The Heck is Soyinka’s Aké? A Book Review

Aké: the years of childhood

Aké is the second of the five memoirs written by Wole Soyinka, the first of few individuals from Africa to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The memoir, set in Abeokuta, pre-independent Nigeria, details the life of Soyinka from a toddler to his descent into adulthood. The story begins with a dexterous description of Aké’s ambience, catapulting the reader into a nostalgic and perpetual longing for a past he has never witnessed.

Unlike other children

Soyinka, the protagonist, grew up in a religious household. This is evident in how he constantly referred to his mother as Wild Christian and his father as Essay (from the pronunciation of the initials, “S. A.”) Unlike many toddlers and children in general who cry on their first day in school, he developed an insatiable appetite for education, and books particularly, right from childhood—his first day in school had a lasting impression on him, making him vow to come every day. This phase of his life was also coloured by Osiki, whose love for Iyan cemented but almost dissolved their friendship save the birthday that succeeded the event.

Further, the clash of cultures manifested during his visit to Isara. His refusal to prostrate even amidst chiefs is excusable because of his position as the son of Ayo, the teacher.

Also, the persistence of pagan beliefs and superstitions amidst the prevalence of Christianity came up in the book. The encounter with Oro in the forest close to the parsonage. The brief mention of abiku and the change of Dipo’s name to Femi as a result of the perceived obstinacy of individuals bearing Dipo. And a few others.

Abeokuta women’s movement

The Second World War met Soyinka with his young mind, recalling the events that unfolded during the war. At the same time, the conception and the formation of the Abeokuta women’s movement came into being, in which Soyinka played the role of Hermes. This also brought the Kutis, his cousins, into the limelight. A family of activists to which the Afrobeat master Fela Kuti belonged. The father, Daodu, was an educationist and the founder of Abeokuta Grammar School. The mother, Beere, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, avidly loves Wild Christian’s moi-moi. She was a prolific activist and the brain behind the Abeokuta Women’s movement. The women’s movement was a union of the onikebe and aroso. They displayed resilience in protesting the unjust tax increase by laying siege on the Alake’s palace.

The memoir began its climax at Soyinka’s pursuit of securing a government scholarship into Government College Ibadan. However, his inability to secure it in his first attempt made him sojourn in Daodu’s Abeokuta Grammar School. This is why his grandfather initiated him into the realm of the elders through powdered incisions.

Soyinka’s expertise in narrating events with utmost precision in recollection and masterful articulation are things to watch out for in the book.

If the above are not triggers to read Aké, check out the book and tell us more in the comment section.

Add on: Femi Soyinka later became the Provost of the College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

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