The University of Johannesburg (UJ) this week announced the appointment of the first African recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Prof Wole Soyinka, as a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the University’s Faculty of Humanities.
The appointment is a welcome development for the Nobel Laurette, who slimly lost out to Simon Armitage in the Oxford poetry professorship race in 2015, with just 301 votes, after being considered ‘old’ and ‘insufficiently’ committed to the job by Lord Melvin Bragg, an English broadcaster, author and parliamentarian.
For the US-based Nigerian poet and boisterous writer, being inducted into such grand position as a visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg came at a time when he is presently a co-chairman of the Lagos at 50 celebration planning committee with businessman, Mr. Rasheed Gbadamosi after being appointed by the Lagos state governor in 2016.
Prof Soyinka has held Fellowships and Professorial positions in the Dramatic Arts and Comparative Literature at the Universities of Ibadan, Lagos and Ife (Nigeria), Legon (Ghana), Sheffield and Cambridge (England), Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Emory, Nevada, Loyola Marymount (USA). He continues lecturing as Visiting Professor, Distinguished Scholar etc. in other American, European, African and Chinese universities.
According to Prof Alex Broadbent, Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities, UJ, “Prof Soyinka has a stellar record in teaching, publications, and public intellectual discourse. He has been and continues to be associated with some of the best Universities in the world. UJ’s drive to ddecolonization as well as the Africanization of knowledge has led to substantial dialogues at the Institution. These conversations provided the University the opportunity to ask searching questions about our African identity and our role in nurturing the New Africa, and the future of our University. Prof Soyinka as a high profile academic and social influencer whose work, sentiments, and political positionality is taken very seriously in Africa, and across the world will bring a new dimension to this discourse,”
In December, 2016, Prof Soyinka delivered the UJ-Times Higher Education International conference. On the side-lines of the conference, conversations were begun to explore how best to take forward the partnership with the Professor, as well as with his Wole Soyinka Foundation, which is particularly well known for its Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.
Among his artistic recognitions, Wole Soyinka has received the Enrico Mattei Award for the Humanities, the Leopold Sedar Senghor Award for the Arts, the John Whiting Literary Prize, the Benson Medal of the Royal Society for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour, The Premio Litterario Internazionalle Mondello, Italy and the UNESCO Medal for the Arts, Commander of the French Legion d’Honneur.
Currently he is Life Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, Emeritus Fellow of the Black Mountain Institute, University of Nevada, Overseas Fellow of Hutchins Institute, Harvard University, and Professor Emeritus, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Founder and Chairman of the Wole SOYINKA Foundation, Nigeria.
Prof Broadbent concluded: “As a UJ Distinguished Visiting Professor, Prof Soyinka will play a highly visible representative role in his global engagements away from Johannesburg, thus furthering UJ recognition and the reach of the UJ brand.”