The literati and arts enthusiasts across the world will today roll out the drums in celebration of Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who turns 80. He was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State on July 13, 1934.
Series of stage plays, conferences and discourses in celebration of the life of the distinguished bard holding globally are expected to reach their crescendo today. In Nigeria, among other events, the living literary legend is being celebrated via a project tagged WS Open Door Series, an international cultural exchange.
Earlier, all for the new ‘octogenarian status’ of the revered Nobel laureate, there were exhibition tours to Abeokuta, Osogbo, Port Harcourt, Lagos and Jos. Some of Soyinka’s plays such as Alapata Apata, Death and the King’s Horseman, Madmen and Specialist, Dance of the Forest, including Lanke Omu and Oba Koso, are being performed to the delight of theatre lovers.
Besides, 80 poets drawn from Nigeria, US and Jamaica have exhibited their creative impulses at a gathering tagged ‘The Soyinka Impulse and Education-Path to Freedom and the Future’ held in Lagos. This is in addition to the deluge of encomiums that continue to pour in for Soyinka from his admirers.
Soyinka, whose oeuvre persistently interrogates core human issues, has constantly expressed his disdain for tyranny. The playwright has continued to speak against many of the problems plaguing the country and proffer solutions as appropriate. Lately, he renewed his condemnation for the raging insurgency confronting the country including other mind-boggling challenges.
Though the playwright, essayist, poet, activist and critic has felt the jackboots of the military for daring to query its excesses, he remained undaunted in pursuing a cause he believes in.
From The Man Died (1971) which documents his 22-month incarceration, The Swamp Dwellers, A play of Giants, Kongi’s Harvest, Requiem for a Futurologist, Season of Anomy, A Dance of the Forest to The Lion and the Jewel among numerous others, Soyinka unveils his literary preoccupation and exceptional style.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday congratulated Soyinka for reaching a ‘landmark age.’
In a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan said, “As Soyinka’s enters the elite club of the world’s highly revered octogenarians and very special people who have made very significant and indelible contributions to their countries and humanity, the President joins Prof. Soyinka, his family, friends, associates, readers and fans across the world in giving thanks to God Almighty for his glorious life of service to the arts, his nation and mankind at large.”
The statement indicated that Jonathan lauded the playwright’s life-long dedication and commitment to promoting democracy and good governance in Nigeria.
“On the happy occasion of the Nobel laureate’s 80th birthday, President Jonathan applauds his life-long dedication and indefatigable commitment to using his acclaimed genius and talents, not only in the service of the arts, but also for the promotion of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. The President assures Prof. Soyinka that he will always be celebrated and honoured by his proud countrymen, women and children for his famed literary works and for his exemplary career, which has inspired others to take up a life of selfless service to humanity.
The President prays that God Almighty will grant him many more years of good health and strength to continue with his devotion to making the world a better place for his people and all who live in it,” the statement added.
As continuation of the celebration of Soyinka’s graceful attainment of 80, a leading African Literature Scholar and Provost, College of Humanities at the Kwara State University, Prof. Abiola Irele is expected to speak on the theme, ‘Wole Soyinka and the Moral Burden of Literature’ at the 6th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series in Lagos today.
The forum, which hopes to draw attention to the diverse ways literature mirrors and impacts on the society, will also dwell on the lessons from the life and works of Soyinka.
Scholars and poets such as Prof. Ropo Sekoni, Odia Ofeimun and Dan Izevbaye are expected to also participate in the discourse.