Maynooth University has received a unique archive, with the donation of private correspondence from renowned Nigerian writer and social activist Ken Saro-Wiwa written while he awaited execution in Port Harcourt detention centre from 1993 – 1995. The letters were donated by Irish missionary nun Sister Majella McCarron who had supported Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people in their struggle to protect their homeland for many years.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Saro-Wiwa handwrote 30 letters to Sister Majella while he was on death row. The correspondence was smuggled out of the Port Harcourt detention centre in bread baskets between October 1993 and September 1995. The letters detail the harsh realities of life as a political prisoner and the hardships and deprivations he suffered. The letters also speak of the increasing political turmoil in Nigeria and of Saro-Wiwa’s hopes for a peaceful future in that country and in Northern Ireland. In addition to the letters the archive collection includes 27 poems and seven video cassettes.
To date, the University has published ‘Silence Would be Treason, last writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa’ a book of letters and poems, written by the Nigerian environmental and human rights activist and edited by Dr Íde Corley, Helen Fallon and Dr Laurence Cox, alongside a new Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive, featuring a collection of recordings including extensive interviews with Sister Majella, speaking of her childhood in County Fermanagh, her decision to join a religious order, working in Nigeria and meeting Ken Saro-Wiwa, and her efforts to save his life and the lives of the Ogoni Nine. The audio archive is a joint initiative between Maynooth University Library and Kairos Communications.
The letters and audio archive are open to the public at the Library in Maynooth University. The link to the audio archive is here.