Building Ibadan on Ake: Childhood Influence and the Making of Adult Activist in the Autobiographies of Wole Soyinka

  • S Olaoluwa


That Wole Soyinka‟s activism both nationally and internationally assumes an epic proportion can as well be taken for granted, what with his roles in the making of Nigeria‟s post-independence history, his poetic intervention in apartheid South Africa, and his unflinching fidelity to the cause of Pan-Africanism. But it is to his autobiographies one must turn in order to assess the great impact of his childhood influence on his activism, which sometimes almost inverts his status as first and foremost a writer and Nobel laureate. For, indeed beyond the derogation of autobiographies‟ vulnerability to flutters of exaggerated emotions and mawkish romanticism, there definitely remains a validation of the truism that they more often than not reflect with profound acuity how much of adult configuration and accomplishment are extracted from the influence of innocent, impressionable childhood. This paper therefore seeks to explore first the representations of some adult activist characters in his autobiography of childhood, Ake: The Years of Childhood (1981). Of deserved mention are his parents and their role in anti-colonial struggle. But perhaps more important are the duo of Reverend and Mrs. Kuti and their much more direct activism coupled with their revolutionary tendencies, especially by Reverend Kuti to initiate the little boy into the domain of global consciousness through analyses and debates of international news items and publications to the extent of alerting him to the subtle nuances of imperialism and racism on the global stage. On the other hand, the paper will consider the transmutation of the child in Ake into a remarkable adult political activist in Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years (1994), arguing that his adult activism owes so much to the adult activist characters of his childhood autobiography.

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eISSN: 0075-7640
print ISSN: 0075-7640