Ken Saro-Wiwa Letters

Ken Saro-Wiwa was one of Nigeria’s leading literary figures. He authored children’s books, novels, plays, poetry and articles/books on political and environmental issues, he produced and directed Basi and Company, a ground-breaking sitcom that ran from 1985 to 1995 on Nigerian television and was later syndicated across Africa.

Ogoni Solidarity Ireland (OSI) campaigned from Ireland on behalf of the people of Ogoni and Ken-Saro Wiwa who were campaigning against the destructive impact of Shell on their land.

OSI campaigned from 1994 to highlight the environmental devastation on Ogoni and to save the life of author, poet and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight colleagues (the “Ogoni 9”) who were on trial for treason. Unfortunately, all 9 were hanged in November 1995 on the orders of a ‘military tribunal’.

These letters were smuggled out of military detention in breadbaskets by visitors.

Note the second poem, FOR SISTER MAJELLA McCARRON by Ken Saro-Wiwa. Source: Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive at Maynooth University

Through 28 letters to Sister Majella McCarron, Saro-Wiwa writes about family, the Ogoni struggle against Royal Dutch Shell, his writings, poetry and the conditions of his captivity.

On 10th November 2011, Sister Majella McCarron presented her collection of personal correspondence and 27 poems she had received from Ken Saro-Wiwa to Maynooth University, which have been preserved, restored and made available for open access online for future generations to explore.

Sister Majella McCarron with members of Ogoni Solidarity Ireland at the annual Action from Ireland (Afri) Famine Walk in County Mayo, 1995. Photo: © Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive Maynooth University Library (PP/7/107)

For more:

  • explore the Ken Saro-Wiwa collection– digitised and maintained by Maynooth University Library
  • read and access the 28 letters as well as dozens of campaign photos from Ogoni Solidarity Ireland available on Maynooth University Library’s Flickr page
  • listen to the audio archive recordings by Anne O’Brien with Sr Majella about her Ogoni-related activities and campaigns in Ireland (eight interviews), as well as interviews with Saro-Wiwa’s family members (three interviews), two with his brother, Owens Wiwa, one with his daughter, the influential travel writer, Noo Saro-Wiwa and one with Helen Fallon, deputy librarian of Maynooth University Library about the ‘death row’ collection.
  • Read the Ogoni Bill of Rights, co-drafted by Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1990 and check out the short blog on Platform (UK) reviewing progress and civil society actions on the 20th anniversary of the executions of the Ogoni Nine.

Source: Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive at Maynooth University Library

Year: 1990s

Courtesy of Helen Fallon and Maynooth University Library