Lola Shoneyin (born Titilola Atinuke Alexandrah Shoneyin; 26 February 1974 in Ibadan, Nigeria) is a Nigerian poet and author[1] who launched her debut novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, in the UK in May 2010.[2] Shoneyin has forged a reputation as an adventurous, humorous and outspoken poet (often classed in the feminist mould), having published three volumes of poetry.[3] Her writing delves into themes related to female sexuality and the difficulties of domestic life in Africa.[4] In April 2014 she was named on the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.[5] Lola won the PEN Award in America[6] as well as the Ken Saro-Wiwa Award for prose in Nigeria.[7] She was also on the list for the Orange Prize in the UK for her debut novel, The Secret of Baba Segi's Wives, in 2010.[8] She lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where she runs the annual Aké Arts and Book Festival.[9] In 2017, she was named African Literary Person of the Year by Brittle Paper.[10]

Lola Shoneyin
Lola Shoneyin 2015
Titilola Atinuke Alexandrah Shoneyin

(1974-02-26)26 February 1974
NationalityNigerian / British
SpouseOlaokun Soyinka
  • Chief Tinuoye (father)
  • Yetunde Shoneyin (mother)
RelativesAbraham Olayinka Okupe (Grandfather)
Family4 Children
AwardsLiterary Person Of The Year - 2018



Early life


Titilola Atinuke Alexandrah Shoneyin was born in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, south-western Nigeria, in 1974. She is the youngest of six children and the only girl. Her parents, Chief Tinuoye Shoneyin and Mrs. Yetunde Shoneyin (née Okupe), are Remo indigenes from Ogun State.

Shoneyin’s work is significantly influenced by her life, notably providing material on polygamy for her debut novel; her maternal grandfather, Abraham Olayinka Okupe (1896-1976) was the traditional ruler of Iperu Remo and had five wives. He ascended the throne in 1938 and died in 1976.[11]

Education and career


At the age of six, she went to boarding school in the UK, attending Cargilfield School, Edinburgh;[12] The Collegiate School, Winterbourne, Bristol, and Fettes Junior School in Edinburgh. Returning to Nigeria after her father was imprisoned by the then military government, she completed her secondary education at Abadina College. She later earned her BA (Hons) degree from Ogun State University in 1994/95.[citation needed]

Shoneyin's early writing consists mainly of poetry and short stories. Early examples of her work appeared in the Post Express in 1995,[13] which features a short story about a Nigerian woman who leaves her husband for an Austrian woman. This story initiated dialogue about homosexuality within a Nigerian context.

Her first volume of poetry, So All the Time I was Sitting on an Egg, was published by Ovalonion House, Nigeria, in 1998.[14] Shoneyin attended the renowned International Writing Program in Iowa, USA, in August 1999 and was also in that year a Distinguished Scholar at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota).

Her second volume of poetry, Song of a Riverbird, was published in Nigeria (Ovalonion House) in 2002.[15] While living in England, she obtained a teaching degree from London Metropolitan University in 2005.

Shoneyin completed her first novel in 2000. Her second novel, Harlot, received some interest, but the story of a young girl growing up in colonial Nigeria to make a fortune as a "Madame" remains unpublished. [citation needed] Shoneyin moved on to her third novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, which was published in 2010.[16] It was adapted as a stage play by Rotimi Babatunde and it showed in the Arcola Theatre in London.[17]

Cassava Republic Press, Nigeria, published Shoneyin's third poetry collection, For the Love of Flight, in February 2010.[18] Mayowa and the Masquerades, a children’s book, was also published by Cassava Republic, in July 2010.[19]

Shoneyin has also written for newspapers, including The Scotsman,[12] The Guardian,[11] and The Times on issues such as racism, Nigeria's tradition of polygamous marriage,[11] the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram and the elections of now President Muhammadu Buhari.

