The Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka (born 1935) was one of the few African writers to denounce the slogan of Negritude as a tool of autocracy. He also was the first black African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Wole Soyinka was born July 13, 1934 in Abeokuta a village on the banks of the River Ogun in the western area of Nigeria. His mother was a Christian convert so devout that he nicknamed her "Wild Christian" and he father was the scholarly headmaster of a Christian primary school whom he nicknamed "Essay"--a play on his occupation and his initials S.A. Soyinka was educated through the secondary level in Ibadan and later attended University College, Ibadan, and the University of Leeds, from which he graduated with honors. He worked for a brief period at the Royal Court Theatre in London before returning to Nigeria in 1960. His play, "The Invention" was staged in 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre. At that time his only published works were poems such as "The Immigrant" and "My Next Door Neighbour," which appeared in the magazine Black Orpheus.
The worsening political situation in Nigeria was reflected in Soyinka's theme for Kongi's Harvest, first performed at the Dakar Festival of Negro Arts in 1965. The theme was the establishment of a dictatorship in an African state; and the venal politician, the uncommitted, corrupt traditional ruler, and the ruthlessness of a man driven toward power were all displayed. In Idanre and Other Poems, published in 1967, Soyinka ceased being a satirist and became a gloomy visionary. The title poem, reciting a creation myth, stressed the symbols of fire, iron, and blood, which were central to the poet's view of the modern African world.
Soyinka became a vocal critic of Negritude, accusing politicians of using it as a mask for autocracy. His increasing use of polemic against social injustice and his demands for freedom coincided with the military takeover in Nigeria... [continues]
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