Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka is joining the decolonisation movement at the faculty of humanities at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as a distinguished visiting professor.

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, deputy vice-chancellor of research and internationalisation at UJ, says decolonisation entails changing the movement of knowledge from the developed world to the developing world and that the appointment spoke to this project of decolonising education in the country.

Having Soyinka at the university was a move that shows Africans could have their own literature, which has its own style and flavour, he adds.

“Thereby, we can then export that literature to the rest of the world and reverse the direction of knowledge that has tended to come from outside due to our colonial history. It’s a clear demonstration that, as Africans, we have capacity and something to give to the world.”

Soyinka, who actively teach and engage in public discourse on global politics and development, will be mentoring and lecturing at the university’s “distinguished lectures” where the public is invited to talk about literature, governance and development, among a host of other themes.

Educated in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Leeds, England, where he obtained honours in English, Soyinka has held fellowship and professorial positions in the dramatic arts and comparative literature at the universities of Ibadan, Lagos and Ife (Nigeria), Legon (Ghana), Sheffield and Cambridge (England), and Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Emory, Nevada, and Loyola Marymount (US). He continues lecturing in other American, European, African and Chinese universities.

“He has been and continues to be associated with some of the best Universities in the world. UJ’s drive to decolonisation, as well as the Africanisation of knowledge, has led to substantial dialogues at the institution. These conversations provide the university the opportunity to ask searching questions about our African identity and our role in nurturing the ‘New Africa’, and the future of our university. Soyinka, as a high profile academic and social influencer, whose work, sentiments, and political positionality is taken very seriously in Africa, and across the world, will bring a new dimension to this discourse,” says Prof Alex Broadbent, Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities at UJ.

“Beyond the funds associated with the acclaimed Wole Soyinka Award for literature, there is the added value of the foundation meetings that will attract high-profile participants and enhance literature work at UJ worldwide,” Broadbent adds, “This will result in the further realisation of the internationalisation of the curriculum, and add to UJ’s international partnerships and mobility. The research and publications envisaged to flow from the foundation work will be important too for UJ’s research profile.”

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