Wole Soyinka’s Birthday

Today marks the 77th birthday of writer Wole Soyinka (Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka).

This literary warrior and fierce advocate of human rights was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria in 1934. One of the crowning moments of his illustrious career as a poet, playwright, novelist, and educator occurred in 1986 when he became the first African writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Soyinka dedicated his Nobel Banquet Speech—which celebrates Ogun, his creative muse—to Nelson Mandela, whose release from imprisonment on Robben Island was still four years to come.

The above clip is an excerpt from the the UNESCO World Poetry Day celebrated in March 2006 in Oviedo (Spain), with the participation of Dereck Walcott, Adonis, Angel González, Soyinka, among other poets, and a touch of music by Sophie Auster and One Ring Zero. Soyinka is seen reading his poem “Pens for Hire”, followed by Sophie Auster’s performing her song “The Last Poem” (Paul Auster’s translation of Robert Desnos’ “Le dernier poème”).

Click here for a bibliography of Soyinka’s work.

Below is a photo of Soyinka taken with my wife Gwen in Washington, D.C. circa 1978.

Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.
Wole Soyinka


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