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Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka Joins NYU Abu Dhabi Faculty

by Eddie Rayner

Wole Soyinka, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been appointed Arts Professor of Theatre at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), effective 1 September 2022. 

A multifaceted artist-dramatist, poet, essayist, musician, philosopher, teacher, human rights activist, and global artist and scholar, Soyinka joins the NYUAD Theatre Programme as a full-time faculty member, thereby offering the community direct access to one of the world’s greatest thinkers.

Soyinka’s appointment is aligned with NYUAD’s Academic Strategy and its mission as a university in and of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. 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.

“It is a great honour to have Wole Soyinka, a world-renowned artist, academic, and activist, a true citizen of the world and a Nobel laureate join our NYUAD community,” said NYUAD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann. “Our location in Abu Dhabi, a transnational crossroads for the exchange of cultural and artistic traditions, positions NYUAD uniquely to catalyse new creativity and discourse. We are excited to provide a home in the UAE for the beauty and power of Soyinka’s contributions to our understanding of our histories and our humanity.”

Soyinka becomes the first Nobel prize winner to be part of the NYUAD faculty

NYUAD Provost Arlie Petters said: “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 and his ongoing work that will impact generations to come.”

Soyinka has published more than 90 works on culture and tradition, creativity and power, activism, and the artistic process. His most recent book published in 2021, “Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and has been described in the Los Angeles Times as a tour de force combining “elements of a murder mystery, a searing political satire and an Alice in Wonderland-like modern allegory of power and deceit.” Soyinka has held positions at other higher education institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Duke, Emory, and Loyola Marymount in the United States. He is also an active member of international, artistic, and human rights organizations.

Soyinka’s appointment is aligned with NYUAD’s Academic Strategy and the University’s mission as an educational institution

Soyinka first became a part of the NYUAD community as a Writer-in-Residence in 2020. His visit then was through a joint invitation from the African Studies, Film and New Media, History, Literature and Creative Writing, and Theatre programmes, hosted by the NYUAD Institute and supported by other offices across the University.

The NYUAD Theatre Programme is an academic and artistic laboratory dedicated to theatre research, scholarship, and practice. For NYUAD’s theatre majors, the making, thinking, creating, and articulating of culture are inseparable, and the overall aim is to develop artist-citizens whose theatrical contributions will expand the limits of the field and make a difference in the world. NYUAD Theatre Programme graduates collaborate with other artists, scientists, and scholars across disciplines and invent new and hybrid cultural practices that will define and influence theatre in the UAE and beyond.