Wole Soyinka (left) and President Bola Tinubu when the literary giant paid a courtesy visit to the Nigerian leader in his office in Abuja. The Nigerian government named a major road in the Federal Capital Territory after the Nobel laurate in June to acknowledge his contributions to national development/Photo: Nigerian Presidency

London’s Africa Centre celebrates Wole Soyinka at 90

The Africa Centre London has rolled out an elaborate programme to celebrate the life of Wole Soyinka, the first African Nobel laureate in Literature (1986), to mark the Nigerian writer’s 90th birthday.

From Friday, July 19 to Saturday, July 27, The Africa Centre will come alive with exhibitions, roundtables, film screenings, live music performances and poetry recitals to celebrate the literary giant and human rights icon, who turns 90 on 13 July.

Visitors will be able to explore Soyinka’s literary journey with ‘WS: A Life in Full’ — a comprehensive display of his published works and photographs from his personal archive; NINE Seasons of KONGI (Wole Soyinka) – a collection of paintings by youth members of the Vision of The Child mentored by Soyinka; and incorporating the Africa I-D-E-N-T-I-T-Y, a touring showcase based on public reading of his poems realised in nine European cities; ORI Series II (For WS), a collection of conceptual water colour drawings by UK-based artist Abolore Shobayo. Also included is a rare presentation of Soyinka’s passion collection of Onicha Market literature.

Another highlight of the programme will be the London premiere of a new feature film inspired by Soyinka’s seminal prison memoirs, THE MAN DIED to be accompanied by a Q & A session with the director, Awam Amkpa, and producer, Femi Odugbemi, and some members of the cast and crew.

Also premiering in London, is Ebrohimie Road, a documentary based on Soyinka’s former residence on the University of Ibadan campus from where he was arrested in 1967, and where he returned to after his release in 1969. It features revealing interviews with some of his children, siblings and associates. The documentary’s director Kola Tubosun will also engage with the public.

Other activities will include daily screenings of films and documentaries related to or inspired by Soyinka’s life and work, and Kongi’s Nights, a series of evening entertainment including live music performances by Ed Keazor & the AfroFunk Collective, Juwon Ogungbe, Lekan Babalola, Ola Onabule, Aduke, Kayefi, MeOlogo, Jazz session with Bumi Thomas, and music party with DJ Abass etc; poetry recitals and wine-tasting.

There will also be talks, seminars and workshops on ‘Navigating the New Publishing Industry’, ‘The impact of AI on Culture & Identity’, ‘Culture Sponsorship & Corporate Social Responsibility’, and, a symposium on “The Future Is Now – A Decolonisation Intersection” by partner institution Bournemouth University, while Utopia Theatre will host a virtual unveiling of Soyinka’s portrait at the University of Sheffield.

Also on the bill is “Ijo-mode, a dance workshop for youths with Peter Badejo, as well as presentation of prizes to winners of the essay competition on the theme, “AI & New Media: Reimagining Culture, Identity & Humanity” organised in partnership with TURAKA Art Centre, Chatham.

Olu Alake, CEO of The Africa Centre – “This year holds dual cause for celebration: The Africa Centre’s 60th anniversary and the 90th birthday of a global literary giant, Wole Soyinka. We are incredibly honoured to partner with the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange in celebrating Professor Soyinka’s remarkable life and his long-standing association with the Centre, dating back to 1969. He is not just a literary icon, but an integral part of our history. We are thrilled to host this momentous occasion and share Professor Soyinka’s story with all generations of literature lovers.

Dr Teju Kareem, Executive Producer of Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange – “Prof. Soyinka has consistently pursued the betterment of society through his support for freedom and the common good of all irrespective of age, class, gender, religious or political persuasions — making his work a global service to humanity. His career spanning academia, literature, and activism exemplifies a profound commitment to creating a just and equitable world, thus encapsulating the essence of E.N.I.O.G.U.N as both a personal and a universal pursuit.”

Full event details at The Africa Centre’s website

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