She is the founder and Director of Book Buzz Foundation, a non-governmental organization established in 2012 for the promotion of arts and culture within local and global spaces.[20] She co-founded Infusion, a popular monthly gathering for music, art and culture in Abuja, Nigeria.[21] Shoneyin served as a judge of the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing.[21] She also runs the publishing imprint and bookshop Ouida Books in Nigeria.[22]

Private life


Her first marriage lasted a short 40 days and is now remarried to medical doctor Olaokun Soyinka, son of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka for 22 years.[23] She currently lives in Lagos with her husband and four children (2 boys and 2 girls).[24]





Short stories

  • "Woman in Her Season", Post Express Newspapers, 1996[32]


  • So All the Time I was Sitting on an Egg (1998)[33]
  • Song of a River Bird, Ovalonion House (Nigeria, 2002)[34]
  • For the Love of Flight (2010)[35]

Children’s books

  • Mayowa and the Masquerade, July 2010, published in the US in 2020[33]

Scholarly study of Lola Shoneyin's work

  • Abiola, Emmanuel. Negotiating Patriarchal Structures: Polygamy and Female Agency in Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Ibadan Journal of English Studies 7 (2018): 497–504.
  • Bámgbózé, Gabriel. "Beyond Gender Allegory: A Postcolonial Reading of Lola Shoneyin’s Poetry. Ibadan Journal of English Studies 7 (2018): 155-170.
  • Jegede, O. B. Subversive (re) writing and body poetics in Lola Shoneyin’s "So all the time I was sitting on an egg". Ibadan Journal of English Studies 7 (2018): 207–224.


  1. ^ "Lola Shoneyin". BBC World Service - Arts & Culture. BBC. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  2. ^ Mary, Aborele (26 February 2019). "Popular Nigerian Literary Icon, Lola Shoneyin, Clocks 45". Welcome To PublicFace Magazine. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  3. ^ "An Interview with Lola Shoneyin, African Writing Online [many literatures, one voice]; Issue No. 9". Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Lola Shoneyin". Casafrica (in Spanish). 24 February 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  5. ^ Africa39 list of artists, Hay Festival.
  6. ^ "Lola Shoneyin". PEN America. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Lola Shoneyin". David Higham Associates. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  8. ^ Muoka, Chidera (26 November 2017). "Lola Shoneyin: Writer, Thinker, Creator". Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  9. ^ III, Editorial (10 April 2020). "Ake Arts and Book Festival moves online". Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  10. ^ Edoro, Ainehi (30 December 2017). "The 2017 Brittle Paper African Literary Person of the Year Is Lola Shoneyin". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Shoneyin, Lola (20 March 2010). "Polygamy? No thanks". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  12. ^ a b Shoneyin, Lola (16 February 2009). "Lola Shoneyin: Feeling the pain of racist abuse". The Scotsman. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  13. ^ "5 Nigerian women who #pressforprogress in arts". Pulse Nigeria. 8 March 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Lola Shoneyin: The poet in me is alive". The Sun Nigeria. 5 November 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Song of a Riverbird...A Review". 29 November 2005. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Lola Shoneyin". APL. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  17. ^ Hitchings, Henry (19 June 2018). "The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is enjoyably clamorous". Evening Standard. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  18. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Writing a New Nigeria - Meet the authors". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Five Nigerian novelists you should read | British Council". Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Book Buzz Foundation Archives - Premium Times Nigeria". Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  21. ^ a b Ajayi, Dami (16 December 2017). "Dami Ajayi Profiles Lola Shoneyin: the Cultural Activist Promoting African Literature (Y!/Ynaija.Com Person of the Year Nominee)". Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Lola Shoneyin". Ouida Books.
  23. ^ Shoneyin, Lola (20 March 2010). "Polygamy? No thanks". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  24. ^ "Lola Shoneyin biography, net worth, age, family, contact & picture". Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  25. ^ "Mayowa and The Masquerades | Cassava Republic Press". 11 May 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  26. ^ "Nostalgia is an Extreme Sport: An essay from the collection, Of This Our Country". HarperCollins. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  27. ^ "Baba Segi, ses épouses, leurs secrets | Actes Sud". Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  28. ^ "The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives". Serpent's Tail. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  29. ^ Armitstead, Claire (16 March 2011). "Orange prize for fiction 2011: the longlist - gallery". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  30. ^ "Author". HarperCollins Publishers: World-Leading Book Publisher. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  31. ^ "SPLA | Lola Shoneyin". Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  32. ^ Nigeria, Media (5 June 2018). "Biography Of Lola Shoneyin". Media Nigeria. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  33. ^ a b "Lola Shoneyin". Africa Book Club. 4 March 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  34. ^ "notes on contributors". Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  35. ^ "An Interview with Lola Shoneyin, African Writing Online [many literatures, one voice]; Issue No. 9". Retrieved 30 May 2020.