Funso Aiyejina (born 1949) is a Nigerian poet, short story writer, playwright and academic. He is the former Dean of Humanities and Education (until his retirement in 2014) and current Professor Emeritus at the University of the West Indies. His collection of short fiction, The Legend of the Rockhills and Other Stories, won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book (Africa).
Funso Aiyejina was born in 1949 in Ososo, Edo State, Nigeria. He is not Yoruba as most people think. He graduated from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in Canada, and the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad. He taught for more than a decade at Obafemi Awolowo University, and since 1990 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad & Tobago. In 1995–96, he was Fulbright Lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. He is Deputy Festival Director of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
Aiyejina’s poetry and short stories have been published in many international journals and anthologies including The Anchor Book of African Stories, Literature Without Borders, Kiss and Quarrel: Yoruba/English – Strategies for Mediation, The New African Poetry, and The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry (1999), in which 1999 publication he was described as “one of Nigeria’s finest satirists”. His stories and plays have been read and dramatized on the radio in Nigeria and England.
He won the Association of Nigerian Authors‘ Poetry Prize in 1989 for his first book of poetry, A Letter to Lynda and Other Poems (1988). His first book of fiction, The Legend of the Rockhills and Other Stories (1999), won Best First Book (Africa), Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, 2000. Reviewing his 2004 poetry collection, I, The Supreme and Other Poems, Jennifer Rahim stated: “All of Aiyejina’s books to date demonstrate a concentrated interest with the historical, cultural and political life of Africa, particularly his native Nigeria. What is also evident is an emerging engagement with the continent’s expanded diaspora. His writing, in other words, manifests a blossoming black diasporic poetics…. As outsider/insider to the Caribbean landscape and culture, he is awed by the miracle of African cultural survival and transformation.”
He is a widely published critic on African and West Indian literature and culture. He is particularly notable for his work on the writing of Earl Lovelace, having been the editor of A Place in the World: Essays and Tributes in Honour of Earl Lovelace @ 70 (2008) and of Earl Lovelace: Growing in the Dark (Selected Essays) (2003), as well as author of the 2017 biography Earl Lovelace (University of the West Indies Press). Aiyejina is also the editor of Self-Portrait: Interviews with Ten West Indian Writers and Two Critics (2003) and co-editor (with Paula Morgan) of Caribbean Literature in a Global Context (2006). His play The Character Who Walked Out On His Author has been performed in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Nigeria.