Wole Soyinka Biography, Early Life, Net Worth, Honours and Works

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka Biography, Early Life, Net Worth, Honours and Works

Full Name: Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka

Stage Name: Wole Soyinka

Occupation: Author, Poet and Playwright

Date of Birth: July 13, 1934

Place of Birth: Ogun State, Nigeria

Gender: Male

Spouse: Barbara Dixon (m 1958, divorced)​ Olaide Idowu ( m 1963, divorced) ​Folake Doherty ( m 1989)

Children: 10

Nationality: Nigerian 

Wole Soyinka Biography, Early Life, Net Worth, Honours and Works

The writer Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka Born on July 13, 1934, Hon. FRSL is a Nigerian writer, novelist, poet, and essayist who writes in English. His pen name is Wole Soyinka.

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986 for fashioning the drama of existence in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones. He was the first person from sub-Saharan Africa to win that award.

Early Life

He was born in Abeokuta into a Yoruba family. He started going to Government College in Ibadan in 1954. After that, he went to University College Ibadan and then the University of Leeds in England. He worked for the Royal Court Theatre in London after going to school in Nigeria and the UK.

Then he wrote plays that were put on in theatres and on the radio in both countries. He was involved in Nigeria’s political past and its fight for freedom from British colonial rule. He took over the station of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service in 1965 and used it to call for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections.

During the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, he was arrested by General Yakubu Gowon’s central government and locked up alone for two years because he volunteered to be a non-government mediator.

Soyinka has been a harsh critic of many Nigerian and African governments, especially the many military tyrants that have been in power in the country. He has also spoken out against other political tyrannies, such as the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

A lot of his work has been about the uncomfortable boot and how the colour of the foot that wears it doesn’t matter. During the rule of General Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Soyinka rode a motorbike through the “NADECO Route” to get out of Nigeria.

He was later given the death penalty “in absentia” by Abacha. When civilian government was brought back to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka went back to his country.

Soyinka taught comparative literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria from 1975 to 1999. The university was then known as the University of If. When Nigeria got back to democratic rule in 1999, he was made professor emeritus.

He taught at Cornell University as the Goldwin Smith professor for African Studies and Theatre Arts from 1988 to 1991. After that, he went to Emory University and was named the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts in 1996. That was his time in the United States. For many years, Soyinka taught creative writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He has also been a scholar-in-residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, and at the Institute of African American Affairs at New York University. For a year in 2008, he was a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Duke University. He has also taught at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and Yale.

In December 2017, Soyinka won the Europe Theatre Prize in the “Special Prize” category. This award goes to someone who has helped make cultural events happen that help people understand each other and share information.

Personal Life

Toyin Soyinka has been married three times and split up twice. He has eight kids from his three marriages and two more girls. He married the late British author Barbara Dixon for the first time in 1958.

They met at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. His first boy, Olaokun, and his daughter, Morenike, were both born to Barbara. He married Olaide Idowu, a Nigerian librarian, for the second time in 1963.

They had three girls together: Moremi, Iyetade (1965–2013), and Peyibomi. They also had a son, Ilemakin. Amani is Soyinka’s youngest daughter. Soyinka got married to Folake Doherty in 1989. They have three kids together, named Tunlewa, Bojode, and Eniara.

Soyinka talked about his fight with prostate cancer in 2014.

Soyinka has talked about his close friendships with Toni Morrison and Henry Louis Gates Jr., saying, Friendship is what keeps me sane.


During the public launch of his two-volume collection of writings on Sunday, November 20, 2022, Soyinka said the following about religion:

Do I really need a religion? I’ve never thought I needed one. As a mythologist, I study them. I don’t worship any gods, sorry. But I think of gods as creatively real, which means they are with me on my trip in both the real world and my imagination.

Around July 2023, Soyinka got a lot of bad press after sending an open letter to the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, about the cancellation of the Isese festival that an Osun priestess named Omolara Olatunji, also known as Yeye Ajesikemi, had suggested.

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Net Worth

Wikipedia, Forbes, IMDb, and other websites say that the great playwright Wole Soyinka is worth $115 million. He made the money by writing plays for a living.


Professor Wole Soyinka is one of Nigeria’s and Africa’s most famous and long-lasting writers. The Wole Soyinka Annual Lecture Series was started in 1994 to celebrate him.

The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is in charge of it. Soyinka and six other students started the group in 1952 at what was then University College Ibadan.

To celebrate him, the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre built a writers’ enclave in 2011. It is in Lagelu Local Government Area, Adeyipo Village, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

There is a Writer-in-Residence Program in the enclave that lets writers stay for two, three, or six months and do real creative writing. In 2013, he went to the Benin Moat as a UNESCO representative to honour the Nigeria Seven Wonders project.

He is now the adviser for the Lagos Black Heritage Festival because the state of Lagos thought he was the only one who could explain to people what the Festival was all about. In 2020, he was made a member of Humanists UK.

