CORA celebrates Soyinka’s 90th birthday with month-long festivities


The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) is honouring the 90th birthday of Wole Soyinka, a titan of African literature, with a series of weekly readings, exhibitions, and film screenings throughout July 2024 at Freedom Park in Lagos. This celebration, dubbed “The Soyinka Season,” is a tribute to Soyinka’s rich literary legacy and his influential life.

The festivities kicked-off on July 6 with the reading of excerpts from Ake: The Years of Childhood, one of the four of Soyinka’s seminal works, including three memoirs and one extended non-fiction narrative to feature. The readings will continue on successive Saturdays, that is July 13th, 20th and 27th with Ibadan, The Penkelemes Years, You Must Set Forth at Dawn and Isara: A Voyage Around Essay, the latter being a semi-biographical account of Soyinka’s father.

Complementing these literary events are three exhibitions, with one outdoor and two indoor displays, that delve into the vibrant and adventurous life of Soyinka. In partnership with Freedom Park and the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE), CORA is also presenting a premiere screening of The Man Died, a film adaptation of Soyinka’s prison notes chronicling his 27 months of imprisonment. Directed by Awam Amkpa, the film stars Wale Ojo as Soyinka.

This month-long celebration has roots dating back to 1994 when the Lagos arthouse community organised a week-long series of events for Soyinka’s 60th birthday, eight years after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since then, the annual commemoration has evolved into a robust tradition, with significant milestones such as the publication of WS: A Life in Full in 2004 and the yearly productions of Soyinka’s plays initiated by the now late playwright Wole Oguntokun.

The Soyinka Season has grown to include various thoughtful events orchestrated by institutions like the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and WSICE. These events feature children’s essay and art competitions, extensive performances, and lecture series across multiple cities.

At CORA’s headquarters in Lagos, programme chair Jahman Anikulapo reflects on the grand scale of this year’s celebration. “We started the Soyinka year in January and the celebration will peak at the Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF) in November,” Anikulapo said. CORA’s regular monthly BookTrek programme, where authors engage with the public through readings and discussions, has been temporarily paused to focus on the July festivities. “We will return to the BookTrek and other programs in August,” he added. “But this July, we focus on The Man.”

Through these diverse and engaging events, CORA ensures that Wole Soyinka’s literary and cultural contributions are celebrated and remembered, inspiring future generations to appreciate the profound impact of his work.

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