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Wole Soyinka

2013 Lifetime Achievement

Wole Soyinka, winner of the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award, is a Nigerian playwright, poet, essayist, and profile in courage. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first African to be so honored.

At 78, he still afflicts the political tyrannies in his path, as he has since he was a young man.

Born into a prominent Nigerian family in 1934, Soyinka wrote a detailed account of his early life in Ake: The Years of Childhood, which won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction in 1983. Soyinka has consistently criticized Nigerian military dictators and political tyrannies worldwide since the mid-1960s. In 1967, Nigerian authorities arrested Soyinka and placed him in solitary confinement for 22 months for attempting to broker peace during the Biafran War. The prisoner wrote on scraps of paper, which contributed to “The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka.” In awarding him its literature prize in 1986, the Nobel Jury cited him as a writer “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence.”

Soyinka splits his time between his Nigerian home in Ogun state and teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

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Blog Posts about Wole Soyinka

Public Art Inspired By Anisfield-Wolf Canon Makes A Splash Across Cleveland

Riders heading to downtown Cleveland on the RTA’s Red Line may have noticed quite a few more pops of color adorning the city landscape over the past two weeks. The colors have a story, and each story comes from a work or writer in the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award canon.Inter|Urban, the collaboration among the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation, North East Ohio Area Coordinating Agency, RTA and LAND studio, has filled the 19-mile stretch from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and into downtown Cleveland with bright, vibrant... Read More →

Wole Soyinka At 80: The Author Speaks On Politics, Contemporary Nigerian Culture, And Boko Haram

The magisterial Wole Soyinka turned 80 this week, and—once again—the world is listening. In London, the Royal African Society hosted "Wole Soyinka at 80," a retrospective on the life of the Nobel laureate and Anisfield-Wolf winner, exploring his influence in politics and letters.  As a young man, the Nigerian playwright and poet attempted to broker peace during the 1967 Biafran War, becoming a political prisoner and spending 22 months in solitary confinement.  He wrote “The Man Died” out of that experience. For the retrospective... Read More →

As Search For Nigeria School Girls Continues, Wole Soyinka's Urging To Fight For Education Remains Poignant

Last September, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke passionately about the global “contest between barbarism and enlightenment” around educating  children.  His words sound prophetic now in the wake of the April kidnapping of Nigerian school girls in the northeast of his own beloved country. “To go to school – to handle a book – becomes a life and death event,” Soyinka said in his acceptance remarks at the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book awards ceremony. “Right now, in northern Nigeria, there are school children who have been waylaid... Read More →

Connecting King And Soyinka: Some Things Were Meant To Be Looked At Differently

Kerrick Woyshner, 18, was a scholar in the first college-level Anisfield-Wolf class, pioneered by Dr. Lisa Nielson at Case Western Reserve University. Students read essays, poems and books by Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners, attended the September awards ceremony and did original research on topics inspired by the course. “I never realized what motivated my hand to click on the ‘Reading Social Justice: The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards’ class this summer,” Woyshner wrote. “I wanted something new. Though I hailed from a conservative... Read More →

VIDEO: Wole Soyinka On Winning A Lifetime Achievement Award

At the conclusion of this year's ceremony, a number of Nigerians in attendance approached our lifetime achievement winner Wole Soyinka, for a chance to get close to the man they admired. A few bowed in his presence. He returned their kindness, speaking with a few before being whisked away to the book signing. We spoke with Soyinka to hear his thoughts on being honored for a lifetime of work and what it means to get that type of reception at this point in his career:   2013 Lifetime Achievement Winner Wole Soyinka from Anisfield Wolf on Vime... Read More →

Meet Our 2013 Winners!

Laird Hunt The jury has spoken and five new authors will join the Anisfield-Wolf family. Our 2013 winners are:  Laird Hunt, Kind One, Fiction Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds, Fiction Eugene Gloria, My Favorite Warlord, Poetry Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree, Nonfiction Wole Soyinka, Lifetime Achievement “The 2013 Anisfield-Wolf winners are exemplars who broaden our vision of race and diversity,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who chairs the jury. “This year, there is exceptional writing about the war in Iraq, slavery on a... Read More →

Meet Wole Soyinka, 2013 Lifetime Achievement Winner

We’ll be spending this week exploring the lives and works of the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Award winners. Today we're recognizing Wole Soyinka, this year's Lifetime Achievement winner. The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism. ~Wole Soyinka  A playwright/poet/essayist, Soyinka is one of Nigeria's most beloved figures. Repeatedly, he has risked his life to protest the corrupt governmental regimes. In 1967, he was arrested and put in solitary confinement for 22 months for his attempts at brokering a peace between the... Read More →

Meet Our 2012 Winners!

“The 2012 Anisfield-Wolf winners reflect the complexity of the issues of race and cultural diversity in our world,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, who serves as jury chair. “These books and the people who created them help us gain a deeper understanding of the need to respect both the humanity and individuality of one other.” Our 2012 winners are (click on any of the photos to read more... Read More →

Chairing the Jury

Chairing the jury for the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards is one of the single pleasures of my life. The thought that a poet – a white, female poet – had the foresight to endow a prize to honor excellence and diversity, at the height of the Great Depression, is something of a miracle, isn't it? And in a few days, we will honor her commitment to racial equality and justice by recognizing this year's winners of her prize, the 76th such occasion. It is humbling to thumb through the names of previous winners, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale... Read More →
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