Aké Essay - Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series Aké Analysis

Wole Soyinka

Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces Aké Analysis

In Ake, Soyinka recounts his childhood in the teeming Yoruba world of the most densely populated black African country. He supplies a plethora of details of life in a household in which both African tradition and Christianity are honored. The young Wole enjoys the sights and smells of the busy markets to which women walked many miles carrying their goods and is attracted to the dancing, music, egungun (ancestral masquerade), and ogboni meetings. The whole household carefully monitors him to end his compulsive habit of swiping akara in the pantry. Asked to perform for visitors, the precocious Wole is ambivalent. While Soyinka does convey momentary disgust or despair, nearly all of his memories are happy ones; an exception is his account of Folasade’s illness and death.

Soyinka’s style in Ake is rich and lyrical. He makes use of innumerable Yoruba words and proverbs and many synonyms and spelling variants. His reader cannot fail to be dazzled by the vivid details of the Episcopal Bishops Court compound and St. Peter’s Church. He conveys a sense of the child’s constant movement about the home and outside, cataloging the abundance of flora and his home’s smells, tastes, and sights: slogans stitched into samplers, the contents of many mysterious jars and bottles in his mother’s bedroom.

Soyinka’s characterizations are remarkably astute. At the age of three, he follows his sister to school, which to him seems a...

(The entire section is 568 words.)