Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Wole Soyinka visits Ransom Center

Two men standing side by side

Harry Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley with Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka

Group of people standing side by side

From left: Joey Kolker, Naminata Diabate, Wole Soyinka, Gabriela Redwine, and Ousseynou Sy

Nigerian playwright, political activist, poet, novelist, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka stopped by the Ransom Center this spring during his visit to the University.

Soyinka toured the Ransom Center with Molly Schwartzburg, Curator of British and American Literature, and viewed drama-related materials from the performing arts and manuscript collections, including correspondence from the late 1950s between the Royal Court Theatre and the office of the Lord Chamberlain regarding the censorship of John Osborne's The Entertainers. Soyinka worked for the Royal Court Theatre as a script-reader, actor, and director from 1958 to 1959.

After signing the authors' door, Soyinka visited viewed an exhibition of the Ransom Center's African materials. The exhibition was a collaborative effort between Joey Kolker, an exhibitions intern at the Ransom Center and Plan II Honors and Latin American Studies undergraduate, and three graduate student members of the English department's Ethnic and Third-World (e3w) Literature interest group: Naminata Diabate, a Fulbright Alumna and Ph.D. student in the Program in Comparative Literature; Gabriela Redwine, an archivist at the Ransom Center and master's student in Women's and Gender Studies; and Ousseynou Sy, a Ph.D. student in English and master's student in Public Policy. The students contributed items they had discovered while researching several of the Ransom Center's African collections for an e3w project.

One featured item was a letter Soyinka wrote to Dennis Duerden of the Transcription Centre in October 1969, shortly after he was released from prison:

"The wanderer is home again" Soyinka wrote. Soyinka has been imprisoned several times for his criticism of the Nigerian government.

Also on display were English and Yoruba versions of Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard, playbills from Nigerian productions of The Lion and the Jewel and Kongi's Harvest, a 1976 Nigerian Observer article about Soyinka and FESTAC, and Graham Greene's 1959 Congo journal.

During his visit to the University, Soyinka was honored with a cultural celebration of dance, theater, and poetry performances by several student groups. After visiting the Ransom Center and meeting with faculty and students, he delivered his lecture, "Race, Rights, and the Agony of Darfur," to a full house at the Payne Auditorium and responded to questions from the audience.

Soyinka's visit was a joint effort by 14 different offices, departments, and centers on campus, including the Center for African and African-American Studies, the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of English, the Ransom Center, and the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice.

The Ransom Center has several collections containing materials by African writers or about Africa. Learn more about these collections by exploring the hyperlinked finding aids below:

James Barlow (1921-1973)
Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen, 1885-1962)
Herman Charles Bosman (1905-1951)
Roy Campbell (1901-1957)
Peter E. Clarke (1929- )
J.M. Coetzee (1940- )
Jack Cope (1913-1991)
Yaffa Claire Draznin
Eliot Elisofon (1911-1973)
Nadine Gordimer (1923- )
Stephen Gray (1942- )
Graham Greene (1904-1991)
Robert Guy Howarth (1906-1974)
Dan Jacobson (1929- )
Wopko Pieter Jensma (1939-?)
Uys Krige (1910-1987)
Mazisi Kunene (1930-2006)
Doris Lessing (1919- )
Bernth Lindfors (1938- )
Bernth Lindfors Collection of Amos Tutuola
Robert E. McDowell (1928- )
Oliphant Bell Miller (soldier in the Boer War)
Sarah Gertrude Millin (1889-1968)
Alan Paton (1903-1988)
William Plomer (1903-1973)
Research in African Literatures (1966-1990)
Olive Schreiner (1855-1920)
J.H. Scott (soldier in the Boer War)
Nora I. Sholto-Douglas (1889- )
Ernest William Smith (1864-1935)
The Transcription Centre, 1962-1978
Amos Tutuola (1920-1997)
Laurens van der Post (1906-1996)
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
Robert Wren (1928-1989)
Francis Brett Young (1884-1954)

 

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