56 Years of Nigerian Literature: 'Zulu Sofola

by - 18:01

Today, as part of my celebration of Nigerian women writers, I focus on the first published female Nigerian playwright and Africa's first female Professor of Theatre Arts, 'Zulu Sofola.

Photo via zulusofola.com

In a blog post I found celebrating 'Zulu Sofola, the author writes that Sofola 'was perhaps, the most important female playwright in Africa during her time'. Particularly in 

... a male-dominated world where the voice of women seemed unheard and under-appreciated, 'Zulu Sofola stepped forward and distinguished herself as a literary icon and an excellent dramatist.

Sofola's plays were diverse and could feature tragedy, satire, myths or crime (to name a some). As noted by Abiodun Abe (a director of a number of Sofola's plays and Technical Director of Nigeria's National Theatre) in the aforementioned blog post, her plays:

... are largely traditional and instructive and they tell tales of love and royalty through tragedies and the various experiences of human life in such a way that readers and audience alike are both entertained and informed in one scenario or the other.
In her own words via In Their Own Voices: African Women Writers Talk, Sofola shares what motivates her writing:

I am motivated by human problems that confront us all. It depends on the spirit of a problem before i get the kind of inspiration which makes me want to write about it. Then I do my research.
And via Womanism and African Consciousness, we get what Sofola says she questions through her writing 
... most of my writing questions the 'isms' that have been superimposed on the African people.
Some cool facts on Profoessor Sofola: her works include 17 plays, 15 published plays, along with other manuscripts discovered at the time of her death. These include Wedlock of the Gods (1972), King Emene: Tragedy of a Rebellion (1974), The Sweet Trap (1974), Old Wines are Tasty (1979) and  Memories in the Moonlight (1986). And the first play Sofola produced and publlished was The Disturbed Peace of Christmas - staged first at Yejide Girls' Grammar School in Ibadan, and then published by Daystar Press (also in Ibadan).

Covers via zulusofola.com 

Even more cool facts, in an interview with Adeola James, Sofola notes how music got her into writing:

... music was my original interest. But when I was studying in the United States, I had to select another subject in addition to my main line. That was what landed me in drama. But I found that in dram I was also in music because I could produce plays with a musical background and I could use music for the mood. So it was through music that I got into writing.
Sofola's last play -  Queen Omu-Ako of Oligbo - was written and produced while she was a Fulbright Scholar in the Sates. A historical play about the Nigerian civil war, as explained in this article on Aidoo's feminism and Sofola's de-womanisation 

[Sofola] shows how the dual-sex system of government functions with an Omu, the leader of women controlling the female are of the government. Being the granddaughter of an Omu, Sofola uses the leadership role of the Queen to debunk notions of female powerlessness and passivity propagated by European culture.
Find out more about 'Zulu Sofola and her works on her official website, and here are some posters and stills of scenes of Sofola's plays.

Virgo Foundations production in London in 2011. Image via wailacaan.com
Still from the performance of Wedlock of the Gods  in London via afridiziak.com

Chi Ife Productions in  Atlanta in 2013. Image via zulusofola.com

Still from performance of Wedlock of the Gods in Atlanta. Image via broadwayworld.com

Mosaic Theatre Production in Lagos in 2014. Image via lindaikeji

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