NYU Abu Dhabi has secured something of a coup with the appointment of Wole Soyinka as Arts Professor of Theater.
The 1986 winner of the Nobel prize for literature, Soyinka is a towering figure in culture, human rights activism and post-imperialism. He’s best known as a playwright (over 30 plays), novelist (three, all good), poet (around eight collections), and essayist (numerous essays, articles and memoires). He’s also a sometime musician, philosopher, teacher, and scholar. As the Nobel citation put it, “in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones [he] fashions the drama of existence”.
Now aged 88, Soyinka shows few signs of slowing down – last year saw the publication of Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, Soyinka’s first novel in almost 50 years, described in Ben Okri’s review as “Soyinka’s greatest novel.”
Soyinka has held has held Fellowship and Professorial positions at universities in Nigeria, Ghana, Britain and the States (Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Emory, Nevada, Loyola Marymount). He continues lecturing as Visiting Professor and similar titles at other American, European, African and Chinese universities. He’s also an active member of international, artistic, and human rights organisations.
He joins the Theater Program as a full-time faculty member, and NYUAD says he will play a key role “in continuing to enhance the University’s standing within the arts and its growth as a preeminent research and teaching university and leader in global higher education”. As NYUAD Provost Arlie Petters observed: “Soyinka has built an impressive legacy in his home country of Nigeria as well as Africa and the entire world. The students he has taught and mentored, and the legion of teachers who have translated, developed and extended his ideas, remain the most tangible and long-lasting legacy. Our community is privileged to be part of that journey.”
He’s been involved with NYUAD before, as a Writer-in-Residence in 2020. His visit then included a master class with students, a number of community events, and a very well-received talk at the NYUAD Institute reflecting on culture and tradition, creativity and power, and activism and the artistic process.