Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa was born on 10 October 1941 in Bri, Ogoni, in what is now Rivers State in Nigeria. He attended the Native Authority School in Bori, Ogoni, from 1947-1954 and was awarded a scholarship to attend the government college in Umuhaia between 1954 and 1961. Saro-Wiwa went on to study English in 1962 at the University of Ibadan, graduating with honours in 1966.
After leaving University, Saro-Wiwa taught at Stella Maris College in Port Harcourt, from June to December 1965. This was followed by one term teaching at the Government College in Umuhaia. In 1967, Saro-Wiwa served as Graduate Assistant at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, although this position was to be short-lived with the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War. He was appointed Administrator of Bonny province in the same year, and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Lagos from 1967 to 1973. Subsequently, he was to focus on his business interests, writing and setting up his own publishing company Saros International. Saro-Wiwa also wrote and produced an extremely popular television sitcom “Basi and Company.”
Saro-Wiwa was extremely concerned about the oil problem in his homeland in the Niger Delta region of South Eastern Nigeria, where major environmental damage was being wrought by oil extraction. He established the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and led a non-violent campaign against the environmental destruction of the Ogoni area of the Niger Delta. It was in this context that he met Sister Majella McCarron (OLA) in 1990. She was lecturing in Education at the University of Lagos at that time, having been in Nigeria since 1956. She was asked by the Missionary Institute of Our Lady of Apostles to do some work in Nigeria on its behalf. The Institute is a member of the Brussels-based Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), which lobbies the European Union on behalf of communities adversely impacted by European business. They asked her to identify such communities in Nigeria and Sr. Majella brought the Ogoni complaint of environmental destruction by Royal/Dutch Shell to the attention of AEFJN.
On January 4th 1993, over 300,000 Ogonis, from a total population of half a million, protested in marches across each of the six kingdoms that comprise Ogoni. Following the marches, the Federal Nigerian government, led by the military dictator Abacha, blockaded Ogoni, villages were surrounded and attacked; over 800 people were slaughtered. The government tried to pin the violence on local ethnic conflict. Following the murder of four local chiefs in May 1994, Ken Saro Wiwa was arrested and accused of encouraging the killings. Ken and 14 others were held in military detention for nine months, without charge. Sister Majella returned to Ireland to campaign to save the lives of the Ogoni Nine. During this period she corresponded extensively with Saro-Wiwa, with his letters smuggled out of military detention.
Despite Sister Majella’s efforts in Nigeria and Ireland and an outcry from the international community, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight colleagues were executed by the Nigerian government on the 10th of November 1995.
Archival History ↴
Deposited by Sister Majella McCarron with the Library, Maynooth University, in 2011.
The archive includes 28 letters to Sister Majella, 27 poems, photographs showing the destruction of Ogoni villages and efforts to save Saro-Wiwa’s life in Ireland, video cassettes recording visits and meetings after Saro-wiwa’s death, and a number of other documents, including articles and reviews relating to his work and the campaign to save his life. There is also an extensive collection of photographs and newspaper clippings, donated by Sister Majella McCarron.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
No further accruals expected
The collection is arranged as follows:
A. Letters to Sister Majella McCarron
B. Poetry by Saro-Wiwa
D. Newspaper Clippings
E. Other Documentation
G. Video Recordings
Conditions of Access & Use
Open to students of Maynooth University and Saint Patrick's College Maynooth. Open to external readers by appointment. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Please see our website for Reading Room opening hours.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
No reproduction allowed
Material Language Script
Characteristics Tech Req
VHS and audio recordings have been transferred to CD and DVD for ease of access.
Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive, NUI Maynooth and Kairos Communications
'Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa' Edited by Ída Corley, Helen Fallon, Lawrence Cox, 2013.
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.