The Essence of Discovery


“The essence of discovery is that it is the antithesis of boundary imposition. Power loves boundaries. Power manifests itself within boundaries, is exercised within some form of delimitations of territory…creativity itself is an affront, since it appears dedicated to the constant opening up of territory.”

-Wole Soyinka, keynote speech at the 78th PEN International Congress, September 2012

PS: This statement was made years back and someone misunderstood and asked on social media if creativity cannot take place behind the walls in Gaza (Israel?), apparently in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The statement itself has nothing to do with the conflict in Gaza. It is a political, analytical statement. Look at Africa and see how many countries have been carved out of a single continent. Even Togo calls itself a country. This is because “power loves boundaries.” The European colonialists divided the continent of Africa (politically, economically, socially and culturally) among themselves and the black African presidents have not removed those boundaries because they are also enjoying the autonomy. The “wall” or territory that is being spoken of here is not a physical wall but a psychological wall. The first thing one does in order to consolidate one’s power whether in government, business, academia or elsewhere is to close psychological boundaries through propaganda – to make it look like something is only possible with his/their authority. Whereas creativity (in all forms) is self expression and is dedicated to truth, to psychologically breaking down those barriers and offering relief to the people and showing the way forward. It is only when we aim at transcending barriers that a significant discovery can be made. So the essence of discovery is the direct opposite of boundary imposition. You cannot censor people and expect them to make a discovery.


The theme of the conference was: “Literature, Media and Human Rights.”

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