Wole Soyinka honoured in Morocco


The Royal Academy of Morocco, in collaboration with the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), honoured Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka on the occasion of his 90th birthday on July 9 in Rabat, Morocco. 

The event, themed “Africa Celebrates Wole Soyinka in Morocco,” brought together cultural figures, academics and diplomats to celebrate the Nigerian writer’s outstanding contributions to both African and global literature.

Abdeljalil Lahjomri, the Permanent Secretary of the Royal Academy, lauded Soyinka’s unwavering dedication to portraying African realities, describing him as a “defender of African cultures” and a keen observer of the continent’s complexities. Lahjomri also highlighted Soyinka’s refusal to align with the Negritude movement, emphasising his ongoing battle against all forms of domination.

Dr Akanbi presenting a gift to Soyinka on behalf of ANA during the Gala night in Rabat, Morocco

Wale Okediran, Secretary-General of PAWA, commended Soyinka for his diverse talents as a poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and satirist. He applauded Soyinka’s skill in posing critical questions and amplifying African voices globally, noting his inspiration for aspiring African writers.

During the event, Soyinka expressed his appreciation for the celebration and emphasised its role in strengthening cultural ties between Morocco and West Africa. He spoke of historical parallels, pointing to the deep connections between Morocco and Senegal, exemplified by his friendship with the late Senegalese president, Léopold Senghor.

Professor Raphael Liogier from Mohammed VI Polytechnic University described the event as a significant symbol of Africa’s potential. He stressed the importance of recognising African talent like Soyinka, stating that Africa has the capability to assert itself globally and to open up to the world.

Margarita Al, president of the World Organisation of Writers (WOW), presented the Gold Medal “For contribution to the development of world literature” to Soyinka at the Gala night in honour of Prof Soyinka.

Dr Usman Ladipo Akanbi, the national president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), presented a gift to Soyinka on behalf of ANA during the event.

In addition to the celebrations in Morocco, several events are taking place throughout July 2024 to honour Soyinka’s illustrious career:

Premiere of ‘The Man Died’: Taking place at the Africa Centre in London and in the country, this film delves into Soyinka’s harrowing imprisonment experience during Nigeria’s political turmoil in the 1960s, reflecting on resilience and the quest for justice.

Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Program (WSICE): Throughout July 2024, this programme celebrates Soyinka’s commitment to nation-building and advocating for citizens’ rights globally under the theme “ENIOGUN – Engaging National Interest on Good Governance, Understanding, and Nation-Building.”

Local Celebrations in Nigeria: On July 13, 2024, art exhibitions by pupils from St. Peters Primary School, Abeokuta Grammar School, and the Ogun State Chapter of the Society of Nigerian Artists will take place in celebration of Soyinka’s birthday.

The Nigerian literary icon’s 90th birthday is also marked by an event in Abuja hosted by Arojah Royal Theatre, in collaboration with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Korean Cultural Centre, and Klub98 Initiative. This event, set for July 16 at the Korean Cultural Centre, will feature a blend of talks, performances, and a special movie screening.

Born in 1934, Wole Soyinka embarked on his literary journey in Nigeria, later gaining international acclaim for his powerful works that explore themes of tradition, modernity, oppression, justice and human dignity. Soyinka’s notable works, such as A Dance of the Forests (1966) and Death and the King’s Horseman (1975), have left an indelible mark on the literary world. His 2021 novel, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, continues to showcase his mastery in using satire to critique societal issues.

As Africa and the world celebrate Wole Soyinka’s 90th birthday, his works and legacy continue to inspire future generations, reminding us of the enduring power of creativity, courage, and intellectual rigour.

  • Featured image: Margarita Al presenting the Gold Medal “For contribution to the development of world literature” to Soyinka 
  • Photos courtesy Dr .Wale Okediran
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