Africa’s foremost writer and the World’s greatest living dramatist is 80 years old today!
Happy Birthday to Wole Soyinka!
Long may he live!
Soyinka was in Accra last week for the launch of Crucible of the Ages: Essays in Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80. The book is edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochukwu Promise. Contributors include Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ato Quayson, Niyi Coker, Toni Morrison, Toyin Falola and many, many more.
The book launch itself was a presidential affair with both the Presidents of Ghana and Rwanda, Governors of two Nigerian states, Commonwealth leaders, members of Ghanaian Parliament in attendance. Of course, anything in honor of Soyinka cannot possible be too grand. It didn’t feel like a book launch at first, but by the end of the evening, the writers, readers, and bloggers in attendance had taken our event back. Take back the book launch!
Abena Busia read her poem ‘The Lion Has Entered the House’ (her contribution to the festricht), which makes poetic use of the meanings of Soyinka’s names and has woven into it the titles of his plays and memoirs. It’s a longish poem so I won’t quote the entire piece here save for the last two stanzas:
“Such it has ever been, in the nature of the trials
Brother Jero, Kongi, Baabu and all the tricksters
Madmen, specialists and oh so vengeful gods or wizards
Require forceful interventions:
So the strong breed, swamp dwellers all
Who stride this Mandela’s earth
Assembled at your command,
To dance the dance of the forests
First as operatic interlude for a hope filled past
And then as requiem for a disappointed future,
In the unending dramatic rituals of poetic words and dance.
No, the dance for justice is not over.
The Lord entered the house
And whatever wizards rule,
The kings and all their eternal horsemen
In a kaleidoscope of death and beauty
Follow the imperative of the brave one come
That with enduring strength and resolution
We still set forth at dawn.”
I’ll end with a few pictures from the book launch. (The Presidency of Rwanda has more official pictures on their Flickr page here.) Also, I’ll be reading Soyinka’s plays to celebrate his 80th. Details soon.