Religious metaphors and the crisis of faith in Wole Soyinka’s poetry




Wole Soyinka, metaphors, faith crisis, interventions, humanity


Most commentaries on Wole Soyinka’s works across genres engage with his constant invocation of cultural tropes, most of which revolve around Ogun, his self-proclaimed muse. In this article, I highlight the centrality of religious myths and metaphors in a selection of Soyinka’s poems, namely, “Idanre” in Idanre and Other Poems (1967), Ogun Abibman (1976), “Joseph”, one of the “Four Archetypes” poems in A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972), “Mandela’s Earth” in Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1989), and selected poems under the sections “The Sign of the Zealot” and “Elegies” in Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002). While identifying the limitations of the poet’s Ogun trope, I dissect the centrality of faith issues in Soyinka’s poetry into two slants. The first, which is seen as encompassing his widely explored Ogun trope, is his use of religious metaphors to intervene on the dystopias in his postcolonial space. The second is his concern with the crisis of faith, a menace that has continued to threaten global peace. After drawing copious examples of religious tropes from Soyinka’s selected poems, I focus on the attention given by the poet to crisis in faith relationships. The copious examples of Soyinka’s use of religious metaphors lead to the conclusion, at the end of the paper, that access to Soyinka’s poetry is best achieved by paying attention to his religious metaphors. I also identify Soyinka’s antidote for the crisis of faith which lies in his prescription of tolerance and respect for humanist ideals.


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Author Biography

Kayode Niyi Afolayan, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria

Kayode Niyi Afolayan is senior lecturer in the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.


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How to Cite

Afolayan, K. N. (2023). Religious metaphors and the crisis of faith in Wole Soyinka’s poetry . Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 60(2), 1–12.



Research articles