Media Advisory: Nigeria’s Soyinka to speak on campus

ATTENTION: Reporters covering literature, human rights, politics and Africa


A public talk at the University of California, Berkeley, by Nobel Prize-winning writer, playwright, essayist and poet Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka of Nigeria. The 2009-2010 Avenali Chair in the Humanities at the campus’s Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, Soyinka will speak on “Rights and Relativity: The Interplay of Cultures.”


7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1


Wheeler Hall Auditorium, near the center of campus. See the campus map on the UC Berkeley home page.


In 1986, Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka became the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Soyinka has long been an outspoken critic of political dictatorships and corruption in Africa and around the world. During the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s, he was imprisoned without trial for 27 months after trying to broker peace between the warring Nigerian and Biafran parties.

Today, increased tensions are reported in Nigeria as its president, Umaru Yar’Adua, remains in Saudi Arabia, where he went in November for medical treatment, and following religious clashes, the kidnapping of an Anglican bishop and stalled reforms of governmental oversight of the West African nation’s petroleum-rich waters.

Soyinka’s writings include the books “The Interpreters” (1964), “The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka” (1972), ”The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis” (1996) and the play “A Dance of The Forest,” a criticism of Nigeria’s political elites that was chosen as the official play for Nigerian Independence Day.


Free tickets to the 7:30 p.m., Feb. 1 talk will be available at the auditorium box office starting at 6:30 p.m. and will be limited to one ticket per person.

At 4 p.m. the following day, Tuesday, Feb. 2, Soyinka will join a panel discussion about his work in the Maude Fife Room, on the third floor of Wheeler Hall, near the center of campus. Other panelists will include UC Berkeley professors Michael Watts of geography, Donna Jones of English and Catherine Cole of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. Anthony Cascardi, director of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, will moderate.

Note: Due to copyright issues, Soyinka’s talk cannot be recorded or broadcast.