Nobel Laureate to Speak at WFU Convocation

Nigerian Nobel Prize-winning author and human rights activist Wole Soyinka (Woh-leh Shaw-yin-ka) will deliver the Founders’ Day Convocation address at Wake Forest University on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 11 a.m. in Wait Chapel.

Soyinka’s visit to Wake Forest is one of many cultural and academic events during the Year of Globalization and Diversity, a yearlong focus on the world’s development into a more global community.

Soyinka, a poet, playwright and novelist, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. He is currently the Woodruff Professor of the Arts at Emory University.

Through his writing and protest activities, Soyinka endured personal risk to speak out against Nigeria’s military dictators. His criticism of the late Gen. Sani Abacha in 1994 ultimately caused Soyinka to flee the country and live in self-imposed exile.

After Abacha died in 1998, his successor, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, urged the human rights leader to return home. Soyinka was greeted at the airport by hundreds of people singing freedom songs and his visit signaled confidence in Abubaker’s promise to establish democracy in Nigeria.

Among Africa’s finest writers, Soyinka published his first novel, “The Interpreters,” in 1965. Soyinka has written five poetry collections, 26 plays, and numerous novels and essay collections. From his two-year imprisonment during Nigeria’s civil war in the late 1960s, Soyinka produced, “The Man Died: Prison Notes.” The publication is a diary of Soyinka’s experience in solitary confinement. He had been imprisoned for writing an article urging a cease-fire.

Soyinka’s essay collection, “The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness,” was recently reviewed by novelist Caryl Phillips for The New York Times. Phillips wrote: “Soyinka’s analysis of the 20th-century problem of memory and forgiveness in the African world is both timely and important.” She went on to affirm that Soyinka’s analysis was an “initial volley in what will surely become a 21st-century debate.”

Soyinka has taught at several universities including Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Sheffield and Cambridge. He is a member of numerous international literary associations and has received artistic and civic honors from around the world.

Soyinka’s visit to Wake Forest ties together two themes during the Year of Globalization and Diversity: January’s focus on human rights and February’s look at war and peace. Each month is devoted to a particular theme for a deeper look at issues related to globalization and diversity. Themes for the other months are health and aging in March and the environment in April.

For information about Founders’ Day Convocation or other events during the year, call 336-758-5237.

Categories: Events, Speakers, University Announcement