Nigerian playwright becomes first African to win coveted Thalia prize

Nigerian playwright and novelist, Professor Femi Osofian, has become the first African to win the coveted Thalia prize awarded by the International Association of Theatre Critics.

The Thalia Prize is meant to highlight the work of those who have helped critics around the globe understand new ways of seeing and appreciating the performing arts worldwide.

The 2016 Thalia Prize was presented to him at the IATC Congress in Belgrade, Serbia.

Femi Osofisan won the award for his extraordinary career as critic, scholar, playwright and spokesman for artistic freedom in his native Nigeria and for his outspoken criticism of artistic repression across the African continent.

With the award, Femi Osofisan becomes the first African and indeed first Black literary scholar to win the highly contested award, which is coming shortly after he became the first Black and first African Member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) in 2014.

Probably his most well-known play is Once Upon Four Robbers, which is already taught in numerous universities around the world and has been widely anthologized. But it is only one of some 50 plays by this major artist and activist.

Like Wole Soyinka and Athol Fugard before him, Osofisan has attacked repressive governments wherever they have emerged and he has been attacked in turn.

He has had his work staged at the Guthrie and other major regional theatres in the United States, as well as in Germany, the U.K., Sri Lanka, Canada and China.

In 1982 he was appointed a member of the pioneer Editorial Board and think tank of  The Guardian Newspaper (Lagos). The author of over 50 plays and hundreds of critical essays, four novels and five collections of poetry and the subject of several celebratory volumes in his honour, Prof. Osofisan has followed in the footsteps of Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka.

His work has covered a range of subjects including, as eloquently stated in a volume of essays on his life and work published in 2009, the roles of theatre and literature in society, gender and empowerment of women, style and language, the mobility of oral tradition and even translation and transliteration.