Elechi Amadi, Gabriel Okara, Flora Nwapa, Cyprian Ekwensi, Sokoto caliphate
Nigeria’s modern literature grows out of a tradition of storytelling and historical remembrance that has existed in Nigeria for millennia. Oral literature ranges from the proverbs and dilemma tales of the common people to elaborate stories memorized and performed by professional praise-singers attached to royal courts. In states where Islam prevailed, significant written literatures evolved. The founder of the Sokoto caliphate, Usuman dan Fodio, wrote nearly 100 texts in Arabic in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His prose and poetry examined issues such as good government and social relations from an Islamic moralist perspective. The legacy of this Islamic tradition is a widely read modern literature comprised of religious and secular works, including the Hausa-language poetry and stories of Alhaji Abubakar Imam.
In 1986 Nigerian Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Soyinka is a prolific author of poetry, novels, essays, and plays that blend African themes with Western forms. His uncompromising critiques of tyranny, corruption, and the abuse of human rights have often angered Nigeria’s military rulers. One of his most powerful books, The Man Died (1972), was written while Soyinka was imprisoned during the civil war of 1967 to 1970. Chinua Achebe, whose novels include A Man of the People (1966) and No Longer at Ease (1960), is another Nigerian writer whose work commands a wide international audience. Other important novelists include Cyprian Ekwensi, Nkem Nwanko, Elechi Amadi, Flora Nwapa, and Clement Ogunwa, who write mostly in English. John Pepper Clark, Gabriel Okara, Christopher Okigbo, and Ken Saro-Wiwa are well-known poets.
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