By Abdulafeez Olaitan
Professor Wole Soyinka has been appointed ‘Arts Professor of Theatre’ at the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), effective from September 1.
As a full-time Arts Professor, the Nobel laureate has become the first ever Nobel prize winner to be part of NYUAD.
The Nigerian novelist, poet and human rights activist joins the NYUAD Theater Program as a full-time faculty member, thereby offering the community direct access to one of the world’s greatest thinkers, the school confirmed on its website.
It described Soyinka’s appointment as Professor of Theater as an integral part of NYUAD’s Academic Strategy, and its mission as an educational institution in Abu Dhabi.
“Soyinka is a multifaceted artist-dramatist, poet, essayist, musician, philosopher, academic, teacher, human rights activist, and global artist and scholar. His appointment is aligned with NYUAD’s Academic Strategy and its mission. 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.”
The 1986 recipient of Nobel Prize in Literature will play a key role towards building the University’s deep strength within the arts and its growth as a preeminent research and teaching university and world-class leader in global higher education.
“It is a great honor 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 catalyze 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.”
According to Westermann, Soyinka’s class this fall, “Art, Literature, Citizenship and Culture,” will explore questions of citizenship and culture, how works of art can be said to “belong” to a country or culture and contribute to the work of shaping national or cultural identities.
The class will draw on diverse genres of literature from a range of times and places — from ancient Greece to the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary Turkey and eighteenth-century England.
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 90 pieces of intellectual work that often reflect on culture and tradition, creativity and power, activism, and the artistic process.
The Nobel laureate has held university professorships and lectured at many higher education institutions, including Harvard, Emory, Loyola Marymount, and Yale in the United States. He is also an active member of international, artistic, and human rights organizations.
Soyinka first became a part of the NYUAD community as a Writer-in-Residence in 2019. His visit then was through a joint invitation from the African Studies, Film and New Media, History, Literature and Creative Writing, and Theater programs, hosted by the NYUAD Institute and supported by other offices across the University.
According to the school, its Theater Program is an academic and artistic laboratory dedicated to theater research, scholarship, and practice. It says its theater 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.