Updated in 2012 – Wole Soyinka Biography: Profile & Life History
Professor Wole Soyinka was the first and only Nigerian to win a Nobel Prize and the second African to achieve the same feat. This article looks at the life history of the Wole Soyinka, as well as other little known facts about him – such as his books, literary works, and quotable quotes.
Wole Soyinka Biography
Prof. Wole Soyinka, named Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka, was born on the 13th day of July, 1934 in Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria (therefore Wole Soyinka age as of present is 78 and Wole Soyinka nationality, without doubt, is Nigerian).
He hails from Isara Remo in Ogun state.
He was the second of the six children born to his family. His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka was an Anglican minister, and his mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka, was a trader.
Wole Soyinka’s mother is a descendant of the popular Ransome-Kuti family in Abeokuta. Thus, he was a cousin to the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Wole Soyinka had his elementary education at the St. Peters primary school in Abeokuta, from where he proceeded to Abeokuta Grammar School, for his secondary education. He gained admission into Federal Government College, Ibadan in 1946.
In 1952, he proceeded to the University College Ibadan, now University of Ibadan, where he studied, Western History, English literature, and Greek.
In 1954, Soyinka began work on a short radio play, “Keffi’s birthday threat”, which was broadcast by the Nigerian Broadcasting Service.
Wole Soyinka went to England in 1954 to continue his studies in literature. There, he worked with and learned from top-notch British writers. Before he defended his Bachelor of Arts degree, Soyinka worked as an editor for a satirical magazine, the Eagle.
Wole Soyinka’s early career
Wole Soyinka wrote his first major play, The Swamp Dwellers in 1958. His second, The Lion and the Jewel, came in 1959. After the publication of these two Wole Soyinka books, he was invited to the Royal Court Theatre, London, where he worked as a play reader.
Soyinka wrote his first play to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre, The Invention, in 1957.
As at 1957, some Wole Soyinka poems, such as “The immigrant” and “My Next Door Neighbour” were already published in the Nigerian magazine, The Black Orpheus.
After receiving the Rockefeller Research Fellowship grant for research on African Theatre, he returned to Nigeria. With the grant, he bought a Land Rover, with which he travelled all over the country during his research works.
It was around this time that he wrote the popular satire, The Trials of Brother Jero.
Though he had won many international awards earlier, Wole Soyinka shot to global fame when he won the Nobel Prize for peace in 1986. His acceptance speech, titled, “This Past Must Address Its Present” was dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
Later in the same year, Wole Soyinka received the Agip Prize for literature.
Wole Soyinka, in 2009, bagged the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award.
In all, he won over twenty national and international awards and honours.
Note: as is the case with every famous individual, the autobiography of Wole Soyinka is so extensive that it could fill a whole book of several pages.