Soyinka writes as a member and important shape, of the Nigerian literary and theatrical canon. Theater carries a rich tradition in Nigeria, as performances were traditionally a part of ritual and social gatherings. An early form of today's Nigerian theater, written primarily in Yoruba, emerged in the 1940s and was heavily reliant on local folklore. As Nigeria moved toward independence, theater was also used to serve a political purpose, apparent in even Soyinka's early writings. Soyinka's plays incorporate Nigerian and Yoruban traditions with his Western education, making his plays accessible and popular within both communities.
Other influential Nigerian playwrights include Hubert Ogunde (1916-1990), Ola Rotimi (1938-2000), and Philip Begho (1956-), among others.