In 2014, Bookcraft in Nigeria and Ayebia Clarke Publishing in the UK released Crucible of the Ages: Essays in Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80. The collection was edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochwuku Promise, and it included tributes and essays from Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Margaret Busby, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ali Mazrui, Sefi Atta, and others.

There was a tweet in 2018 from Henry Louis Gates Jr. saying that the Nigerian director and writer Onyeka Nwelue had come to Harvard to make a documentary about Wole Soyinka.To honour Wole Soyinka’s 84th birthday, a book of poems called 84 Delicious Bottles of Wine was released.

The poems were put together by Onyeka Nwelue and Odega Shawa. Adamu Usman Garko, a teen essayist, poet, and writer who has won awards, was one of the important participants.


  • 1973: Honorary D.Litt., University of Leeds
  • 1973–74: Overseas Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge
  • 1983: Elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (Hon. FRSL)
  • 1983: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, United States
  • 1986: Nobel Prize for Literature
  • 1986: Agip Prize for Literature
  • 1986: Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR).
  • 1990: Benson Medal from Royal Society of Literature
  • 1993: Honorary doctorate, Harvard University
  • 2002: Honorary fellowship, SOAS
  • 2005: Honorary doctorate degree, Princeton University
  • 2005: Enstooled as the Akinlatun of Egbaland, a Nigerian chief, by the Oba Alake of the Egba clan of Yorubaland. Soyinka became a tribal aristocrat by way of this, one vested with the right to use the Yoruba title Oloye as a pre-nominal honorific.
  • 2009: Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council member Archbishop Desmond Tutu at an awards ceremony at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2013: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Lifetime Achievement, United States
  • 2014: International Humanist Award
  • 2017: Joins the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, as a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Humanities
  • 2017: Special Prize of the Europe Theatre Prize
  • 2018: University of Ibadan renamed its arts theater to Wole Soyinka Theatre.
  • 2018: Honorary Doctorate Degree of Letters, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB).
  • 2022: Honorary Degree from Cambridge University: A degree that is bestowed upon people who have made outstanding achievements in their respective fields.



  • Keffi’s Birthday Treat (1954)
  • The Invention (1957)
  • The Swamp Dwellers (1958)
  • A Quality of Violence (1959)
  • The Lion and the Jewel (1959)
  • The Trials of Brother Jero (1960)
  • A Dance of the Forests (1960)
  • My Father’s Burden (1960)
  • The Strong Breed (1964)
  • Before the Blackout (1964)
  • Kongi’s Harvest (1964)
  • The Road (1965)
  • Madmen and Specialists (1970)
  • The Bacchae of Euripides (1973)
  • Camwood on the Leaves (1973)
  • Jero’s Metamorphosis (1973)
  • Death and the King’s Horseman (1975)
  • Opera Wonyosi (1977)
  • Requiem for a Futurologist (1983)
  • A Play of Giants (1984)
  • Childe Internationale (1987)
  • From Zia with Love (1992)
  • The Detainee (radio play)
  • A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play)
  • The Beatification of Area Boy (1996)
  • Document of Identity (radio play, 1999)
  • King Baabu (2001)
  • Etiki Revu Wetin
  • Alapata Apata (2011)
  • Thus Spake Orunmila (in Sixty-Six Books (2011)


  • The Interpreters (1965)
  • Season of Anomy (1973)
  • Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth (Bookcraft, Nigeria; Bloomsbury, UK; Pantheon, US, 2021)

Short stories

  • A Tale of Two (1958)
  • Egbe’s Sworn Enemy (1960)
  • Madame Etienne’s Establishment (1960)


  • The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972)
  • Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981)
  • Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: a memoir 1945–1965 (1989)
  • Ìsarà: A Voyage around Essay (1989)
  • You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006)

Poetry collections

  • Telephone Conversation (1963) (appeared in Modern Poetry in Africa)
  • Idanre and other poems (1967)
  • A Big Airplane Crashed into The Earth (original title Poems from Prison) (1969)
  • A Shuttle in the Crypt (1971)
  • Ogun Abibiman (1976)
  • Mandela’s Earth and other poems (1988)
  • Early Poems (1997)
  • Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002)


  • Towards a True Theater (1962)
  • Culture in Transition (1963)
  • Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition
  • A Voice That Would Not Be Silenced
  • Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture (1988)
  • From Drama and the African World View (1976)
  • Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976)
  • The Blackman and the Veil (1990)
  • The Credo of Being and Nothingness (1991)
  • The Burden of Memory – The Muse of Forgiveness (1999)
  • A Climate of Fear (the BBC Reith Lectures 2004, audio and transcripts)
  • New Imperialism (2009)
  • Of Africa (2012)
  • Beyond Aesthetics: Use, Abuse, and Dissonance in African Art Traditions (2019)


  • Kongi’s Harvest
  • Culture in Transition
  • Blues for a Prodigal


  • The Forest of a Thousand Demons: A Hunter’s Saga (1968; a translation of D. O. Fagunwa’s Ògbójú Ọdẹ nínú Igbó Irúnmalẹ̀)
  • In the Forest of Olodumare (2010; a translation of D. O. Fagunwa’s Igbo Olodumare)

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