagos. Today, Abeokuta is expected to host a celebration in his honour anchored by Teju Kareem’s Z-Mirage, on the platform of the International Cultural Exchange Programme. There will be performances by the Ogun State Cultural Troupe, Jimi Solanke, and Yinka Ola-Williams at the Amphi Theatre in the Soyinka’s Ijegba Forest home.
Among other programmes, Soyinka will interact with 81 pupils that are the finalists in the annual essay competition, this has since become synonymous with his birthday celebrations. Theodora Ulerie (from Trinidad and Tobago) and Noma Shodipo both story tellers are also having workshops with the pupils while the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, and his wife will also host the participants.
In Lagos, Performing Arts Workshop and Studios (PAWS); a theatre production outfits, with outstanding performances such as Camwood on the Leaves, The Wives, Rubiewe, Shattered, and Death and the King’s Horseman, amongst others brings to stage one of Wole Soyinka’s powerful dramatic statement titled ‘Madmen and Specialist’ to TerraKulture this July.
The stage play is directed by Kenneth Uphopho (Director of Saro the Musical and Single in Gidi), and will be seen 19th and 26th July.
Kongi, an activist and revered social commentator in August 2014, delivered a recorded of his speech “From Chibok with Love” to the World Humanist Congress in Oxford, hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the British Humanist Association. He was awarded with the 2014 International Humanist Award.