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Wole Soyinka Redux: Covers His CTBF Convo with Becky Ayebia Clarke

Wole Soyinka

An event at the Cape Town Book Fair that BOOK SA didn’t really get to – having covered his other appearances in the city – was Wole Soyinka’s conversation with his publisher, Nana Becky Ayebia Clarke. was there, however, and Anne Taylor has posted her notes on the Q&A. It’s well worth a read:

You Must Set Forth at Dawn

There is a Nigerian saying that “an old man is there to talk”. Seventy-six-year-old Nigerian literary giant Wole Soyinka is never afraid to give his candid opinion. According to the Mail & Guardian newspaper, at a gala dinner hosted by the department of arts and culture during the Cape Town Book Fair, guest of honour Soyinka began his speech with an anecdote about what has always remained an important issue to him – access to books for the youth.

Earlier this year Wole Soyinka came across a group of children marching in Cape Town for the right to gain access to books and well-stocked libraries. Some of the young marchers recognised him, possibly because the author’s trademark mass of grey hair is a dead giveaway. Realising the value of having him on their side, they asked Soyinka to join them in their protest. He replied that all he could do was provide moral support. This is because demanding the right to literature should be their fight.

In a discussion at this year’s Cape Town Book Fair with his co-publisher Nana Becky Ayebia Clarke of Ayebia Clarke Publishing, the human-rights activist-writer Soyinka said book clubs and educative programmes, which enable children to have a normal relationship with their libraries, are some ways to make reading more exciting. Clarke, a Ghanaian publisher based in Oxfordshire in the UK, added that it would be wonderful if children could meet him so that they, too, could “feel empowered to write their own book”. Soyinka is the first black African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but he said others should be made to understand that they can also be creative and productive people. Passionate about encouraging people to read, he added that if South Africa made any profit from hosting the Soccer World Cup it should be used to enhance the reading culture or buy books for the less privileged, otherwise as far as he is concerned, the country can keep its vuvuzelas.

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