Aké Essay - Critical Context (Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series)

Wole Soyinka

Critical Context (Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

From early in his career, Soyinka has insisted that the artist is inevitably engaged in society, and that everything he creates has political overtones. His awareness of the sociopolitical milieu of his own childhood is clear throughout Ake. In his home, history is localized in the wall photographs of bishops, including that of the first black bishop, Ajayi Crowther. World War II, the catalyst for the Nigerian movement to independence from British rule, is portrayed in memories of blackened windows, the explosion of an ammunition ship in Lagos Harbor, trips by Daodu and Beere to Great Britain through mined waters, and remembered family comments. References to “white men”—some peripheral, some central in his memories—are frequent, particularly in Soyinka’s accounts of events relating to ecclesiastical and secular politics. His affirmation of his Yoruba home life shows that as an artist he is politicized not by ideology but by human response. He recalls that in deciding to go to the Government College at Ibadan, he concluded that he must undertake certain mental shifts in order to survive in “another irrational world of adults and their discipline.”

Ake reveals the roots of Soyinka’s cosmopolitanism: Christian belief, introduced from Great Britain, and Yoruba life itself, for the Yoruba have long connections to the Western Hemisphere (Wole makes reference once to the “vague Brazilian side of some of our relations”)....

(The entire section is 533 words.)