Credit for image of Wo̩lé S̩óyinká: unknown.

Fresh from celebrations for his 85th birthday days ago, Wo̩lé S̩óyinká has a new book coming. An expansion of his three-part Richard D. Cohen Lectures at Harvard in 2017—the first, “The Acquisitive Eye: ‘Oga, I Swear It’s Original Fake'”; the second, “Heirs to the Procreative Deities: The Yoruba at Large”; the third, “From Aso Ebi to N****YWOOD”—the new book, Beyond Aesthetics: Use, Abuse, and Dissonance in African Art Traditions, draws on his experience as a longtime art collector to explore identities, traditions, and originality in the making, collection, and exhibition of African art, widening into a reflection on aesthetics, cultural histories, and meaning.

The 144-page book will be published on 12 November 2019, by Yale University Press, in association with Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, with the hardcover edition set for release on 14 January 2020.

Here is a description by its publisher:

An intimate reflection on culture and tradition, creativity and power, that draws on a lifetime’s commitment to aesthetic encounter

The playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is also a longtime art collector. This book of essays offers a glimpse into the motivations of the collector, as well as a highly personal look at the politics of aesthetics and collecting. Detailing moments of first encounter with objects that drew him in and continue to affect him, Soyinka describes a world of mortals, muses, and deities that imbue the artworks with history and meaning.

Beyond Aesthetics is a passionate discussion of the role of identity, tradition, and originality in making, collecting, and exhibiting African art today. Soyinka considers objects that have stirred controversy, and he decries dogmatic efforts—whether colonial or religious—to suppress Africa’s artistic traditions. By turns poetic, provocative, and humorous, Soyinka affirms the power of collecting to reclaim tradition. He urges African artists, filmmakers, collectors, and curators to engage with their aesthetic and cultural histories.


Our crosscheck with other online sources of S̩óyinká’s full-length works listed (incorrectly) on Wikipedia showed that he has published 49, including 27 plays (including radio- and TV-released), eight essay collections, seven poetry collections, four memoirs, two novels, and one fictional memoir.


  • The Invention (1957)
  • The Swamp Dwellers (1958)
  • The Lion and the Jewel (1959)
  • The Trials of Brother Jero (1963)
  • A Dance of the Forests (produced 1960, published 1963)
  • My Father’s Burden (TV play, 1960)
  • The Strong Breed (1964)
  • The Detainee (radio play, 1965)
  • Before the Blackout (1965)
  • Kongi’s Harvest (1965)
  • The Road (1965)
  • Madmen and Specialists (1970)
  • The Bacchae of Euripides (1973)
  • Camwood on the Leaves (1973)
  • Jero’s Metamorphosis (1973)
  • Death and the King’s Horseman (1975)
  • Opera Wonyosi (1977)
  • Requiem for a Futurologist (1983)
  • Sixty-Six (1984)
  • A Play of Giants (1984)
  • Childe Internationale (1987)
  • From Zia with Love and a Scourge of Hyacinths ((1992)
  • The Beatification of Area Boy (1995)
  • Document of Identity (radio play, 1999)
  • King Baabu (2001)
  • Etiki Revu Wetin (publication year unconfirmable)
  • Alapata Apata: A Play for Yorubafonia, Class for Xenophiles (2011)

Poetry collections

  • Idanre and Other Poems (1967)
  • Poems from Prison, republished as A Big Airplane Crashed into The Earth (1969)
  • A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972)
  • Ogun Abibiman (1976)
  • Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1988)
  • Early Poems (1998)
  • Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002)


  • The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972)
  • Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981)
  • Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: A Memoir 1946-65 (1994)
  • You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006)


  • The Interpreters (1965)
  • Season of Anomy (1973)

Fictional Memoir

  • Isara: A Voyage Around Essay (1990)

Essay Collections

  • Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture (1988)
  • Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976)
  • The Blackman and the Veil: Beyond the Berlin Wall (1993)
  • The Credo of Being and Nothingness (1991)
  • The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness (1998)
  • A Climate of Fear (2005)
  • New Imperialism (2010)
  • Of Africa (2012)

Beyond Aesthetics is his 50th full-length book or media publication. What a career.

Pre-order it on Yale’s website